Carol Fey demonstrates basics of electricity using a rope.
HERSHEY, Pa. - People who find themselves in the positions of trainers or teachers are often not necessarily the best-qualified people to teach. That can lead to problems, according to Carol Fey, guest speaker at the recent National Association of Oil Heating Service Managers (NAOHSM) meeting. Fey is a territory manager for Honeywell Automation & Control Solutions, Littleton, Colo. She said, "Trainers make a lot of mistakes, especially those who think they are an authority on everything."

Fey believes it is important to meet face to face with the people being trained. She used the example of the people she calls the "back row boys" - those who sit in the back of the room and don't participate or appear to take any interest in the training. These employees can be the hardest to reach.

She said that the keys to successful training involve basic principles about the intelligence levels of the trainees. People can excel in many skills, including:

  • Linguistic (writing, reading, and telling stories).

  • Logical/mathematical (interest in patterns, arithmetic problems, strategy games).

  • Bodily/kinesthetic (gaining knowledge through bodily sensations).

    "The best way to train someone is to give him or her things to feel and touch," she stated.

    Engaging Students

    Fey, who teaches a lot of classes on basic electricity, asks her students about the level of their knowledge prior to beginning the class. She tells the experienced people that "the class is really not for you, but you are invited to stay and help." In those instances, she excuses herself from teaching those who know a lot and asks them to be her helpers.

    During her NAOHSM seminar, she demonstrated the need to change the normal rules and "en-gage the learner." She asked people to participate in some demonstrations. "Four guys holding on to a rope is a more effective teaching tool than me talking in front of the class," she said.

    Another way of engaging students, according to Fey, is to ask them to repeat a statement made by the instructor to someone else in the class. She said that it is imperative that employers know their employees are engaged and interested in learning. "You are paying for training, and you have the right to expect your employees to give their trainer their undivided attention," Fey noted.

    "Technicians have a tendency to let their minds wander somewhere else when their hands aren't busy. It is safe to say that people don't learn well from looking at pictures."

    Fey is also a fan of creating unexpected activities in the classroom. She demonstrated that by tossing a ball around the room and asking others to do the same. "Everyone is awake and aware of that ball," she said.

    She wrapped up her seminar by saying that it isn't important for a trainer to know everything about everything. "As a trainer, I am asking you to keep it simple," Fey said. "But there is a fear of being simple - you don't want to look dumb.

    "An instructor has to have the courage to say, ‘I don't know, and I don't have to know.' "

    Publication date: 06/20/2005