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Friday, November 16, 2007

Teaching/Training Across the Generations

Recently, in two different contexts, I've been asked about some methods for teaching when the audience is comprised of different generations who have different preferences for learning.

Here are somethings you can do to work across the generations.

Acknowledge to the class that their are multiple generations within the class and that each generation may have a different preference for learning and different expectations. Often people aren't aware of what causes generational differences...they just know that the "kids have no work ethic" or that "he expects me to stop my life to work on this project." So, one of your jobs as an instructor is to let all of your learner know that there are differences and that some of them are related to the different experiences of each generation.

You might even want to show a generational chart, something like the chart contained in the article Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees. This article is a nice overview of generational differences.

Another technique is team up the learners based on generation. Team a Gamer/Millennial with someone from the Silent Generation or from the Boomer Generation.

Mix up your own approach. Chances are, you teach or train based on your own preferences. Get out of your comfort zone and begin to involve other techniques that appeal to different generations. Have some online assignments, group assignments, in class games and don't forget a little lecture. Also, have the learners teach each other (using guidelines you create.) Try to mix things up every 10 minutes or so.

Also, when making a point or presenting examples of concepts or ideas you are teaching, use multiple examples. Try to think of an example or metaphor that would cover several generations or pick on per generation. Have your learners develop these types of metaphors that meets their own preference. Learner creation is a power tool for retention and recall.

Expand the classroom, provide opportunities for the generations to mix and mingle in a less focused forced environment. Encourage sharing of information and stories outside of the class environment. One medical device manufacturer even set up a room with a fireplace and everything for "fireside chats" after workshops and before dinner so information could be informally exchanged.

Finally, don't forget to use sound instructional strategies for teaching, facts, concepts, rules, procedures and problem-solving. Many of the strategies work across the generations, so the first rule for reaching everyone is to start with well designed instruction and then try some of the techniques.

If you have other techniques or ideas, please add them to this post. Also check out this Generational Presentation by Cam Marston of Marston Communications for additional information and ideas.

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