In my 10 plus years of experience, there are many tools and techniques that I have learned to be useful in elevating and empowering the learning experience of others. And to be honest with you, these techniques (or whatever you want to call them) has helped me a lot with my sales and presentation skills too.
So let me share my top 3 tips for teaching and engaging people in their learning experience.
1. SHARE STORIES
Stories are powerful. Starting from a young age, most of us have consumed ideas and learning through the form of stories. As I think about it, there are even some nights where instead of reading stories from a book to my 2 year old daughter, I sometimes make up stories for fun but use her soft toys as characters to help act in my story. It's amazes me how much my daughter pays attention to my made up stories even when she knows that the toys are not actually speaking, but it is me speaking. I can tell just by looking at her that she is actually learning or processing ideas in her head.
Stories have a way of making an idea more visual and tangible within someone's mind. When people can see (visualise) something, then they are most likely to believe or more easily understand what you are trying to convey to them. The stories you use can be both made up or factual, but are more powerful and only useful in teaching if you can use in a way to illustrate or highlight the lessons, principles or key messages that you are trying to teach.
2. ASK QUESTIONS
Asking questions are a good way to engage people because you are inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings. However, it is only useful when you ask the right questions to the right audience, which means you need to understand your student's needs and level of comprehension before strategically asking them a question.
Open ended questions are the best questions for engaging learners. Open ended questions typically start with "Why", "How", "What". For example, "why do you feel so strongly about that?" or "If you were in this situation, what would you do?" and "how would you go about solving this type of conflict?" are good open ended questions that allow people to think and share.
Coupled with a "I feel safe to share" environment that you as a teacher or coach establishes, creates a powerful platform for people to share and learn from one other. Asking the right questions also enables people to activate and develop their critical thinking skills too. You also help develop their communication skills and build their confidence as they listen and share their thoughts with each other.
3. LISTEN CAREFULLY
Don't be the person who talks all the time and rarely listens. The best teachers listen with their ears and eyes. It's not about just reading the mood and attitude of the crowd, but also about knowing how to manage it so they can get the most out of their learning experience.
For example, as you listen carefully, you might pick up on a student who in-spite of their good intentions will verbally share their thoughts but unintentionally offend other students in the class. As a teacher you would need to manage this but at least you are aware, because if it carries on, you may end up with a dysfunctional learning culture or even worse, your students will never come back.
In addition, it is not enough to just listen, but you must make people feel heard. One of the things I like to do to make people feel heard is to write their ideas on the whiteboard as they share it. This helps reinforce the behaviour where people are open and willing to voice their ideas. There is nothing worse than having students or a team that do not contribute because they feel like you don't listen to them.
A short course that I highly recommend for developing and training your listening skills is "The Five Levels of Listening" offered by 5L. You can learn more at www.successbeginswithlistening.com