Course design 2: The 6P rule

I have a friend who takes every opportunity to taunt me with what he considers to be both an amusing and accurate summary of what I do. It’s a cliché that has become so tired and familiar that it doesn’t even get a reaction from me any more, however witty my friend considers it to be. The cliché is this…

“Those who can do, those who can’t, teach and

those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”

My friend (we’ll call him Peter) is not unusual. There are many people who hold this opinion of teachers and trainers and it’s not difficult to see why. Training is a skill and it takes preparation and real consideration. Putting together a genuinely useful, engaging and interesting course requires a lot of hard work. Without this preparation the course will fail.

Unfortunately a lot of practitioners seem to think that if they can do the job themselves then they are qualified to train others in it. They don’t do the groundwork and their training falls flat. Not only is it useless for the participants they inflict it upon but it also inevitably makes them look incompetent. The result of this is that many people who have been exposed to this sort of training form the conclusion that trainers are just failed practitioners who’ve read a book and wittered at them…

“Those who can’t, teach….”

I would argue that the best trainers are also the best practitioners. They know the subject intimately. They also understand the difference between theory (which always exists in the ideal world) and the realities of practice. More than that, they’ve put in the hours to think how best to help their trainees tread the same intellectual and experiential path that they followed to develop their skills. This is much more than merely spouting information or wittering at an audience in front of a power point full of pretty pictures but very little else.

If you want your training sessions to work then you need to know your subject, you need to understand the stages of development that participants need to go through to achieve the goal of the training sessions and you need to have worked out precise ways to get them from A to B. You don’t need to be a qualified teacher with a PhD in education but you do need a clear plan and an equally clear sense of the purpose of the course you’re writing. You need to know what you’re trying to achieve. As Steven Covey once wrote – ‘start with the end in mind’.

And you need to prepare. Remember the 6P rule:

Proper Planning Prevents Particularly Poor Performance


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