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CreditSmart A Guide to Help You Understand, Promote, and Deliver the CreditSmart Curriculum

Instructor Tips

Establish workshop ground rules. (Consider posting ground rules in classroom where they will be visible to all.)

  • Treat each other with respect. No name calling, accusations, verbal attacks, sarcasm, or other negative exchanges are accepted.
  • Questions are encouraged and should be used to generate a greater understanding of the various topics covered in the class. Questions should not be raised to promote conflict or a defensive atmosphere.
  • Learning is about sharing different views and actively listening to those with different views. Students in this class are expected to do both. Learning is maximized when many different viewpoints are expressed in the classroom.
  • Keep the discussion and comments on the topic, not on the individual. Don't personalize the dialogue. Rather than personalizing the dialogue, please direct challenging comments or questions to the instructor or the entire class.
  • Remember that it is okay to disagree with each other. Let's agree to disagree. The purpose of dialogue and discussion is not to reach a consensus, nor is it to convince each other of different viewpoints. Rather, the purpose of dialogue in the classroom is to reach higher levels of learning by examining different viewpoints and opinions.
  • Everyone is expected to share. The role of the instructor is to make sure that everyone's voice is heard in class.
  • Cell phones should be turned off or set on vibrate.

Keep the lecture to the absolute minimum.

  • Always include a combination of lectures and activities. If you're short on time, always cut the lecture, not the exercises! Exercises reinforce the lessons learned.
  • In most cases, it's far more important that the audience leave being able to DO something with their new knowledge and skills, than if they leave simply KNOWING more.

Speak clearly and with authority.

Prepare for varying skill and knowledge levels.

  • For workshop instructors, one of the greatest challenges is managing multiple skill and knowledge levels in the same classroom! Be prepared to handle it.
  • Materials are generally written at a specific academic or experience level. It is wise to experiment with different ways to present the information so that everyone understands the concepts you're presenting.
  • Use multiple exercises and activities to reinforce the learning points.

Increase learning with supplemental materials.

Use exercises and activities to reinforce learning.

  • The best exercises include an element of surprise and failure. The worst exercises are those where you spend 45 minutes explaining and then have them duplicate everything you just said. Note that paper and pencil exercises are GREAT.
  • Do group exercises whenever possible. Here is a simple formula for group exercises:
    • Use small groups with three to four people so everyone feels more obligated to participate.
    • When you assign an exercise, have each person start by working individually for a couple of minutes, then break them into groups (be sure that they know who their group is before they start any work on the exercise).
    • Listen to the group discussion and comment or just make sure they're on the right track. Drop hints or give pointers if they're veering into an unproductive approach.
    • After a certain number of minutes, give a heads-up warning like "60 seconds left..." so they can finish.
    • Be certain that someone in each group has the responsibility to record what the group comes up with. One person should be the designated spokesperson or reporter.
    • After the exercise is done, keep the people in their groups and query each group about their answers, or any additional issues/thoughts they had while doing the activity.
  • Note: The first few times you do this in any new classroom, participants might be quiet or skeptical about doing it, but after the first two or three exercices, they'll have a hard time imagining how you could do it any other way.

Use (tasteful) humor. It can break tension and put both you and the participants at ease.

Have a quick start and a big finish.

  • Get them doing something interesting – even if it's just a group discussion – very early.
  • Don't bog down class with your long introduction, the history of the topic, etc. The faster your participants are engaged, the better.
  • Don't let the class fizzle out at the end. Try to end on a high note.

Keep their attention.

  • The average adult has an attention span of 15 to 20 minutes. Breaking your training material into segments of no more than 15 minutes will help your participants refocus and stay engaged for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Signal the break in your material with a change of activity, such as showing a visual, having participants do a case study or discuss an issue with a partner, or having participants do an activity that involves movement.
  • Don't assume that just because you said it, they understood it. And don't assume that just because you said it five minutes ago, they remember it now.
  • Don't be afraid to be redundant. That doesn't mean repeating the same material over and over but it often takes three to five repeated exposures to something before the brain will remember it.

Ask good questions.

  • There are two basic types of questions:
    • Closed questions require a one-word answer, such as yes or no. They generally close off the discussion and aren't useful for facilitating the exchange of ideas.
    • Open-ended questions are the most common type of question in facilitated discussion. They require more than a one-word answer and stimulate thinking and discussion.
  • Encourage questions from your participants.
  • Many instructors like to use a "parking lot" during their sessions. A parking lot is simply a sheet of flip-chart paper set aside before the training session begins to write down participant questions that aren't related to the topic at hand or are taking too much time. Questions in the parking lot can be addressed either at the end or after the session.

Be passionate!

  • Be honest, be authentic, and be passionate. It's your job as the instructor to find ways to keep yourself motivated. Many instructors feel that it isn't their job to motivate the students, but it is! Your passion will be infectious.

Prepare an agenda and a lesson plan.

  • Your participants will be respectful of your time if you're respectful of their time. Having an agenda prepared that you can hand out or write on a flipchart will prevent time wasters and show that you respect your participants' need to stay on a schedule.
  • A lesson plan helps you stay on schedule and is a guide to prompt you to vary your presentation and provides for a place where you can add a checklist of all the tools, techniques, and resources you need to conduct a successful presentation.

Create a Workshop Checklist.

  • Obtain an appropriate training room that will comfortably hold your workshop participants.
  • Arrange "U" shape seating with the instructor's podium at the head of the room, or arrange rounds of six people.
  • Secure the following:
    • LCD projector with remote control
    • PC or laptop w/CD-ROM drive
    • 3-pronged extension cords
    • 2 easels w/flip charts
    • Markers (multiple colors, if possible)
    • Name tags
    • Tent cards
    • Rewards/Awards
    • Instructor Guide and other teaching tools
    • Consumer materials
    • Other (specify)

Be ready for Presentation Day!

  • Arrive early to set up your room.
  • Make extra copies of the handout material.
  • Be well rehearsed and ready to present.

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