I was informed that my class would consist of about thirty-five persons. When I was informed of the class size, I replied, “Well, the more the merrier!” Optimally, a class of six to ten students makes for an effective group and allows for myself to provide individual attention to each person. This is my element. The thrill of training for myself is only eclipsed by testing in field locations. Still, this class size would be a challenge. I seem to have spent a lifetime in instruction classes, either at technical forums or in college. Boredom quickly sets in – just watch the eyes and the chins! The training room would barely fit all of the tables and chairs and it was going to warm. I asked the persons setting up the room to please allow me pathways to the back of the room. I knew this presented another self-serving image of their guest, but it was vital that I have unrestricted access to move to each table of students. I love to interact singly with each student and it is most effective in gaining their engagement.
I also have a habit of suspending my verbal instruction if I see that a group (typically near the back of the room) discussing something while I am speaking. What I have found is what they are discussing is often essential to the overall instruction. It is can simply be some point of clarification that I have missed, or more importantly, valuable new directions for their benefit. At first, I found this practice of asking the sub group if they would share what they were privately discussing that it would bring immediate suspicions of a reprimand. But, soon, the trust developed that I was vitally interested in what they had discovered.
The instruction was to continue for three days. In the evenings I would work with the program manager and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) manager to design the forms. I would also stay up quite late to develop the following days’ training modules. This was the creative part. I not only developed the training objects for what they were learning, but also what direction that I perceived the group was moving towards. Of course, I used this to direct them to the training objectives so that everything was covered by the end of the instruction. Still, room had to be given to accommodate the strengths and weakness of the group as a whole.
I pay attention early in the instruction to the different personalities that emerge. I am ignorant of the individual skills and and organizational positions within the group. I always look for the dominant person who can tend to overpower the other group members to their instructional deficit. I also carefully look for the more reserved person to encourage them to speak by delicately providing them attention for the value of their opinion. Finally, I try to quickly deliver them technical training and to quickly move to having them actually do the work. I know that I am successful when I see an individual arise as the leader in the group performing peer-to-peer training. The quicker I can do a fade to the position as a facilitator and training support – the better. The point is not for me to simply instruct, but to build capacity in both the technical sense and leaving a expert clone of myself. I do not stay.