Saturday, July 4, 2009

Three effective training experiences in one week

Those who know me may have a laugh at this (given my usual loathing of classroom learning) but this week I attended a classroom-based workshop to learn a database. The first part of the course, the theory, I had studied online and the classroom component had two reasons for being: 1. to provided a simulated environment using a test database so those attending could learn how to use an international database, before they got let loose on it. 2. a supervised assessment for the same so that an industry recognised certificate (license to use the database) could be issued. Both valid reasons in my opinion for requiring a face-to-face, that is: to enable delivery of training that might otherwise have ramifications if students were left to their own devices and for licensing purposes. What really surprised me was how well the course was delivered. The tutor revised what we already new from the course and checked our knowledge levels in the process. The agenda and expectations for the day and half course were clearly laid out. Delivery used a demonstration, redomonstrate and then have a go in pairs and finally on your own approach. Delivery was what I would call onion based - it started with the small core of what we already knew and then kept building on it in small acheivable chunks, adding layers to our knowledge until the whole class was fully competent by the end of the workshop. This was done in a friendly, non-demeaning and non-threatening manner. I heard other students comment that it was a refreshing approach and unstressful. I enjoyed my time at the workshop and met some great people too.

Earlier in the week I had another effective training experience. My hobby/addiction is learning languages (mostly Spanish and German with lots of dabbling in others thrown in) but one that has always been a brick wall for me is Welsh, the language of my grandmother. I'm not alone in this. Various approaches have been used for trying to teach this unique language over the years. The dialogue with grammer points explained is used by the Teach yourself book series. Some teach it using a bilingual approach with simple welsh and english on facing pages, supplemented with a basic vocabulary and key sentence patterns. Others use a formal grammar based approach - memorise the grammar and the vocab lists (Ugh!). All this resulted in me being able to read some Welsh but with no ability to put a simple sentence together. Where SaySomethingInWelsh differs is that it uses much the same onion-ring delivery approach as my above database experience. It starts with a very small core of pronouns (I and you) and some basic verbs (to go, to want, to speak etc) and some basic spoken sentences using these. It keeps building variations on these basic sentences by first turning them into questions, introducing yes/no answers, then negatives, future tense and past tense. It only adds a small amount of key words at a time. So by the end of about the first five lessons you (or at least I'm) putting together some pretty complex sentences without having to think to much about it and in one of the more different of the indo-european languages. Its almost like the original speakers of Welsh spoke a non-indoeuropean language and then one-day just up and replaced all the words with indo-european equivalents but kept the grammar of the older language.

My third effective training this week was real life. I have had a mentor for the last year who's been trying to get me fully conversant and confident in applying robust project management, risk management, continuous improvement, clear and specific communication, measurable goals to enable evaluation and a client focus to my work. Of course I already thought I did all this but life had a way this week of really pounding home to me how important it is to take this stuff seriously.