The Art of Teaching Adults.
Massue, Mireille
Pub Date:
Name: Training Media Review Publisher: TMR Publications Audience: Trade Format: Report Subject: Business; Human resources and labor relations Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2006 TMR Publications ISSN: 1072-3188
Date: Sept-Oct, 2006

Accession Number:
Full Text:
The Art of Teaching Adults, by Peter Renner, Book, 2005, PFR Training Associates Ltd., $28.

The Art of Teaching Adults: How to Become an Exceptional Instructor & Facilitator is the expanded tenth-anniversary edition of The Instructor's Survival Guide published in 1978. The intent then and now remains to be a "practical, how to book that must be used to be useful." In the new re-titled edition, the number of activities has increased, and the design and layout have changed.

Peter Renner has worked for 30 years in higher education and corporate classrooms, offering instructional design and facilitation skills to managers and faculty. In that time, he also found time to publish several books and complete a doctorate in educational leadership. Lately, he has launched a new career as an end-of-life counselor with the alaya institute in San Francisco.

My first thought while browsing the contents of this book was, I know this! After years of experience, topics like planning a session, declaring objectives, setting up a room, generating participation, showing videos, and assessing the course didn't hold much interest for me--until I sat down and read the book. (Always a good thing if you're doing a book review!)

The book suggests we ask two questions:

1. What is my approach, defined as underlying biases, preferences, and values, to teaching?

2. How do I choose the tools in this book to support that approach?

What I liked

Here are the characteristics of the book that I liked the most:

* Page layout. The page layout has two columns. The narrower column presents quotes, tips, and diagrams, and the other carries the text. Templates and diagrams are boxed in grey so they stand out.

* Quotes. I love good quotes because they make me think. One quote by Peter Renner is making me re-evaluate my role as a corporate educator: "What would happen if in your workshop 'not knowing' and 'not understanding' were considered honorable behaviors?" The idea of designing training to arouse curiosity and use tools to explore possibilities is something I'm thinking about, as I transition myself into a new work role.

* Audience. This book is written for the adult educator in both corporate and higher education. Although some chapters are specific to those who teach in higher ed, you can adapt an idea, a quote, or a summary to your environment.

* Practical aids. Templates, checklists, and self-assessments are plentiful, short, and easy to use.

* Tone. The book is written in a conversational style and has an informal but clear-cut presentation that includes sidebar summaries, tips, ideas, and questions are asked. Here's one of the questions: Are icebreakers necessary? Research has an answer.

* Activities. The book has many activities; variations of some of them are included.

* Terms defined. A glossary of terms removes any doubt about the meaning of terms used in the text. That's helpful considering the multiple meanings of training terms.

What I would have liked more of

Here are some things the author can do to improve an already worthwhile book:

* Description of activities. I'd like to be able to find essential information about activities such as the number of people and the objective more easily.

* Activity matrix. A matrix listing all the activities and their characteristics (e.g., Active or passive exercise? Instructor- or learner-led?) and the page numbers where they can be found would make the book even easier to use.

* Clarity in Chapter 9. This chapter combines questions to be used with learners and questions about pressing issues adult educators face--and that makes the chapter a little confusing.

* Estimating training time. The suggestion to try it, time it, and try it again makes sense. Still, I would like a more precise formula for calculating the amount of time a training will take--if one exists.


On his website Peter Renner has the following quote: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few" (Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center). It's true. Everything old can be new again. It's all in how you look at it. The Art of Teaching Adults can help you look at the topic with fresh eyes.

Review by Mireille Massue
Product Ratings

The Art of Teaching Adults

Holds user interest  ***
Production quality   ***
Value of Content     ***
Self-Study Value     ***
Instructional Value  ***
Value for the money  ***
Overall rating       ***
Gale Copyright:
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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