I hold my hands up. I got caught speeding and have had to attend a speed awareness course as an alternative to a fine and points on my driving licence. I have no beef with being caught. Mea culpa, it’s a fair cop, it was me what done it.
So I was ready for a whole bunch of trainer-teacher cliches: sharing objectives, flip chart paper, all the rest. There were shared objectives, which was only to be expected, and the odd nod to active, collaborative learning, and even, for the first ten minutes at least, openness to m-learning where several people used their phones to check the meanings of road signs.
But what struck me really was not so much issues around motivation and teaching style, as I had expected, but actually that the information (it was an awareness course, after all, not a techniques course) was interesting, and this made the world of difference. Things like I now actually know the difference between a single and a dual carriageway (clue: it’s not the number of lanes) and that it’s the volume of street lamps which dictate “built up area” not the volume of houses. These facts were surprising, and therefore interesting.
And the teaching methods were nothing to write home about: very much learner-teacher discussions and teacher presentations for the most part. Yet the whole thing held my interest, for two reasons. Firstly, I was surprised, and therefore interested, and had my curiosity piqued. Secondly, one of the two trainers was a good presenter: balancing talk and facts with anecdotes and jokes, questioning and striking the balance between being friendly and being authoritative.
Which leaves me with this question. Can techniques and methodology compensate for personality and interest? Could someone be a deathly dull personality putting across tedious, unmotivating knowledge, but somehow be “good” because they use lots of techniques they pulled out of a book? I guess it’s the old art/science, talent/learned skill distinction, and the obvious answer is always that it’s a bit of both. But I do wonder if charisma and saying something interesting outweigh any technique in learning in essence that it’s the art & talent which win over science & learned skills.