Ict@innovation: Free your IT Business in Africa/6-5
Module 6.5: Communication Skills
6.5.1 The Four Learning Styles
As a trainer, you will be working with trainees of a variety of learning styles different from your own. Knowing your learning style means you can work with it to deliver a training program that uses your strengths and meets the needs of your trainees.
If you are the Divergent Learning Style…
You are best at using the Concrete Experience (CE) and Reflective Observation (RO) steps in learning. If this is your style, you probably have the ability to view specific situations from many perspectives. For example, you may enjoy brainstorming and small group discussions. You also like to gather information and probably have broad interests. Your tendency may be to watch events rather than participate in them.
To increase your learning power you also need to place emphasis on the Abstract Conceptualization (AC) and Active Experimentation (AE) steps in the learning process. This means forming conclusions from your information, planning the application of these conclusions and actually implementing them.
For example, after watching a role play or listening to a discussion, summarise your observations into clear conclusions. Then decide how and when to test these conclusions in your own situations. Establish criteria to evaluate if the new idea really worked. Do this at the end of every activity in which you are an observer.
To further increase your learning power, take a more active role in the workshop than you might normally choose. Volunteer to be in the role plays, or to lead group discussions. This may be uncomfortable at first but it will give you an opportunity to experiment with your conclusions. It will also give you more experience with trial-and-error learning, something you may tend to avoid in real-life situations.
You may find it useful to discuss workshop topics with someone who has a Converger learning style. This person will help you see possible conclusions and applications you might overlook. You in turn may help them see information they might overlook, and develop more perspective.
You may have a tendency to concentrate on the human side of problems or topics or exercises. This reflects your ability to understand or to sympathise with others’ feelings or points of view, but you may also have a tendency to avoid drawing conclusions about the quantitative or technical aspects of the situation.
Try to develop these skills:
- Collecting and analyzing numerical data.
- Looking for overall patterns in any feedback you get.
- Putting your own feelings aside for a moment and taking a more objective look.
If you are the Assimilative Style …
You are best at using the Reflective Observation (RO) and Abstract Conceptualization (AC) steps in the learning process. If this is your style, you have the ability to create theoretical models (ideas that predict outcomes and descriptions of how different factors interact).You most likely enjoy inductive reasoning and distilling disparate observations into logical explanations. To increase your learning power, you also need to place more emphasis on the Active Experimentation (AE) and Concrete Experience (CE) steps in the learning process. This involves speeding up your learning cycle by moving into action sooner.
For example, after watching a role play or listening to a discussion, think about ways to immediately apply your conclusions. Look for opportunities to test your new idea during the workshop and personally experience the results. This may require you to conceptualize smaller scale experiments, not the large scale efforts you may prefer. To further increase your learning, be more aware of the feelings and reactions of individuals (including yourself). You may have a tendency to discount intuitive or emotional information. However, much can be learned from a person’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and other body language. Much of this data is preliminary in nature and hard to analyse in a logical fashion, but it provides an early warning about how things are going or if an idea has been understood.
You may have a preference for examining the quantitative or “thing” aspects of a situation. Your conclusions may be based primarily on policies, official relations, or formulas developed in other situations. This can cause you to be over-cautious about experimenting and miss opportunities for learning. No two situations are exactly alike. Put more effort into trying ideas, skills, or concepts. Then pay attention to the way things actually happen. It is often different than the way things are “supposed” to happen. Your ability to deal with non-quantitative data will increase if you get involved in interpersonal activities (role plays, simulations, discussions) more frequently. Take an active role and express your feelings. Others will do the same and this will give you experience handling this data.
Enter into discussions with people whose primary learning style is Accommodative. Note the value they place on intuition as a decision- making device. Research shows that in many situations intuition is more effective than logic. Try to implement their suggestions even if they can’t provide a supporting rationale, or perhaps you can help them think through the rationale.
Try to add these learning skills:
- Seeking and exploring possibilities
- Influencing others
- Being personally involved
- Dealing with the people side of issues you work on, particularly how to get the support of key individuals whose help you will need
If you are the Convergent Style…
You are best at using the Abstract Conceptualization and Active Experimentation steps in the learning process. If this is your style, you have the ability to find practical application for ideas, concepts, and theories. In particular, you enjoy situations in which there is a single of best answer to a question or problem. You may usually assume there is one best answer and use technical analysis to reveal it. You too may prefer to deal with technical issues rather than people issues.
To increase your learning power you need to place even more emphasis on the Concrete Experience and Reflective Observation steps in the learning process. This means placing a higher value on gathering and understanding non-quantitative information by looking at a situation from different perspectives. The result may seem to slow your learning process. In fact, it will speed the long-term accuracy by ensuring you are learning the most important things.
For example, while watching a role play or listening to a lecture, you may be thinking about how the topic or technique applies to your situation. Before making a decision, however, try to get other people’s perspectives. Listen to their ideas, comments, and questions. You may discover the situation has elements you weren’t considering. This may influence how you apply your learning.
To further increase your learning, try to take a less active role in the workshop than you might usually take. Spend some time really listening to others’ ideas. Try to see the world as they see it, to understand their feelings and values. Play an observer role from time to time and avoid making judgments or decisions about how well others are doing. Instead, try to understand why they are saying or doing something. This may lead you to new and eventually useful information.
You will find it important to discuss workshop topics with someone who has a Divergent learning style. This person will see both questions and possibilities you might tend to ignore or avoid. You may help them see how to apply some of their ideas.
You may have a tendency to concentrate on the “things” side of problems, topics, or exercises. You may underestimate the impact people’s values and emotions have on the way systems actually work. Avoid coming to quick conclusions.
Try to add these skills:
- Listening with an open mind
- Gathering information
- Imagining the implications of situations
If you are the Accommodative Style …
You are best at using the Active Experimentation (AE) and Concrete Learning (CL) steps in the learning process. If this is your style, you have the ability to learn primarily from hands-on experience. You probably enjoy carrying out plans and involving yourself in new and challenging experiences.
Your tendency may be to act on intuition and gut feel rather than careful analysis. When a thoughtful approach does not seem to be working out, you will be quick to discard it and improvise.
To increase your learning power, you need to place even more emphasis on the Reflective Observation (RO) and Abstract Conceptualization (AC) steps in the learning process. This means collecting and analyzing more information about the results of your efforts. Your batting average in the trial and error method of learning will increase if you learn more than you currently do from each of your trials.
When watching a role play, you may feel frustrated and prefer to be doing the plan yourself. Your tendency might be to think of how you would do the same activity. However, to develop your Reflective and Abstract skills, you should examine other, less personal aspects of the situation. Here are questions you might ask: What basic point does the exercise prove or disprove? What other information aside from your personal experience do you have that relates to the same topic? Does this exercise help you understand why certain techniques work (not just what the techniques are or how to use them)? To further increase your learning power try to take a less physically active part in the workshop than you might normally choose. Be more mentally active. Volunteer to be an observer in some exercises, not a doer. This will give you an opportunity to reflect on other people’s experiences and learn from their trial and error.
You will find it useful to discuss workshop topics with someone who has an Assimilative learning style. This person will help you see information you might otherwise miss. They will also help you see the hidden logic and patterns in situations. You can often use this perspective to guide your intuition. You in turn can help them see new possibilities and opportunities to try out their ideas.
You may have a tendency to concentrate on the urgent aspects of a situation, favouring immediate utility over long-term understanding. To increase your learning, keep notes on your experiences, analyze them, and look for patterns. In other words, look for the forest as well as the trees. Take more time to get other people’s perspective on what has happened (or what you are about to do) during the workshop.
The particular skills you want to add are:
- Organizing information
- Building conceptual models
- Testing theories and ideas
Similarities and Preference Patterns in your Group
|Group||Ways to include this group in training|
My Training Style
Look at what you plan to do in your 15-minute workshop. Have you chosen something that fits in well with your own learning style?
Here is a review of each style.
The Converger (AC / AE)
- Practical application of ideas
- Good at closed-ended, “thing” problems
- Can focus on specific problems
- Can apply concepts
- Relatively unemotional (engineers/accountants)
The Diverger (CE / RO)
- Imaginative ability
- Views concrete situations from many points of view
- Emotional (personnel managers)
The Assimilator (AC / RO)
- Creator of theoretical models
- Inductive reasoner
- Likes abstract concepts
- Can assimilate separate observations into an integrated
- Explanation (research and planning departments)
The Accommodator (CE / AE)
- Carries out plans and experiments
- Likes to go by the seat of the pants (marketing and sales)
As I reflect on my most successful experience as a trainer, I remember…
What I like best about being a trainer is…
My favourite instructional technique is…
What I find most difficult about being a trainer is…
About The Trainer Type Inventory
Each of us is influenced not just by our own learning style, but also by our training type.
As agents of change, most trainers are continually aware of changes in themselves. As you facilitate growth and development in others, you struggle to improve yourself, and to become a more effective leader, planner, presenter, and facilitator.
Once you have recognized that learners have preferences for the way they learn, you become more motivated to help them:
- Learn even better in their own preference, where they are comfortable.
- Become more willing to expand their comfort level.
- Try other new techniques and new behaviours to enhance their own learning. The Trainer Type Inventory
The Trainer Type Inventory (TTI) is designed to help you as a trainer identify your preferred training methods in order to:
- Identify the areas in which you have the greatest skill and expertise, so you can share this expertise with other trainers in this workshop.
- Identify the areas where you will want to increase your skills, thereby increasing your ability to address all aspects of the learning cycle.
- Change and growth can become more meaningful, more useful, and more exciting for everyone involved when we grow as trainers, right along with the people we are training.
Malcolm Knowles (1984) says that adults will learn “no matter what.” Learning is as natural as rest or play. With or without workbooks, visual aids, inspiring trainers or classrooms, adults will manage to learn. Trainers can however make a difference in what people learn and how well they learn. If adults (and, many believe, children as well) know when they are learning and if the reason fits their needs as they perceive them (the “So what?”) they will learn quickly and deeply.
There have been other attempts to categorize how trainers train. At first it was thought that trainers would prefer to train others in the style they preferred for learning. However, research has since discovered that there is very little significant relationship between a trainer’s own learning style and training–style preferences.
Introduction to the TTI
The Trainer Type Inventory identifies four different training types: a Listener, a Director, an Interpreter, and a Coach. Generally we have a preference for one type or another, even though we need all four types to be a successful trainer.
The Training Type Inventory (TTI) has often been administered in conjunction with Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory. It has been used often enough to have some validity for trainers. It is not a psychological tool, but an exercise to help us recognize our own specific trainer development needs.
Completing Trainer Type Inventory
There are twelve sets of four words or phrases listed below. Rank order the words or phrases in each set by assigning a 4 to the word or phrase that most closely applies to or reflects your personal training style, a 3 to the word or phrase that next best applies to your training style, a 2 to the one that next applies to your training style, and a 1 to the word or phrase that is least descriptive of your training style.
You may find it difficult to rank the items. Be assured that there is no right or wrong answers; the purpose of the inventory is to describe the style in which you train most often, not how effectively you train.
|d) Lecture discussions|
|4.||a) Small group discussions|
|b) Free expression|
|c) Little participation|
|d) Time to think|
|5.||a) Immediate personal feedback|
|b) Objective tests|
|c) Subjective tests|
|d) Personal evaluation|
|b) Practical skills|
|c) Application to real life|
|d) New ways of seeing things|
|9.||a) Seeing “who”|
|b) Telling “how”|
|c) Finding “why”|
|d) Asking “what”|
|11.||a) Lead them to understand it|
|b) Leave them to do it|
|c) Let them enjoy it|
|d) Get them to think about it|
|12.||a) It’s yours|
|b) It’s ours|
|c) It’s mine|
|d) It’s theirs|
Each word or phrase in each of the twelve sets on the TTI corresponds to one of four training styles, which will be described on the TTI Interpretation Sheet. To compute your scale scores for each type, transfer your numerical ranking for each item on the inventory to the appropriate space in the columns below. Then add up the numbers in each column and enter the totals in the spaces below the columns. The totals are your scores for the four training types.
Interpreting Trainer Type Inventory
Your lowest score is your least preferred training type, and offers you the greatest opportunity for growth and development. Your highest score is your most preferred type. On possible implication here, if this score is too high, is that you may be using your preferred style to excess. You may need to develop your skill in the other training styles in order to present information in ways that make sense to a greater range of participants.
The Trainer Type Inventory describes four training approaches: Listener, Director, Interpreter, or Coach. Each of the four training styles identified by the TTI is characterized by a certain training approach, way of presenting content, and relationship between the trainer and the trainees. The following are the primary characteristics of the trainer for each of the four training types.
|Listener (L)||Director (D)|
|* Creates an effective learning environment
||* Creates a perceptual learning environment
|Interpreter (I)||Coach (C)|
|* Creates a symbolic leaning environment
||* Creates a behavioural learning environment
Each type also trains in a different way.
- The Listener trains the Concrete Experiencer most effectively, and is very comfortable in the activity and publishing steps of the Experiential Learning Cycle.
- The Director obtains the best results from the Reflective Observer, and is usually very comfortable during Step 3, which is processing (particularly in helping trainees make the transition from “How do I feel about this?” to “Now what?”).
- The Interpreter trains in the style favoured by the Abstract Conceptualiser (Step 4, generalizing).
- The Coach trains in the style favoured by the Active Experimenter (Step 5, applying)
These relationships are indicated in the table below.
|Dominant Learning Style||Concrete Experiencer||Reflective Observer||Abstract conceputaliser||Active Experimenter|
|Means of evaluation||Immediate personal feedback||Discipline based; External criteria||Objective criteria||Learner's own judgment|
|Means of Learning||Free expression of personal needs||New ways of seeing things||Memorization; knowing terms and rules||Discussion with peers|
|Instructional Techniques||Real-life applications||Lectures||Case studies, theory, reading||Activities, homework, problems|
|Contact with Learners||Self-directed Autonomous||Little participation||Opportunity to think alone||Active participation|
|Focus||"Here and now"||"How and why"||"There/then"||"What/How"|
|Transfer of Learning||People||Images||Symbols||Actions|
|Sensory Perception||Touching||Seeing and hearing||Perceiving||Motor Skills|
6.5.2 Presenting Information
In most technical training situations, the objective is to train the trainees to use a particular software program or computer system. This typically involves hands-on practise. The trainer can be more effective in these situations if he/she acts like a “coach” rather than a “trainer” in the traditional sense.
Following are some tips:
1. Think like a coach
Be committed to everyone’s success; don’t think about “bell curves”. You are a successful trainer only if the trainees have a successful experience.
2. Prepare the trainees
Let them know the “rules of the game”. Tell them what they will be doing and point out the “pitfalls” – ahead of time.
3. Focus on the basics
Reinforce basic skills such as reading the screen, knowing the keyboard and using the mouse, understanding the general concepts and context
4. Don’t give away answers
Make trainees think. Forward the action by asking “show me what you did”. Try taking different approaches. Let them experience the solution.
5. Don’t press the keys!
Never press the keys. This is one of the biggest sins a trainer can commit. Let them do the driving, except when it distracts from the training
6. Reinforce strengths and build on success
Point out to the things that they already know and what is being done correctly, than encourage and help them move the ball down the field.
Interactive lecturing is the use of questioning, discussion and lecturing to stimulate understanding, direct discussions, and provide information. Its purpose is to change the roles of both trainer and the trainee from passive to active.
Following are some tips:
1. Have a plan
Have a plan or information flow in mind is, of course the most important first step. This serves as a “road map” to help keep the trainer focused. This plan also has the information divided into manageable units.
2. Use your eyes
Look at the trainees. Use eye contact to create involvement. Check understanding and “control” the room
3. Use your voice
Speak clearly and strongly. Don’t use “filler” language. It indicates that you are not sure what you are talking about. Use inflection in the voice to keep interest and emphasise key pieces of information. Remember to breathe.
4. Use your presence
Move around the room. Use the back as well as the sides and front. Use your presence to promote involvement and discouraged distractions
5. Use questioning
Questions are the most important tool. They are used to stimulate the trainees thinking and involvement in the content, moving them from passive to an active role.
6. Build on what they already know
Use analogies, metaphors, stories, graphics and “real world” examples to illustrate both verbally and visually the information you are providing.
7. Set a context
Make sure that you present the “big picture” and point out where the trainees are focused at the moment. Also be sure to let them know what is coming.
8. Stay conscious
Read the trainees’ body language. Make eye contact, breathe; move around. Use variety and humour. Keep to the timing. Don’t get off track. Keep in mind whose needs are being met.
6.5.3 Using Your Body Effectively
Effective communication involves more than talking to your audience. Your body language plays an important role in communication. Research shows that what you say accounts for only 7% of the effectiveness of a presentation, while 93% are based on non-verbal communication. Body language, proximity, and eye contact are three main areas of focus in non-verbal communication. Remember it’s not what you say, but how you say it that often matters the most in communication.
Some areas to consider while presenting include:
1. Facial expressions
Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits friendliness, warmth, and approachability. Smiling is often contagious and others will react favourably. They will be more comfortable around you and more open to the information you are offering.
You communicate numerous messages by the way you hold yourself while presenting. A person who is slouching or leaning with arms across their chest may be perceived as being uninterested or unapproachable. Standing erect, facing the audience with an open stance, and leaning forward communicates that you are receptive and friendly. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided as it communicates disinterest.
A lively speaking style captures attention, makes the material more interesting, and facilitates understanding. Use natural movements to emphasise topics and free, easy arm and hand movements to add personality to your presentation. If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived as boring and stiff. Gesturing too often can also be distracting for some learners.
Moving naturally around the classroom increases interaction, adds interest, and draws attention to the presentation. Staying frozen in the front of the room can be distracting and boring for people to watch. Shuffling feet and pacing can convey nervousness and lack of confidence.
Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with others. When interacting with adults in the classroom, a presenter needs to be aware of people’s defined levels of personal space. Signals of discomfort caused by invading other’s space may include rocking, leg swinging, tapping, and gaze aversion. Do not invade a student’s intimate space. Most adults will feel uncomfortable, even if rapport has been established.
6.5.4 Building Rapport with Eye Contact
Steady eye contact helps to regulate the flow of communication, encourages participation, and can be used to develop rapport with the audience. When students feel that you see them as individuals, they are more likely to trust you as a trainer and be more open to the learning experience.
Some tips for using eye contact to build rapport include:
1. Length of eye contact
Try to maintain eye contact with one person at a time for at least 3 – 5 seconds or until you complete a thought. This helps to establish a connection with people and helps you to avoid darting eyes, which can be distracting and communicate nervousness.
2. Movement of eyes
Try to establish direct eye contact towards different parts of the audience throughout the course of your presentation. Staring too long in one direction may cause you to miss important information and can make certain audience members feel less important.
3. Search for friendly eyes
If you are nervous, look for a friendly trainee and establish eye contact with that trainee. Gradually, work to establish eye contact with everyone.
Some habits to avoid include:
1. Talking to the ceiling
Don’t lecture to a spot over the top of the trainee's heads. They may think you don’t care or they may feel that you are “above them.” Adults learn better with colleagues.
2. Talking to the board
Don’t talk to your desk, to the whiteboard, or to your visuals. Trainees may not be able to hear you and may become disinterested.
3. Clutching your training manual
Be familiar with your training material. Being tied to your notes or a manual keeps you from establishing eye contact and may cause trainees to question your knowledge, preparedness, and confidence.
6.5.5 Enhancing Voice Quality
Voice is another area of communication that can affect the quality of learning in a classroom. An interesting and audible voice will engage trainees, while a soft or monotone voice can cause boredom or disinterest among trainees. While it may be difficult to listen to and change our own voice, with awareness and practice, it is possible to use one’s voice effectively. The first step to refining your voice is to understand the components of voice and identify common voice problems. Once identified, most voice problems can be improved by being aware of the problem, altering some habits, and practicing new behaviours on a regular basis.
How long a sound lasts. Talking too fast causes words and syllables to be short, while talking slowly may lengthens them. Varying pace helps to maintain the audience’s interest.
Suggestions for improvement:
- Be aware of your normal conversational pace and keep in mind how tension affects the speed in which you talk.
- Use breathing and natural pauses to slow down your pace
- Constantly vary your pace in order to maintain audience interest.
The direction of the voice so that it can be plainly heard at a distance is considered effective. Problems with projection are often the result of tension and breathing from your throat.
Suggestions for improvement:
- Avoid projecting from your throat which can lead to sore throats, coughing, and loss of your voice.
- Take slow, deep breaths, initiated from your abdomen
- Open your mouth fully and speak to the people in the back of the room.
The ability to pronounce words distinctly. It often reflects our attitude towards the words we are speaking. Clear enunciation reflects self-confidence and interest, while slurred or mumbled speech indicates insecurity or indifference.
Suggestions for improvement:
- Speak at a slower pace than your normal conversational tone.
- Take the time to pronounce each letter or sound within a word.
- Listen for common articulation problems, such as dropping the “g” at the end of words such as finding or going.
Pitch describes the normal range of the voice – its highness or lowness. Everyone is capable of a wide voice range. Stress and poor breathing can greatly alter the pitch of your voice.
Suggestions for improvements:
- Adjust pitch to convey different meanings throughout a presentation.
- To alter pitch, control your breathing; breathe from your abdomen and slow your rate of speech.
- Take pauses to relax between pitch changes
Inflection refers to the manner in which pitch varies as we speak. Inflection serves as verbal punctuation and involves changing pitch to convey meaning. Upward inflections ask a question, suggest uncertainty or doubt, and communicate hesitancy. Downward inflections give information and convey strength and authority to the audience.
Suggestions for improvement:
- Use upward and downward inflections appropriately.
- Avoid constant middle inflection where the voice neither rises nor falls but just drones on and on.
Module 6.5.6 Questioning Techniques
Questioning is the power tool to use in training. It has many uses, from testing trainees on their knowledge of the subject matter, to get information to helping a trainer maintaining classroom control. Trainers often state concept when the class could be actively involve if more questioning were used.
Types of Questions
1. Whole group
This type of question is directed to the entire group.
This type of question is directed to a trainee. You should use this questioning method carefully. You can start by asking a whole-group question. Then, and only after evaluating the group and identifying a trainee who will clearly be able to answer, redirect the question to particular trainee.
This technique is used to direct a question asked by a trainee, to the group. It can also be used get a trainee “off the hook” if he or she is unable to answer an individual question.
4. Reword and ask again
This technique can be used when you have a poorly worded question and you need to restate for better understanding, or when you’ve receive an answer that is “close” but not quite correct.
A rhetorical question is usually asked solely for thought-provoking purposes. An answer is not expected.
6. Testing Questions
A testing question is asked by a trainer to test knowledge, something that a trainee already knows or can be reasonably expected to know. It is also used to:
Handling Responses to Question
How you handle responses from trainees can be equated with doctors “bedside manner.” The ways in which question are addressed can either encourage interaction or end it for the rest of the day.
Giving trainees nine second to respond may seem long and at first quite uncomfortable. However, it takes the average adult about three second to process the questions; another three second to see if someone else will answer the question for them, and an additional three seconds to find the courage to respond.
- Accept at any time, but take one at a time
- Deal with those which are relevant now and others later
- Indicate degree of correctness
- Build on trainee's words
- If you do not know the answer - let them know; note questions and find the answer
- Do not bluff; you will be caught out
- Tell the group as well as the individual
Level of Questioning
1. Low level
Low-level questions are the most commonly used questions in a classroom (50%-90%). These questions are highly convergent, and they typical check for concrete knowledge learned. These questions often start with words like, what, when, where, and who. They work well early in the day because they are safe questions with clear right and wrong answers.
2. High level
High level questions involve some type of personal value judgement on the part of person answers. High-level questions tend to promote divergent thought. They typically start with words like who and why. Typical, a low-level understanding of situation is needed to give an answer to the high-level questions.
- List and briefly describe the four learning styles.
- List and briefly describe the four different training types.
- Discuss coaching and interactive lecturing as techniques to present information
- What are the areas you should consider when presenting information
- List some tips for using eye contact to build rapport.
- List and briefly describe the components of voice.
- Why is questioning important?
- How should one handle responses to questions?
Design a programme for (a) business people; (b) trainers; and (c) graduates in a group. The outcomes should be presented by a group.