Hmmm. Maybe it is actually a training problem.

Riding a Bike

Written by: Heather Snyder

Like many parents before me, I have spent several hours running next to my daughter shouting words of encouragement as I try to teach her to ride a bike. We have spent a lot of time preparing for this goal. We have practiced on tricycles, strider bikes, and even training wheels. There are several techniques to teaching a child to ride a bike, as I have learned by scouring the internet for less frustrating ways to train her in this rite of passage.

This summer’s goal is to finally ride on two wheels, although I have forgotten if it is her goal or mine at this point. As we meander up and down my sidewalk, I reach deep into my bag of tricks to say the right words, demonstrate techniques on my own bike, show her the right picture or video on my phone, or have her visualize herself successfully riding to the end of the road.  

Unfortunately, when it comes to riding a bike, there is no replacement for sitting on the bike seat and attempting to peddle until that magical moment where you propel forward into bike riding freedom. I can provide the tools she needs, explain to her what skills I use when I ride a bike, and encourage her to keep going. I cannot simply tell my daughter how to ride a bike.

As a trainer, I want everyone to walk away from my training with skills they will never forget. Just like riding a bike, as the saying goes. Classically, many of us try to accomplish this by telling our trainees what they need to know, and follow that information up with performance support; by providing relevant information in the moment of need. That is a fantastic method for a variety of topics, but not for everything. I can give my daughter all kinds of resources during her moment of need, but nothing replaces time spent on a bike. This holds true for my friend working on his pilot’s license and for my neighbor getting his time behind the wheel to attain his driver’s license. There are certain skills that rely heavily on experience and practice that no amount of lecture or performance support can replace.

Lecturing and performance support are valuable tools, consider the overflowing trashcan at a Target directly below the elevator call button. Employees likely do not need several hours of experiential training to learn how to take out the trash; they simply need to be reminded why it is important to keep a tidy store. On the other hand, sometimes the most important learning happens by performing a task; on the job or otherwise. My daughter’s bike has stickers reminding her to wear her helmet and cartoon princesses that suggest she “Let it go” which prove that performance support is still relevant to her as she rides her bike. However, without the foundational experience of riding a bike, this information has little relevance.

Training doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be deliberate. As a trainer, consider what people are doing with the information you are providing to them. The answer to that question should drive the “How” in your training design.

What do you think? How do you decide what training methods you use when creating a training? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed the first-ever by-line on a Train Like A Champion blog post. From this day forward, Train Like A Champion will have two primary authors, both from Endurance Learning. Brian Washburn will continue to offer ideas and insights and poems and resources, and he’ll be joined by Heather Snyder who will offer a fresh take on a variety of topics across the field of learning and development.

One thought on “Hmmm. Maybe it is actually a training problem.

  1. Heather,

    I enjoyed your post and resonate with your thoughts behind the hands-on approach being one of the best. In many training situations, I’ve also found that using the constructivist model aids heavily in learning and provides long-lasting knowledge. Before introducing a concept as a whole, I find it can be a good practice to encourage students to make connections themselves. This helps engage and encourage learners. Then their newfound knowledge is more applicable because of one’s personal experience directly applying it. After all, the majority of people don’t always learn from just written/verbal instruction or others past mistakes. Trainees need to be active while they learn, however, we know that it is not conducive for all learning scenarios.

    When I design courseware, which is often for distance learners, I try to build in an atmosphere that allows collaboration with other learners (past or present) or those currently with the skill as well as utilizing inquiry-based methods to explore various solutions to answers. Building in a time for reflection and self-evaluation can also prove helpful during virtual training.

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