“Three Anti-Patterns of Training” Contributed by Jean-Paul Bayley

I’m Jean-Paul Bayley, one of the Certified Trainers for “Training from the BACK of the Room!” Over the years, I have attended a lot of training courses. In recent times, I have been the trainer rather than the training participant, and I have noticed a repetitive number of “anti-patterns” of training delivery.

According to Wikipedia, an “anti-pattern” is “a common response to a recurring problem/situation that is usually ineffective and risks becoming highly counterproductive.”

Looking through the lens of Sharon Bowman’s “Training from the BACK of the Room!” I see a number of common anti-patterns in traditional training programs. Here are the top three, along with some suggested “cures” for these “symptoms” of dysfunctional training habits:

#1: Same Old Training Spaces

You know what they look like: dreary, underground training spaces with furniture set up in rows like classrooms. No daylight, bad strip-lighting and not a snack in sight. I’m sure we’ve all had a session in a space like this. We find ourselves drifting as we disengage due to the abject beigeness and visual boredom of it all.

As a trainer, jazz up your training spaces. Go for a cabaret format. Put toys, fat pens, colorful cards and paper on the tables. Hang colorful posters on the walls around the room and get some music going (if the venue allows it). Opt for natural daylight instead of a “bunker” (no windows) if you can, and always try to get an interesting, roomy space. The training space IS the learning environment. Make sure it is as engaging as possible.

#2: Broken Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes (also called “learning objectives”) describe what the learners will be able to DO with what they’ve LEARNED.

It shocks me how often I see training courses with terrible learning outcomes – poorly written, no observable behaviors listed, or describing what the trainer will do instead of what the learner will be able to do. Worse still, sometimes courses have no learning outcomes at all.

As a learner, how can you judge if the class is right for you if you don’t know what you will walk away with at the end of it? As a trainer, how are you going to assess if learners “get” the training concepts if there is nothing observable to show that they “got” it?

Big hint here: A trainer cannot see if a learner “knows,” “understands,” or “learns” something. These are NOT observable learning outcomes! On the other hand, “demonstrate,” “explain,” “show,” “tell,” “present” ARE observable outcomes. If you’re a trainer, use verbs like these when writing learning outcomes.

There are many opinions (“taxonomies”) about writing learning outcomes. I won’t dive into the complexities of this information. Instead, if you’re a learner and the training you’re planning to attend doesn’t have learning outcomes listed (or if the outcomes look like this: “You will understand …;” you will learn …; you will know …”), be wary. How can the course trainer tell if you, as a learner, “understand” something? It’s not observable.

As the learner, you need to see something like: “You will be able to define …; you will be able to demonstrate …; you will be able to explain …”  Why are these outcomes better? Because the trainer can ask you to define, demonstrate, or explain.  If you can do that, you’ve met the learning outcomes. If you can’t, the trainer can reteach and reinforce concepts so that you CAN meet the outcomes of the course.

As a trainer, publish the learning outcomes for your course, class, or training. Encourage learners to read the outcomes, think about them, and then decide which are the most important ones to them. Ask learners, “Why are you taking this course? What are YOUR personal learning goals? What do YOU want to be able to DO with what you will learn?”

Make friends with your learning outcomes. Your learners will thank you for it!

#3: Trainer as the Star

A lot of trainers I know (I include myself here) are pretty extroverted. We enjoy having the limelight and the platform and being “the sage-on-the-stage.” That’s great for us, but it doesn’t help the learners. Brain science tells us that the person doing most of the talking is the person doing most of the learning. So the more the trainer is in the limelight – soaking up all the energy and focused attention in the room – the less the learners learn.

As a trainer, try to curb the urge to be the star of the show and, instead, put your learners front and centre. Get your learners talking to each other as much as possible. Devise strategies to get learners to teach each other the content. If you must lecture, keep it as short as you can. Set up multi-sensory reviews to help learners revisit new information in a variety of ways.


I will be doing a follow-up post to this one, with some more training anti-patterns, and I welcome your contributions. What anti-patterns have you seen either as a trainer or a learner? Feel free to comment below – your comments will be posted with my responses.

And if you want to find out more about brain-friendly ways to engage and involve your students and learners, check out our upcoming Training from the BACK of the Room! courses listed on my website.



About the Author:
Jean-Paul Bayley is a TBR Certified Trainer based in England and the founder of Bay Spark Ltd.  – a Business Agility Consultancy. Jean-Paul’s mission is to share how to create fun, engaging and memorable learning experiences. He helps individuals, teams, and organizations achieve their professional goals. For more about Jean-Paul, click on the Certified Trainers page or follow him on Twitter @jpbayley.

Thank you for reading!