By Elaine Biech

Even if you have never trained a day in your life, you have already developed a training style. Like everyone, you have developed preferences in life. How you give directions to strangers. How you explain a task to colleagues. How you clarify information for your spouse. You have developed a preferred way to do each of these and they provide clues about your training style.

Several instruments exist to assist you to identify your training style. You may wish to complete one to determine your style. Most suggest that there are four styles. You may have learned about your communication style, managerial style, or leadership style in the past. The most important correlation between training style theory and other style theories is that all styles are appropriate for different situations. There is no right or wrong style.

What is most important to know about training styles? Consider these elements as you prepare for your training session.

  • Everyone has a preferred training style that has been developing over the years.

  • All styles are appropriate for various situations.

  • Each style has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Learners each have preferences too, and each of the training styles affects individuals in different ways, some helpful and some less so.

  • The most successful trainers will be those who are flexible, that is, they can adapt their training style to meet learners’ needs.

When you consider all the information based on the research about training style, one concept remains at the focal point. Trainers must be learner-focused. They must view themselves as facilitators of learning and guides to the learners. The learners are central to the training experience. The following table clarifies the differences between being learner focused and training focused. Keep these in mind as you move forward in your growth as a trainer.

Trainer Focuses
Learner Focused Training Focused
Facilitator, guide, coach Instructor, expert, directive
Learning objectives are flexible Learning objectives established
Learners influence pace and timing Trainer follows agenda
Learn by practicing skills Learn by listening
Elicit examples and ideas from ­participants Provide examples and ideas
Assume learners are experienced and knowledgeable Assume learners are inexperienced and not knowledgeable
Asks more questions Makes more statements
Learners are primary resource for information; gleans concepts
from learners
Trainer is primary resource for information; explains,
demonstrates
Activities are primary methodology; Learner is active
participant
Lectures and discussion are primary methodology; Learner is
passive, absorbing information
Facilitator uses mini-evaluations throughout training
session
One final evaluation used

Most research and common opinion favors a learner-focused approach to training. This is one reason some organizations use learning and development to define their training departments.

What you call yourself is less important than what you do. And what you do as a trainer is to ensure that learning takes place and that the learning is transferred to the workplace, where performance improves.