After years of teaching and studying (holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Science), I think I’m now able to put my experience & conclusions into the this formular:
Even a complex technical topic (like an Oracle Database) should be explained to the audience in an easy understandable way. That is of course only possible if the instructor knows his stuff thoroughly but also resists the temptation to blind the audience with his deep knowledge in order to appear clever. Things get complex by themselves soon enough. The explanations must be technically correct, though, but they may be simplified. Teaching will always show a model of the reality – and that model should hold water after the knowledge of the audience expands.
Two extremes that illustrate what should be avoided here: 1) “The Expert” The instructor is deeply involved in some complex technical matter and tells many specific details about that to the audience that they can hardly understand or benefit from, which the instructor does not recognize. 2) “The Ignorant” The instructor knows little about the subject (reading introductions during breaks) and just fantasizes answers if the questions are too difficult.
It is not enough to show only slides in order to achieve a good understanding! Demonstrations will not only make the teaching more lively, they will also prove (or sometimes falsify even) the statements of the instructor. They should be reproducible, so that the audience can see for themselves. A claim that essentially only says: “I know that because I’m an expert, trust me!” is not acceptable.
The ultimate goal of the instructor should be to empower the recipients to use the explained technology themselves in an effective and efficient way. Accompanying practices during a course help a lot to reach that goal. In absence of practices, demonstrations are the second best way to empower the audience. They should realize that they can do these things also, not only the instructor. Teaching is not supposed to be a sales pitch for products or services!
That’s already it – easy, right? Some hard work involved under the covers, though…
My best days are when I encounter former attendees of my courses, telling me how much they liked it and that they actually could make use of the contents and implemented this and that feature during a certain project. It happens every now and then, when I think to myself: Empowered – Good Job 🙂