Technical training success ultimately depends on the excellence of the technical instructor involved. Effectively teaching technical courses involves more than just knowledge alone, so in order to be exceptional, an instructor must also have the skills, professionalism, demeanour, passion, and energy that makes those learning the material want to persevere. In essence, instructors are “role models” who set the tone of a course for their learners, as they guide them along a learning journey.
To begin, a good technical instructor has an extensive background, education, and certifications in the systematic study of technology. With this in place, there are numerous additional ways to elevate a decent instructor to the very best: these instructors possess the ability to enthusiastically communicate and impart their wisdom and experience to the learners, implemented with hands-on, real-world applications and explanations.
For additional insight on this topic, we consulted Flint’s very own Senior Technical Expert and Course Delivery Specialist Jaka Javornik for his expert thoughts and opinions. So, let’s discuss the surefire attributes that make exceptional instructors stand out from the rest.
Real World Experience
Without real–life experience outside of a classroom, there remains a true lack of instructor credibility.
Even with the best educational background in the world, without real-life experience outside of a classroom, there remains a true lack of instructor credibility when it comes to teaching learners who currently work, or will work, in real-life technology professions. The real-world work experience helps the instructor empathise with, and relate to their students’ everyday professional work situations with advice and solutions. This ability to share and implement a lived example not only makes for a superior technical instructor, but it also bridges the gap between instructor and student by making the instructor more relatable and approachable (“one of us”), making the learning experience much more engaging for the students.
An Exceptional Technical Instructor Is Enthusiastic for the Industry and for Teaching
The top technical instructors are enthusiastic about the tech industry and share their energy with their learners. They inherently possess an infectious and positive enthusiasm; if they’re not passionate about what they’re doing, it will show as ungenuine when they teach. Just as enthusiasm is contagious, so are apathy and indifference.
While immersed in the industry, some technical experts find that they have an innate desire and/or a knack for sharing their expertise with others and find it very rewarding – a combination of these traits make for the best instructors.
Jaka, what drove you to becoming an instructor, and what makes it personally rewarding for you?
During my university studies, I realised that I possessed a passion for teaching and sharing my knowledge with other students – that I was drawn to explaining complex subjects and found personal joy when I was able to see that students earnestly understood what I was teaching them. This motivated me to first become a teaching assistant, and then a Cisco Academy Instructor, where I “dipped my toes” in the educational waters. After that, I worked for several IT companies where I was able to hone my technical skills in different fields, and now at Flint, I share this acquired knowledge with IT professionals all around the globe.
Additionally, enthusiastic instructors are constantly seeking to better themselves professionally, they are lifelong learners – keeping themselves updated on the latest technology improvements while continuously bettering themselves as professional technical instructors. They are driven to evolve as professionals, and as a result are naturally in touch with the ups and downs experienced by the everyday learner. This “ability” is also inherently inspirational; their obvious passion and thirst for learning is infectious and can make all the difference when explaining more abstract or dry subject matter. They are always on the lookout for the newest developments and excited about what’s coming next. A major driving force behind why they teach is wanting to see the tech industry grow and they enjoy sharing their knowledge and passion for it with others.
Jaka, where does this motivation to become a lifelong learner come from?
Operating in the ever-changing IT field pushes us to grow with it and adapt. Relying on old, preexisting knowledge is not an option. The best way to keep track of all the changes is to adopt a curious, self-motivated, ongoing outlook and follow new technologies with interest and excitement. If you acquire this mindset, those changes transform into personal challenges that you want to figure out. Building a positive attitude toward learning has many benefits, but the main one is that you can find ways to enjoy your own professional development and learn about things that genuinely interest you.
An Exceptional Technical Instructor Teaches Interactively
A traditional lecture style of teaching just isn’t effective enough to accomplish a positive learning outcome.
An exceptional instructor teaches interactively and involves their students so that they participate in the course, encouraging learners to ask questions when something is unclear or needs further explanation, or addressing when a student seems puzzled. Instead of stating only facts, they also introduce theoretical and open-ended questions that allow members of the class to debate and learn amongst themselves. A traditional lecture style of teaching just isn’t effective enough to accomplish a positive learning outcome, even if the instructor lectures in an entertaining way. Truly great technical instructors make a training course a group activity, rather than an informational speech, and this involvement is at the core of what makes an exciting learning experience. While being enthusiastic and even humorous is a great quality in any instructor, effective teaching goes way beyond this. It’s all about facilitating active engagement, cooperation, and communication among learners, which is essential in getting them to absorb and retain new skills. Learners need opportunities to share their ideas, problem-solve, answer questions, and actively practice what they’ve learned, rather than passively consume material.
Great Instructors establish a rapport that motivates students to be active in their own learning process.
The best technical instructors are passionate and curious, and this shows in the way that they connect with learners. They establish a rapport that motivates students to be active in their own learning process. A great instructor immediately learns and uses students’ names and “breaks the ice” by establishing an emotional connection with the participants. You’ll often see this before a class begins, while waiting for learners to arrive/log on, and involves small talk with the learners who are already present.
With many courses now being delivered online, it is imperative that an instructor conversationally introduces and shares a bit about themselves – helping the students feel more involved in the class and more familiar with their instructor. After an initial rapport is established, everyone is more comfortable and feels welcome in the lecture/class. As a result, students will be more focused, because they have an instructor that has provided them with a sense of belonging and community and isn’t only trying to quickly cover the course material. Great instructors also actively recognise and respond to the energy levels of their students and work to encourage learners to ask questions, learn from one another, and desire continuous improvement for themselves.
An Exceptional Technical Instructor Has Excellent Communication Skills
Great technical instructors are, of course, superb communicators who have excellent social skills, an enthusiasm for people and teaching, and are adept at communicating both verbally and nonverbally – combining these abilities effortlessly.
Excellent instructors are also friendly, well-spoken, and have an engaging speaking style with quick and selective word usage when communicating information to learners, and very importantly, delivering this information with the correct use of volume, tone, and inflexion in their voice for emphasis, etc. In addition to using our ears for learning, we also participate in a class using our eyes, so an instructor’s natural demeanour, professionalism, dress, posture, movement, eye contact and use of gestures are also crucial in teaching effectively. These are all nonverbal cues that influence the learners’ ability to be cognitively present and pay attention. Throughout the teaching process, a great instructor is always aware of their effectiveness in communicating with their students, and they notice whether the students are successfully following along, adjusting their communication style as needed. For online courses, a great instructor uses engaging presentations, well-thought-out graphics, and effective learning examples.
A good instructor must be a great communicator. They need to be able to listen, collaborate, and disclose knowledge in an efficient manner.
Jaka Javornik, Senior Technical Expert
In conclusion, Jaka, what instructor qualities are absolutely essential to you, and why?
A good instructor must be a great communicator. They need to be able to listen, collaborate, and disclose knowledge in an efficient manner. They must have masterful knowledge of the subject matter, far beyond the minimum standard, be able to give relevant examples, and quickly draw demonstratable conclusions based on their professional experiences. It is crucial for instructors to have this know-how, so they are also able to incorporate all they have witnessed in their teachings and experience and make the subject more colourful and interesting. But most of all, good instructors need to understand the bigger picture and reinforce the knowledge that is crucial for the learners to grasp so they can achieve their learning goals.
Learning Success Is at Hand
The success of training and keeping a team up-to-date in this ever-changing tech world imperatively hinges upon choosing the right technical instructor. By following these basic guidelines, you’re sure to find one who is top-notch and an asset to your team’s learning journey. At Flint, we practice what we preach, and adhere to the same standards with our own industry-leading team of technical instructors. With this in mind, we look forward to assisting your team achieve learning success.