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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Handling difficult trainees – the inexperienced trainee who wants to know everything

In one of my training classes, I had a trainee who was a new grad straight out of college. She was very diligent and sincere, and anxious to learn everything on the manual- and more. While her sincerity of purpose was completely commendable, the depth to which she wanted to understand the material was out of place for that particular class. For example, if I made a passing mention of a standard optical component used in my company’s technical tools, she wanted to understand how the component worked, where and how the component was manufactured, why that component should be used, what was the basic physics of light involved, etc etc etc. In simple words, she wanted to know everything about everything. Being inexperienced, such trainees find it hard to recognize the level of understanding that is needed in different situations. They tend to over-learn or under-learn.

When one trainee wants to know things at a level of detail far beyond what a class is supposed to cover, it can really slow down the progress of the class and also frustrate the other learners who are not so inquisitive. It also puts the trainer in an awkward position. If the trainer tells the student not to focus at such a level of detail, it might sound as if the trainer is trying to avoid answering the questions or even worse, hide his/her ignorance.

So how to handle this ? My thoughts:

- Establish expectations clearly at the outset. Outline the objectives clearly. When a question deviates from the course objectives, gently but firmly remind your trainees. Explain that the course objectives may not be met within the course duration if the level of depth is too much. Set expectations about what the course will cover, and importantly, what it will not cover.

- If a trainee is very inquisitive and wants to learn at a level of detail beyond what is covered in the course, tell him/her that you will be happy to help them – after the course objectives are met. If possible, spend some extra time with them during breaks or after class hours. Direct him/her to resources (people/courses/books/websites etc.) that will help them learn more.

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