> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: How to motivate learners

Friday, February 02, 2007

How to motivate learners

Sometimes when I am getting obsessive about something, like the missing apostrophe or whether or not I should just accept the US spelling of colour, I think about Stevie.

Stevie is a freelance safety instructor. And he can’t afford to be irrelevant to his classes. Right now, he is in Iceland giving training to workers on a large construction site. He has been contracted to train operators on the safe use of their MEWPs. MEWPs are Mobile Elevated Work Platforms, not, as you were imagining, Pokemon characters.

Safety training has its challenges. A large number of the trainees don’t speak English -or Glaswegian- which is Stevie’s chosen tongue.

It’s crucial however that they meet the learning objective.

Stevie uses a combination of Powerpoint, video and pictures via a laptop to teach. He builds on prior knowledge, and is not averse to photographing any potential problems on site to help get his message across.

The learners need the qualification to be licensed to work, but first they must pass a theory test and a practical exam. Instructors can license them within one day, so that trainees can have proof immediately that they have been trained. Hence the primary motivation for learning.

Safety instructors have to be accountable in a way that focuses the teaching mind wonderfully. Their instructions might mean the difference between life and death. The practical class involves kinaesthetic learning. How will I know if you have understood the learning objective? You will show me. The big picture is 'You will be safe at work'. Activating this level of motivation should be easy, but isn't always.

Conditions can be unkind. As Stevie says, when we last talked ‘The temperature today was minus 28 degrees. And the last thing you want to do is go outside to 20 metres and work on a platform.’ I decide not to share my story of the leaky radiator.

Stevie’s a member of IPAF. Their website is, well, quite serious as you might expect. But it has a interesting page called ‘The Rogues Gallery’ showing some of the mistakes that no doubt contribute to the truly awful safety record of the construction industry.

I’m sorry to say some of the acrobatics will look horribly familiar to anyone whose school recently had its windows cleaned.

If you know anyone with MEWPs, Stevie's your man. I am his big sister.


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