Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Around The Room

You arrive at the designated classroom five minutes before class time. Some of the other students have already arrived, so you take a seat near the front of the room. On the table in front of you is a binder and a cardboard placard. You use the green marker to write your name on the placard. It isn’t neat, but it will do. You place the placard on the table, doubting that anyone will read it. You begin to look through the course materials and wonder why you are required to take this class.

The instructor takes his place at the front of the room. The first slide in his presentation tells you what number to put on your timesheet. The next slide shows an outline of the day’s activities.

Then you hear those familiar words, “Let’s go around the room. Tell us your name, how long you have worked her and what department you are in.”

Why do we have to waste time doing that? You try to think up what you need to say, so you don’t sound silly. What’s the name of our department again?

Though their teaching styles may vary greatly, many instructors like their students to introduce themselves before they get into heart of the lesson. Most students see this as unpleasant and a waste of time. Don’t these instructors know this? Absolutely, but it looks very different from an instructor’s point of view than from that of a student.

One of the benefits of the around the room activity is that it causes every student to say something early in the session. People are the most uncomfortable about speaking in a group setting the first time they open their mouth. By forcing people to open their mouths, there is a greater chance of getting them to participate in class discussion during the lesson.

Another benefit is that the instructor learns something about the class. The instructor may teach differently to a group of managers than he will to a group of factory workers. While they may need to know the same information, it may require different examples to get the point across.

The around the room session establishes the instructor as the person in charge. Training classes are often taught by people who are equal or of a lower pay grade than their students. The instructor may even be in a situation where she is training her boss. Even something as simple as telling her boss to state his name for the class and having her boss do so is enough to establish that the instructor is in charge for the space of the training session.

So the next time you are asked to identify yourself before a training session begins, remember that the instructor isn’t trying to make your life miserable, but is trying to prepare the class for an effective period of learning.