Kathy Sierra Changed My Life

Posted by Phil Weber on December 29, 2005

My new boss likes to remind me that I’m an experienced presenter, but I have a lot to learn about being a trainer.

After one such humbling conversation, I fired off an e-mail to Kathy Sierra asking if she offers or could recommend training for trainers. To my surprise and delight, she replied promptly with a number of helpful suggestions. A few days later, she fleshed out those suggestions and posted them as a blog entry.

The day that entry appeared, I was on the final day of my first C# class, which I had condensed from five days to four, thinking that much of the material would be familiar to the students. But they had surprised me with many questions and lots of discussion, about which I had mixed feelings: it was great that they were so engaged, but here it was noon on the last day and I still had four units of fairly deep material to cover: advanced scope, delegates and events, attributes, et al (we had been covering two or three units a day).

During the lunch break, I read Kathy’s post and was struck in particular by these points:

If you're short on time, always cut the lecture, not the exercises! (Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what most trainers do.)

It is almost always far more important that your learners nail fewer subjects than be “exposed” to a wider range of subjects...If your students leave feeling like they truly learned — like they seriously kick ass because they can actually do something useful and interesting — they'll forgive you (and usually thank you) for not “covering all the material.”

Don't let the class fizzle out at the end. Try to end on a high...Ask yourself, “what were my students feeling when they left?” Too often, the answer to that is, “overwhelmed, and stupid for not keeping up.” And usually, the fault is in a course that tried to do too much.

After lunch, I called an audible and announced, “There’s no way we can cover all of the remaining material this afternoon, so here’s what we’re not going to get to.” I spent about half an hour explaining the various terms and describing some practical applications. Then I said, “If you wish, you can read this material on your own and contact me if you have any questions. Now, let’s write an app...” I wrote a spec for a simple flashcard program on the whiteboard, and we spent the rest of the afternoon creating it.

The class definitely ended on a high. The students were thrilled that they had been able to create a working application, and the class evaluations were great: not one of them complained that we didn’t cover all the material.

So, thanks, Kathy. You changed my life!


Posted by swati on August 4, 2006:

Hello Phil, It was gr8 to read u r experience. The class must have really enjoyed that……and Kathy has helped u a lot……that was gr8 I will always remember this….. Regards, Swati

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