Most of us in obedience instruction got our start in dog training. With class instruction, our pupil is not the dog, but the handler. Handlers come with varying degrees of aptitude, dedication, intelligence and motivation. While an instructor speaks to his class, up to 80% of what he says will be forgotten by the student before he gets home. When the instructor demonstrates an exercise, the retention is slightly better -the student only forgets 65% of what he sees with his eyes and hears with his ears. If the student performs the exercise himself during class, his chances of remembering it the way it was taught increase even more -he loses only 50% and retains 50%. But, which 50% will he remember? By having a weekly homework sheet, either in the form of a hand-out or a booklet, the instructor will increase the chances of his students completing the lessons correctly.
Never underestimate the ability of your students to forget things! Novice obedience trainers have a lot to learn. Anything the instructor can do to increase learning and minimize confusion will be a great help. Some suggested material for homework sheets include the following.
Include a detailed written description of how to walk through the exercise at home. Print command words in capital letters with quotes, so that they will learn to use the proper commands consistently (“SPIKE, COME”.) Give the student a goal to work toward with each homework exercise. Tell the student how many times he should do each exercise per training session. Some students would actually not have any idea of how to ration their training out over a week’s time to get the results they need. Include pictures or drawings where they would be helpful, like with “how to put on the training collar.” One picture could be worth a thousand words. Keep the language simple. Don’t try to impress your students with your vocabulary. Use common, everyday language what a third grader would understand (you might get a third grader in your class.) Include which exercises should be reviewed, and give a “sneak peek” preview of what will be learned next week in class (make them want to be there.) Also, make note of any reminders the student may need for next week’s class, like: “Be sure to bring your long lines next week.” Include the names of several good training books which would compliment your own methods. Leave room for the student to make some notes of his own, if necessary. And, of course, make sure the student has your phone number, in the event he must contact you regarding class.
In addition to the homework sheet itself, it is useful to include such information as building use rules, class cancellation policy, and general instructions. I also include sheets called, Commonly Asked Questions, The Ten Commandments of Dog Training, and Distractions. Along with the regular weekly homework sheet, I also have a weekly “lab assignment” sheet, which addresses some of the “extra curricular” activities.
I will write about the lab sheet handouts next month.
©1990 Lonnie Morgan (Olson)