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Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif., 2005

ISBN: 0-7879-7666-0

All too often trainers are faced with having to teach what someone higher up in the organization said they had to teach. The problem is that those giving the orders may not have a clue as to what one can teach or how one might go about teaching it. Training is not simply a matter of telling trainees what someone said they should hear, or at least it shouldn’t be. Trainers need perspective gained from learning theory but also perspective gained from actual experience. This book contains the kind of questions trainers need to ask themselves and others before they start to design training.

A trainer can begin to understand where and how to draw the line when thinking about building a new training. What does it mean to teach better communication? How can you teach people not to do something? How can you help trainees build their own stories? How can you make training fun without being silly? How can you know what simply cannot be taught? How do you properly reward training success?

The book is a wide-ranging collection of stories. The author has had extensive experience in design new kinds of trainings for a large varity of corporations and schools. These experiences have taught him valuable lessons. In this book he tells the stories of some of those experiences, relating the lessons he learned along the way.

To give you an overview of this book and to guide you to some of its themes is antithetical to the author’s intention. Rather than telling you, at least telling you right way, the author uses stories as sources of wisdom. Following the stories, the author derives guidelines related to learning and instruction. So rather than disrupt this scheme with summary, I’ll make a few suggestions for ways you can get the most from this book.

  1. Enjoy the stories. Some are funny, some are irreverent, and all are engaging. Many will leave you thinking.

  2. Compare the guidelines from these stories to other sources of wisdom, be it research evidence or your own experience. Where they disagree, look under the surface to find out why. Often it’s a matter of deciding which guidelines fit specific learning situations, since they are few absolute rules in training and instruction.

  3. Grab the nuggets of wisdom embedded in many of these chapters. Consider how and when they might fit your instructional environments.

  4. Discuss the stories and their guidelines with others. Stories are often open-ended enough to arise multiple interpretations, and you may can benefit from the insights of others who may learn different lessons from stories that you learn.

  5. As you read the stories - most of them quite personal - ask yourself what the stories tell you about the author. What are his assumptions and his value about himself, about life and learning? Take a minute to think about the stories that you tell and what they reveal about yourself.

  6. Decide which stories are your favorites and ask yourself why. Is it because they are engaging? It is because they resonate to your own experiences or assumptions about learning? Or it is because they made you thing?

Ruth Clark
Clark Training and Consulting