Module 4c - Training methods

 Choice of method
All apprentices are different and should therefore be treated differently. If you want them to learn something, it is important to know their prior skills and knowledge and their preferred way of learning.

Most learn best by and during undertaking work tasks. But often we have to teach the apprentice something before they start the work.
 Peer-to peer training: Different methods
Peer-to-peer training implies being trained by a skilled worker or an experienced colleague. It is not only applied to teaching apprentices, but also new colleagues.

There are several ways of doing this. Your choice of method depends on the situation and the skills of the apprentice.

It's advantageous, in the long run, to combine and mix these methods.
Presentation is a way of imparting knowledge orally. To gain the best results, your explanations should be complemented by different media. The apprentice as your audience has a passive role, so this method does not allow imparting active competencies or checking the success of your teachings.

A trainer should consider the following guidelines:
  • Prepare your presentation. Be sure of the content you want to teach and don’t include unnecessary details. Keep the audience’s level of knowledge in mind and adjust your presentation and your language to it.
  • Spend the right amount of time explaining – your audience doesn't have unlimited power of concentration!
  • Gauge the mood of the room. Interruptions and disturbances should be prevented.
  • Make your presentation is as interesting as possible. Speak fluently and use different media to highlight your content.
 Instruction – the traditional Four-Steps-Method
The advantage of this method is that knowledge or skills are taught quickly, while constant supervision makes the risk of mistakes lower. This approach is suitable when there are safety issues or expensive machinery or materials that can be damaged. It is often used when briefing and explaining practical work routines. While the trainer has the active role during the first two steps (which can be used without steps 3 and 4), it’s the apprentice's turn in step 3 and 4.

These are the usual 4 steps:

1. Preparation
Make sure materials and tools are in order. Prepare your description of the work process: Plan the content, extent and structure of your presentation and keep the time needed in mind.

2. Demonstration and explanation
Show the work process by doing the task yourself, step by step. Remember to place yourself in a way so that the apprentice can see and hear you clearly. The apprentice may also need to take notes along the way. Explain the work process and technical terms before and during demonstration.

When describing a work process, keep the following points in mind :
  • Divide the work into a suitable number of sub-operations
  • Point out difficult sections
  • Identify and point out risks
  • Consider hand positions and postures. Remember to impart important facts, for example risks, quality norms, customer considerations, the product's service life etc.
  • If possible, hand out your explanations in written form. Remember to answer the following questions (What to do in each step; How to perform each step; To keep important facts in mind and Why)

3. Imitation and Explanation

Let the apprentice try himself. Supervise him, observe him and be ready to interfere, if there is any danger to people, machines or materials. Let the apprentice explain with his/her own words what he/she is doing and what is important to be aware of before, during and after the work process.

4. Correction and Practising

Check the results of the work. Do any necessary corrections, then let the apprentice try again. After this, allow the apprentice to repeat the work more and more independently. In this way, repetition and practice will lead to consolidation of the skill.

The further an apprentice proceeds in his vocational training, the more advantageous it will be if he/she prepares presentations – either for you or for a group of other apprentices. In order to do this, the apprentice will have to know the required facts by heart.
 Be accurate!
Many think that it is enough for the apprentice to "look over the trainer's shoulder", before he/she jumps into doing the task.

It's fine to  demonstrate complicated work processes in practice, if they are hard to explain in words. But the apprentice is a beginner and may need explanations for things that seem obvious to someone who is experienced. So:

  • Spend an adequate amount of time explaining, even though it sometimes is hard to find the right words!
  • Check whether the apprentice understands, or get him/her to do a self-check!
Click here to download a form to check off tasks that the trainer has demonstrated for the apprentice.
 Questioning method

The Questioning method is a kind of dialog, in which the trainer determines content and direction. By asking the apprentice goal-oriented questions, you can achieve specific thought processes and conclusions – made by the apprentice himself. The method can be applied to a single apprentice or a group. 

As a trainer, you have two ways to address the apprentice's questions:

Either answering the apprentice's questions or teaching the apprentice to find the answers himself.

Answering his own questions will teach the apprentice many things. Thinking problems over, asking questions and solving problems makes the apprentice internalise important knowledge. As a trainer, you therefore profit from the effectiveness of the questioning method – whether you use it on a theoretical or practical basis. 

  1. Present the task or problem to the apprentice or show the apprentice the product that is to be made – without any explanations. 
  2. Ask the apprentice about his approach to the task.
  3. Listen to the apprentice and be open to his/her suggestions. Ask for practical details about how he/she will do the task. Ask for explanations of why the apprentice is choosing the solution that he/she is suggesting
  4. Evaluate professionally whether or not the suggestion sounds reasonable. If not, explain to the apprentice why the suggestion isn't practicable. Start again or go through the instruction once more.
  5. The apprentice tries the task in practice. Give feedback on the work.

Keep in mind:
This way of letting the apprentice find out and try out for himself/herself practically can be applied when there are several ways to do a job. For example in creative tasks, personal customer service, or when no valuable material can be wasted. Don't use this method in practice if you are pressed for time or if a beginner's mistake can harm persons, machines or materials. Your duty here is to guide and supervise. Take time to listen to the apprentice and be aware of his/her requests.

 Process method

The more independently the apprentice works, the more he/she will learn. In the process method, the apprentice has complete responsibility for a work task from a-z. The method is often applied to project work.

Your role here is to be a supervisor and a mentor. The apprentice has room to operate. Be ready to provide support along the way. You have the superordinate responsibility, but stay in the background. Follow the apprentice closely during the whole process.

Start by explaining methods, aims and important rules as a background for doing the task. Tell when and how you will be available to the apprentice.

Your task is to:

  • Be patient and wait until the apprentice finds his/her own solution.
  • See whether the apprentice discovers his/her own mistakes.
  • Interrupt the apprentice at the appropriate time, if the mistake isn’t discovered.
  • Create small breaks, where you ask questions, such as "what would happen if you did it this way?"
  • Get a sense of how you can give advice to the apprentice.


  • Pointing out mistakes right away.
  • Telling the apprentice how to do things "the one and only right way to do it" from the beginning.

    You can ask the apprentice to keep a record of each phase: What was decided? What is important to be aware of when repeating the task? You can use the documentation for the apprentice's training report and for training of future apprentices.

The apprentice's tasks:

1. Task/order:
A work task needs to be done. The apprentice should know precisely what is to be done. Information has to be accessible.

2. The apprentice plans:
Which solutions can be found?

3. The apprentice makes decisions:
When, where, with whom and how should the task be done?

4. Execution:
The apprentice carries out the planned task, and he/she adjusts the work according to the circumstances.

5. Check after execution:
The apprentice checks the results. Is everything as it should be?

6. Quality assessment:
You both go through the results and work process and assess both of them, in regards to what can be improved next time. Feedback from the customer can be included.


4 - The trainer