The curious nature of education within the industry

This is often a topic I ponder upon, doing what I do for a living.

The culture of our industry is to buy in barista talent to do top end training.  What amazes me is that we assume that being in the same room as someone like this means that there will always be some sort of skills osmosis and we will learn regardless.  What we often do not think about is that teaching is a skill, and just because a barista pulls really excellent shots doesn’t mean they are a great communicator of knowledge.

I am aware that in writing this I open myself up to scrutiny, but I am also happy that I have worked very hard to get better and the process of transferring knowledge.  However it is still an area that I will always have room for improvement and a desire to gain more skills in.

This is in no way a slight against the many barista champions who are out there training.  In fact I think we have been very lucky to find such good baristas who are also good with people and with communication.  This kind of segues into an interest of mine that I would like to develop further which is the psychology and mechanics of communication, especially that of teaching.  Whilst every pupil is different I would love to know more about the most efficient ways to program people with information.

Of course, there is no substitution for them actually wanting to learn…..

5 Comments

  1. although I would have strongly disagreed to this whilst I was at school etc, I have come to realize that ultimately it all comes down to the student.

  2. Amen, James. I have, at times, been blown away at the mediocre coffee being served under the ‘supervision’ of respected baristas. I’ve always been of the opinion that a truly committed barista should strive for consistency on the bar whether or not they are the one pulling the shots, which is why it is frankly absurd that underextracted shots, poorly textured milk or messy presentation should be accepted even from the most junior staff members– the customer will always/should always hold the coffee they’re handed to the standard that they’re used to receiving on a daily basis (my exception is latte art because that’s really just the icing on the cake– if the espresso and the milk are right but the rosetta’s a little wonky because the barista is still getting the hang of it, deal with it!). If this seems harsh, then so be it– I’ve seen some of the most unwilling, careless junior staff members turn into great baristas, or alternately move on to greener pastures. Under the right guidance, this distinction becomes apparent very quickly and everyone is the better for it.

  3. i remember learning once that the teacher must recognize the three main ways in which people learn: auditorially (hearing a lecture/having a discussion about how an espresso machine works); visually (reading a manual on the espresso machine); and kinesthetically (getting up there and physically working on the bar to learn). it’s not cut and dry: most are a mixture of any and all of these. but one is generally dominant. add to that the comfort and/or skill level of the learner and the instructor always has a lot of moving parts with which to deal.

  4. Jim,
    There is no substitute for enthusiasm. If you have a little knowledge, some half decent communication skills and an interested student, it is the trainers enthusiasm for the subject that makes all the difference. As someone that has come to be a trainer almost accidentally, I have watched closely the best teachers I have met and I must conclude that their common ground is enthusiasm, sometimes even excitement.
    I once spent a week in the USA learning how to repair softserve ice cream machines. Boring? Well it should have been tedious, but the guy doing the training was so good, I can still hear his best lines (catchphrases if you like) ringing in my head.

    There’s nothing like a role model eh?

  5. ….just bumped in to this whilst avoiding studying for exams…

    I so agree with mike… Somehow I believe that a really good teacher inspires you. They have this love, enthusiasm, passion inside them and it catches you – beacause it is real. And so the things taught are not just something you must now know, but something more…something to engage with…

    Story from past… there were 3 young people from one company who got some extra information… I mean they were crap, but excited, more or less.. So returning each got a group to give the information to, 3 different little cafes…. Until now, 3 years later, a lot of staff turnover later, it is still clear who taught where….. The fact that you get to know stuff is just not enough….

    ….Even in my lectures at university….there are just 3 out of 10 or 15 personalities who where good in my opinion…. They were really passionate about what they told us, not just caring, not just researching on the field, but real passion, real engaging, real raw emotions….

    am I blabbing?…probably… But you know what I mean, don’t you?

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