Tip #154: Designing Training with SMEs

frequently work with subject matter experts to design participant-centered skill-building training programs. When we sit down together, we already know the general subject matter of the training. The SMEs bring their specific technical expertise. My job is to help them focus in on what the learners REALLY need to learn and then collaborate on a training format that will achieve that learning.

I accomplish this by asking the SMEs a series of questions:

Question #1: “Who is our target audience?”

Question #2: “In general terms, what do you want the participants to know or be able to do when they leave the training?”

Based on their response, we craft the first training goal: WHAT the participants will learn.

Question #3: “Why would the target audience want to learn that, from their perspective?”

Based on their response, we craft the second training goal: WHY the participants will want to learn.

Question #4: “What do the participants need to know or be able to do in order to accomplish the first goal?”As they brainstorm, I post their list on a flipchart.

When necessary, I coach them to ensure that they identify everything necessary to complete a basic skill-building task analysis template:

  1. What it is [definitions of terminology or standards]
  2. Why it is important [benefits of the training from the learners’ perspective]
  3. What is needed to do it [necessary tools or materials]
  4. How to do it [procedure]
  5. Do it [application]

We work with their posted list of responses to eliminate the non-essential items and place the remaining essential items in a logical sequence similar to that of the task analysis template above.

Up until this point, my role has been as a facilitator, asking logical questions to help the SMEs focus their technical expertise on the key content. With Question #5, my role changes to a trainer, introducing the concept of learning levels.

Question #5: “What level of learning is necessary for each essential task analysis item ? For example, do you want them to know it, but not understand it? Do you want them to understand it? Do you want them to do something with it?”

In this way, I introduce the building blocks of learning, otherwise known as Bloom’s Taxonomy of Behavioral Learning Objectives.

Based on their answers, we identify a learning level-appropriate active verb to plug in at the beginning of each task analysis item. This converts the task analysis into a specific, observable, and measurable learning objective.

We now have the goals and learning objectives for the training program. The next step is to identify the training methods necessary to accomplish each learning objective.

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