The Blog from the DBA Classroom

By: Joel Goodman

Inside the DBA Classroom 1

Posted by Joel Goodman on 14/01/2009


I am often asked about my teaching goals when delivering courses or seminars to DBAs and what helps to make a successful class. There are several elements to a good presentation to any audience but I wish to share my strategy for  teaching technology.

1. Add Value – There is a balance to be struck between teaching what one knows and teaching a course. If a trainer “reads from the notes” then this adds no value to what a delegate could get from reading the book alone. But if one spends one or more days ignoring the notes entirely then delegates may have difficulty writing all the useful information provided by the trainer.  My goal is to “Add value” within the context of the structure of the course or seminar. That means being familiar with the material in such a way as to weave the extra detail into the story whilst sticking roughly to the plot of the course. Ideally delegates should be able to write the extra details and additional concepts but still find the course notes a useful structure and reference.

2. Obtain Collateral Knowledge and Skill – When teaching any course or seminar, questions arise that are not directly related to the course content. A delegate on a RAC course for example may work at a company that uses Oracle Streams and ask about Streams itself or Streams in relation to RAC. This situation is quite common and requires trainers to know many other “tangential” areas of technology to answer these questions or if not then at least to understand what is being asked.

3. Know the System – Knowing the technology requires hands on for practical knowledge in additon to the theoretical knowledge from the book. An ideal course is a mixture of theory and practice based on real knowledge and experience.  This is easier now than ever because of the availabilitu of virtualisation products making it easy to create one’s own sandbox in which to to play around.

4. Raise the Bar – Courses have degrees of difficulty but in all cases I try to raise the bar higher to push people harder. My view is simple; if an abstract bar exists to measure the level at which a course is pitched and is set at level 6 out of 10, then noone will get higher than 6 to get 100% attainment of the original target level of the bar. If the hypothetcal bar is set to 9 then some may not attain 9 but in striving to reach it they may get more than 6 so that average level may be higher than 6 even if 100% of the desired level is not attained.

Whilst these four elements of training have helped me in the classroom, I would recommend them for anyone involved in any form of teaching, mentoring, or knowledge transfer to colleagues.

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5 Responses to “Inside the DBA Classroom 1”

  1. From time to time delegates may be disruptive to a class due to any or all of the following reasons:

    1. As you say – they feel thay know more being a production DBA. IN fact they may indeed have more in depth knowledge or experience or both, for some topics and thus feel compelled to let everyone in the class know it by their interactions with the trainer.

    2. They are “the guru” back at the office and have respect from their colleagues where they work but are not at all “known” at the course so they attempt to demonstrate their knowledge by challenging the trainers knowledge or even authority in the class.

    3. They are on the course but not by choice having been sent at the last moment either as a replacement for a colleague or as a requirement of their professional development. They are bored and can sometimes be disruptive.

    4. They have had previous courses with the same training company or even the same trainer and are expressing their views about something in the past.

    Whatever the reason for the behaviour, trainers confronted with such a delegate must deal with this using their classroom management skills and do so without delay. Remember, others have paid to attend this course and deserve the best efforts of the trainer and must not have their class disrupted by such people thereby diminishing the value of the course.

    Here is how I manage such situations:

    1. For Gurus who wish to upstage the trainer – I acknowledge their contribution and also menton to the class that others who can “add value” are welcome to do so. This often works if several can add value as the “guru” now realises that he or she is not the only clever person attending the course.

    2. Psychology – at the first stage of other disruptions or the second in the case of “gurus” I try a bit of psychology to relax the atmosphere and to get the point across that this is inappropriate as well. For example, I might suggest to the person seeking attention that “perhaps he or she would like to come to the front and make their point on the whiteboard” as it is too complex to just discuss. If someone simply wishes to upstage the trainer, they will often not risk being upstaged themselves and decline the invitation.

    3. Enlisting help – Another method I have used for very experienced people is to suggest that they have so much knowledge that perhaps they can help supervise the labs so “others may benefit from what they know”. This type of “recognition” may be what they are craving.

    4. Humour – sometimes humouring the person will help. You may joke about yourself to give the person some attention but others in the course will often see what you are doing and the social pressure may help stem the behaviour.

    5. A word in the ear – if all else fails then at a break have a quiet word in the ear of the delegate stating that “this behaviour is not acceptable, that others have paid to attend the course and that if they have problems then they are free to raise that through their management to the customer services person from the training company.

    Remember a few things:

    1. Doing nothing in the face of problematic delegates is NOT an option.

    2. There is no silver bullet – you must judge each such person and decide how best to manage the situation

    3. Experience helps – the more class time you have the better you will be able to manage this.

    Hope this is of help.

    Joel

  2. Aman.... said

    Joel,
    Glad to see that I do apply all of the above points when I am giving a training :-).
    One question, how to cope up with the “experts” sitting in the class who only come to pour down all the anger that they have got from a missed/bad cooked breakfast/ argument with someone or simply because they feel that a “trainer” doesn’t know more than a “production guy” which they are!
    Regards
    Aman….

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