Oh, the Trainer Can Write it – Or – Why Singers Don’t All Write Their Own Songs (By Nancy Curtis)

Mon, March 07, 2022 1:32 PM | Kenneth Rhee

In my years as a technical instructional designer and ID manager, it’s been my privilege to collaborate with many, many wonderful trainers.  I firmly believe that the field experience of the professional instructor, who interacts with and understands the needs of authentic learners in classes every day, is absolutely crucial to the success of any curriculum project. 

But I don’t think the trainers should write all the courses.

A lot of times learning leaders default to that approach.  You have someone who is great at teaching a subject – you need a new class in that subject – just pull that trainer off the schedule for a few weeks, they’ll throw together some PowerPoints, and it’ll be a big success!  You don’t need those expensive instructional design specialists, or anything crazy like a learning model, or instructional tools or infrastructure, right?  What could go wrong?

Well, maybe nothing – if that trainer is the one who’s going to present the training.  It’s what I call the “singer/songwriter” scenario.  Some people express their gifts the best when they are performing material they created for themselves.  On the flip side, some composers are their own best interpreters; no cover would ever mean as much as the original artist’s version.

But coming from the world of classical music, I know this is not always the case.  A whole lot of fabulously gifted singers would never have a career if they had to write all their own songs. That’s just not their talent.  Their talent is to perform and interpret.  And often composers would rather crawl into a hole and die than get pushed on stage to perform something they wrote – and even if they can get through the piece, they might not even be their own best interpreter, compared to a professionally-trained performing artist.  

Similarly, many trainers who are so gifted at coaching learners to success are just stymied when they come out of the classroom and need to sit quietly in an office and put instructional materials together.  I’ve seen brilliant instructors spend weeks and months without producing even a workable table of contents. I’ve seen others become completely blocked trying to write an explanation of a technical or conceptual point that rolls off their tongue perfectly naturally when they’re addressing live learners.  

Especially if you need instructor-independent materials, then my advice to you is to employ the talents of professional instructional designers.  Put the trainers on the team for sure! But let the IDs analyze, design, and develop.  Let the trainers train.  

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