How to create empowering learning experiences

As kids will soon be heading back to school, administrators are busy planning for the upcoming year and that means putting together staff in-service trainings.  Over the last eight years, I have trained thousands of educators and mental health professionals how to stop social aggression/bullying and promote peace on campus with my award-winning approach.  As a result, I receive calls from several principals asking for my help in putting together unique trainings.  It’s a joy to contribute to these and give back to the individuals that inspire children to learn each and every day.

It’s no secret that most people aren’t a fan of training seminars.  We’ve all sat through boring lectures where you walk out and say “Well, that was a waste of my time”.  Then, there are those sessions where you are fully engaged.  From group discussions to interactive activities, you find yourself fully engaged – body, mind, and heart.  In the matter of an hour or so, you laugh, you cry, and you learn practical skills that you can implement in your classroom immediately.  These are the trainings that you move beyond inspirational or motivational.  They become transformational.  How does one create such a training?

The best PD trainings offer professionals an empowering participatory experience with practical solutions, perfectly targeted to solve a partipant’s problem.


My Secrets to Rocking Professional Development Trainings:

The Emotional Hook

This can be a comedic or dramatic story, an inspirational video, etc.  The idea is to reach ’em (your participants) before you try and teach ’em.  In the first 30-seconds your audience establishes the impression of your session.  You must be extremely strategic with your open/first impression.

Painting the Picture

The first 10 minutes should be about dispelling myths (i.e. this day is going to be boring) and building trust with your participants.  These first 10 minutes will set the tone and establish the listening pattern for your training.  By the end, your participants should be able to see the “roadmap” for the journey they are going on, know the exact destination, and have a decent idea about how you’re going to get them there.  Most of all, they must be excited about “getting on the bus” and going on with you.

The Body

This is where the majority of the content will be taught.  Different people learn in different ways.  I like to teach my three main points through a mix of theatrical story-telling, group discussions, fun activities, etc.  In my 6-hour training, we spend over an hour role-playing common bullying scenarios.    This naturally leads to comedy and while we’re laughing, we’re learning.  The secret here is teaching practical skills that clearly solve a problem for your participants.  The more simply you can teach this and the more repetition you can build in (without being annoying), the better.

Jeff Veley leads professional development staff in-service training

Strategic Breaks

Building breaks allows the brain to “digest”, the body to refuel, and natural conversations to flourish.  Don’t forget to plan time for bathroom breaks, lunch, snacks, and informal connection times.  Advertising these breaks can be helpful but you also don’t want everyone counting down the minutes to lunch when they should be focused on learning.  Having an engaging activity before and after breaks can help.

The Call To Action

This is the challenge or charge, where participants take time to reflect on putting what they’ve learned into action.  In my trainings, I have people actually practice what how it will be implemented and create a plan, including accountability.

Concluding the Experience

All good things come to an end.  This is the time to review your key points, offer an opportunity for participants to share what they learned (reflecting on the journey together), and repeat the call to action/implementation plan.  End with a story or activity that summarizes things well and leaves your participants inspired/wanting more.

Following Up

Don’t you dare stop here.  You may have reached the finish line on your journey but your implementation is just getting started.  Most trainings fail for one of two reasons.  Either they don’t get staff buy-in (poor presentation) or they stop working once the event is complete (poor follow-up).  A great training can ignite a fire but how will you fan the flames?  Plan your follow-up.  After all that work, your participants should know that their hard work wasn’t a waste of time.  They will need ongoing support to put what they learned into practice. Each participant should be able to articulate the follow-up plan (including a follow-up meeting/event and who they can go to with questions) before leaving.

How I Can Help You?

My empowering trainings on resilience education for bullying prevention are among the highest rated by schools, social service agencies, and conferences for educators and mental health professionals.

To learn more about hosting me and seeing how I structure my content, click here.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen our staff that mesmerized in a training before. There was great information! We will certainly use this.

Lori Robinson

Health Coordinator, Godwin Heights Public Schools