Instructor 101 – Tidbits From the Book!

Material taken from the rough edit of:  Instructor! The Definitive Guide to Instructional Excellence (to register for the release notification please join my mailing list on

What Makes a Good Instructor? 

“As an instructor, you may see something that’s more interesting to you, and if you can go straight to that chapter and apply it tomorrow on the job, making you and your students better, it’s a win-win.

Hands on training is the key to learning.
Hands on training is the key to learning.

Second, I want this book to help you get outside of your shell and make you think. I don’t want it to be Instructing 101 from 1962—we’ve already got that. People have been teaching in classrooms in colleges and universities the same way for hundreds of years now. And we’re going to get outside of the limits of that way of thinking. Instead of thinking about how we should be instructing, we’re going to focus on the end results here.

Ultimately, the only measurement of our success as instructors comes at the end: students’ ability to perform the skills we have tried to teach them. That’s it. Not how we thought we did, how good we think our presentations are, or how good we deem our style to be. How we think we do is irrelevant—the only relevant metric for success is our students’ success.

If our students can accomplish what we have tried to teach them at a higher level than they came in (a level that matches our expectations for that skill), we have succeeded. Anything else, no matter how good it looks, is not our desired result.

The sooner you can apply some of the techniques in this book to your instructing, the better. Whether that’s the section that teaches you about using simple verbalization skills, eye contact, and body language, or the section about physically demonstrating proper techniques rather than just explaining them, I want you to use them as quickly as possible.

Again, think about this book like a menu, and if you’re hungry to improve at a particular topic, jump ahead so you can absorb these things and then apply them to your instructing. This book is something you can use right away, not something that will tie you down. This material will make you better tomorrow if you’ll apply it.”

How Can We Make it Better?

I used to teach a program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, South Carolina, where our program was structured to begin with a four hour block of instruction. We had this elaborate PowerPoint demonstration, and we talked about how to grip a handgun and aim a handgun and pull the trigger on a handgun. We went over safety rules and all these details; we had pictures and videos. It was a well-developed PowerPoint.

After the four-hour block of instruction and this in-depth presentation, the students would come back the next day for a range day. We handed them a training handgun and expected them to have some sort of retention from the presentation… But they were lost!

But I wanted to try an experiment: instead of all the classroom time and then getting them a practice weapon, after a very brief classroom introduction, we got them up on their feet and handed them a red plastic pistol. We pointed out the various devices on their fake pistols—the safeties and magazine releases and slide-lock levers. In fifteen minutes of hands-on instruction, I had them understanding the proper handling of their weapon better than after four hours with a very good PowerPoint.

This is exactly the point of this book—you’ve got to think outside the parameters of “This is how we’ve always done it.” We should not ever think that just because this is how we’ve always done it, this is the only way it can be done. We should always ask ourselves, “How can we make it better?”

This book will be published in the summer of 2014.

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.

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