Monday, 30 August 2010

Writing SMART Objectives

I never cease to be amazed at how much training takes place without clear objectives ever having been set. So many trainers tend to rely on their knowledge of a subject being enough to get them through a training session and wonder why the learners haven’t grasped the topic by the end of the activity.

Writing clear and specific objectives is not an arduous task when done properly and, furthermore, can open up so many new opportunities for incorporating a variety of training methods and resources that may never previously have been considered.

The key to writing objectives for a training session is to ensure they are SMART. This often-heard acronym, if used properly, is an immensely valuable tool that can ensure your objectives are meaningful and meet all the criteria of a good training session. But, from the outset, it is important to remember that SMART is a checking process, not a writing process. SMART should be used AFTER your draft objectives have been written to ensure you are meeting all your learners’ requirements.

So, what is SMART?
There are a number of variations on the exact wording for this acronym, but for the purpose of this article (and my personal preference) we will use the following:

S – Specific (describes exactly what you are going to deliver and what the learner will be able to do)

M – Measurable (can be observed during the training programme)

A – Attainable by the end of the training programme

R – Relevant to the needs of the learner

T – Time-Based (achievable by the end of the training programme)

Writing Objectives Exercise
Now we understand what SMART objectives are about, let’s put this knowledge on the back burner for a while. Remember, SMART is a checking process, not a writing process.

I want you to think of a subject you could deliver to your learners in a one-hour training session. Keep it simple for the purpose of this exercise. You can download an Objectives Exercise worksheet here. Once you have come up with a subject, try to think of about three objectives for your training session. Write them down, then use the SMART checking process. Look at each objective in turn. Are they specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based? The chances are your objectives will need some tweaking at this point and that’s the beauty of this process. Fine-tuning your objectives before getting down to the nitty-gritty of training methods and resources, allows for more time to be spent on planning the latter. Once your objectives are robust and in place you can focus all your attention on how you’re going to achieve the objectives, the timing, sequence of activities, resources, etc.

If this is a method you have not used in the past, give it a try, I’m pretty sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results. And drop me a line to let me know how you get on.

If you’d like to learn more about SMART objectives you should sign up for our two-day Train the Trainer course.

Visit Gary Bedingfield Training Services website at

Friday, 27 August 2010

Supporting Learners with Dyslexia

It doesn’t matter what age our learners are, there is always a chance that as trainers we will be working with a learner who has dyslexia. This is nothing to be afraid of. Indeed, we should relish the opportunity and learn from the experience as a way of developing our own skills as trainers. Of course, it’s always useful to have some strategies and training methods in place before hand and this article will help to prepare for that occasion.

What is Dyslexia?
Before trying to support learners with dyslexia, it will help to understand a little about it. The word dyslexia is a Greek word meaning “difficulty with words.” It is a learning disability characterised by problems in expressive or receptive, oral and written language. Problems may emerge in reading, spelling, writing or listening.

Dyslexics are right brain dominant, which means they take a global approach, looking at the whole thing. People who do not suffer from dyslexia are left brain dominant and use linear progression being able to deal with things one at a time.

Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence. The problem is not behavioural, psychological, motivational or social, and it is not a problem with vision. Dyslexics do not, as is commonly believed, “see backwards.”

Dyslexia results from differences in the structure and function of the brain. People with dyslexia are unique; each having individual strengths and weaknesses. There are more than 40 different types of dyslexia.

The following list includes some of the problems a dyslexic learner might experience:
  • Problems with oral language
  • Problems with symbols, numbers and sequences
  • Problems with time and organisation
  • Problems with written language
  • Poor short-term auditory memory
  • Visual and/or auditory difficulties
  • Problems with expression
  • Phonological (sound) processing deficit
  • Inaccurate self-image (lazy, stupid, careless, etc)
Supporting Dyslexic Learners
Adopting the following methods will greatly aid dyslexic learners as well as being a benefit to others with learning difficulties.

  • Simplify your instructions – be specific/be clear
  • Provide instructions in different formats (written, visual)
  • Encourage diary use
  • Give new information more than once
  • Work on one problem at a time
  • Work to the individual’s strengths
  • Give plenty of time
  • Ask for verbal clarification to ensure understanding
  • Provide visual directions to new places/venues, using references (church on the corner, etc)
  • Explain relevance and purpose of instructions
  • Use analogy/real experiences
  • Use real things to explain concepts
  • Use coloured paper for all handouts (pastel shade paper reduces the contrast between background and text, making it much easier to read)
  • Provide learners with boiled sweets or similar while working as this is a great concentration aid
  • Offer a variety of different pens and pencils to encourage learners to find the type that suits them best (thin pens, thick pens, pens with rubber grips, etc)
Strategies for Developing Reading Skills
The following strategies will help all learners who have difficulties with reading. Always use relevant materials and try to incorporate reading into as many activities as possible. Make sure you always define key words you might be using. Get your learners to read in pairs and encourage the use of newspapers and magazines. Encourage dictionary/thesaurus use to increase the understanding of words (an electronic dictionary/thesaurus is a great tool for this) and never assume a poor reader can decode a new word. Tell them the word first, then look at how it can be decoded.

Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability in numeracy. Learners with dyslexia and learners with dyscalculia share the same characteristics. Many dyslexics are also below average in numeracy due to confusions with the terminology and poor reading skills. Therefore, many of the strategies mentioned earlier will work in this situation.

Technology for Dyslexics
Dyslexic learners find they are more able to spell and write freely when using a keyboard; being able to see what they are writing and then edit in private is very useful and supports self esteem. But do not assume that a dyslexic learner will learn mouse control and keyboard skills easily; patience will be needed.

Using word processing software such as Microsoft Word, you can alter the colour of the background and font as well as the font style. Spend some time with the learner getting them to choose the best combination of colours. It will also benefit all learners if the red (spelling) and green (grammar) lines are turned off in Microsoft Word. This stems the flow of thought when learners are writing because they spend more time concentrating on their spelling and grammar rather than getting words on the page. You will, of course, need to ensure learners use the Spellchecker after they have finished to any correct errors.

There are also software programs available that will read back what is written on the screen and this is an excellent aid for dyslexic learners.

Suitable Fonts
Many people with dyslexia find that the readability of a piece of text varies greatly depending upon the font used. Serif fonts (such as Times New Roman) with their “ticks” and “tails” tend to obscure the shapes of letters, so sans-serif fonts, which are much cleaner in appearance, are generally preferred. Verdana, which was commissioned by Microsoft with the aim of making on-screen reading of web pages easier, is a good font to use. The only problem with this font is that the line spacing is very tight. Trebuchet is ideal because it has short descenders, but reasonably long ascenders, a small body size and generous spacing. Arial is a common font and readily available on most computers, while Comic Sans has become somewhat of a preferred font among dyslexic people.

Useful Websites
You can obtain a host of useful information from the following websites:

British Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia Scotland

Dyslexia Institute

Dyslexia Action

Being Dyslexic


Crossbow Education

I hope this article has been of some use to and that you will consider putting some of these strategies in place to assist your dyslexic learners. If you would like more advice on supporting all learners with additional needs you might consider attending our 2-day Train the Trainer course.

Visit Gary Bedingfield Training Services website at

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Dealing With Challenging Behaviour

A question I always get asked during Train the Trainer is how to deal with challenging behaviour. There will be times when all trainers experience testing behaviour and not only those dealing with difficult clients where you might expect it, like dysfunctional teenagers and long-term unemployed. Challenging behaviour can come from the most unexpected source. For example, you might be delivering a training session to some of your colleagues and someone you regard perhaps as a good friend, decides to be the joker of the group. It’s impossible to foresee these situations, the knack is knowing what to do when they arise and, if at all possible, prevent them before they happen or have the opportunity to escalate.

Body Language
Body Language might well be your first ‘weapon’ of choice. Raised eyebrows, a frown, even a smile to indicate you know that they are tempted will deter the majority of learners from imminent misdemeanour.

Some situations can be dealt with using humour, although not in a sarcastic way. But when the situation has defused, speak to them on a one-to-one basis and let them know their behaviour is unacceptable.

Know the Disciplinary Procedure
It’s always a good idea to be familiar with the organisation’s disciplinary procedure and apply it as necessary. If you are dealing with the same group on a regular basis, the fact that a member of that group has been issued with a written warning usually spreads like wildfire and will often work as a deterrent to others. Nobody wants to be dismissed from a training programme.

Avoid Confrontation
Don’t allow yourself to get into big arguments. It’s better to just send them out of the training room if possible and deal with the situation when the learner (and you) has cooled off and the rest of the group is working on a task. Even the nicest groups can relish the trainer versus learner scenario, especially teenagers who are very sheep-like, where one dominant personality goes, the rest will follow.

Speak to your Colleagues
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every trainer will struggle with a situation at some time and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Quite often, you will not be alone in experiencing problems with certain learners and it can be reassuring to find out that other staff members have found certain trainees a handful. They might even have a strategy that works.

Don’t Dwell on a Bad Training Session
Most importantly, don’t dwell on bad training sessions or take them personally. Afterwards, decide what you could have done to make things better and how you would try to prevent it happening again. The key is to learn from it and move on. Don’t mention the problem the next time you see the group. Start afresh and don’t bear a grudge, if they are teenagers you will find they change with the wind and more often than not, will have forgotten by the next time you see them.

You can learn more about dealing with challenging behaviour on our 2-day Train the Trainer course. Visit our website for further details.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Training Course Directory

Our Training Services Course Directory is now available for download from our website.

The 18-page directory features our current range of 12 training courses, from a one-day employability skills course to our popular two-day train the trainer programme, and we're sure Gary Bedingfield Training Services has a course that will meet the needs of your clients and staff.

Furthermore, our courses are far more affordable than most other courses on the market. For just £350 (that’s per group, not per person) you can have up to eight of your staff attend our extremely popular two-day Train the Trainer course.*

How do we make our courses so affordable? We reduce our overheads by coming to you. By using your training facilities to deliver the course we are able to offer training at a price that suits any budget.

So, why not download a copy of our training directory today and see how we can help your organisation.

*All courses are priced for delivery within a 50 mile radius of Glasgow. Courses can be delivered anywhere in the UK but will incur an additional travel cost which will be kept to a minimum. Please contact me for details.

Visit Gary Bedingfield Training Services website at


Welcome to our new blog facility where we will be posting links, articles and useful tidbits relating to trainer and facilitator training.

Based in Glasgow, Gary Bedingfield Training Services have more than 12 years experience in the training industry in both Scotland and England. With a strong understanding of learning strategies and opportunities needed in the public and private sector we have worked with clients ranging from young people to mature adults.

Specialising in a range of Train the Trainer courses starting with the one-day "Introduction to Training" to the advanced two-day Train the Trainer Phase 2, we are delivering courses throughout Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Visit Gary Bedingfield Training Services website at