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Did you already had the feeling that you followed a great training and the atmosphere in the group was excellent,…but after 2 weeks you have forgotten about everything that you had learned. And what if you were the trainer? Trainers typically don’t get this feedback because participants only realize it after the event.
In building a training there are several ways in overcoming this shortage so to ensure the quality of the training for adult volunteers. As always it starts with the preparation. Be prepared!
A basic principle for not stepping into the usual pitfalls is to organize a competence based training. It is important to determine what the competence is that you want your trainees to acquire. This can be done in 1 or 2 simple sentences. Let’s take a technical leader training for building tents as an example. It can be described as: A leader can build a tent in such a way that people residing in the tent are dry and safe. This might sound OK, however the competence you really want the leader to have is: A leader is capable of explaining how to build up a tent to an audience of 11 to 14 year old young people so that they can reside dry and safe in the tent. The second description is probably more what you want to achieve and will result in a different training.
Now how to train a leader in acquiring this competence? It might sound as a surprise, but the psychology behind commercials gives a clue. Commercials only take a few tens of seconds. Still quite some people get the message and will behave like the company wants: buy their product. How does this relate with adult volunteer trainings? Well, many commercials take into account the learnings from a Nobel prize winner, Roger Sperry. He discovered that there are 2 items needed to be convinced about a new insight. Not only the facts are important but also the feelings matter a lot. These 2 items are linked with the split of the brain in a left and right part. The left brain is responsible for analytic thought and logic, the right brain supports feelings, intuition and creativity. When giving a training you need to make sure that volunteers can use both their left and right brain. Commercials do that. Commercials for medicines for example would typically start like “don’t you have sometimes that burning feeling in your stomach…” They start with working on the right brain (feelings), before giving you the logic (left brain) why their medicine works well. To build effective trainings, trainers have to do the same. They should not focus on what they want to say, but what the trainees find important. They should have trainees experiencing things rather then explaining. You as a trainer need to let them feel that what you learn them is better. And the good thing about it … it makes the training so much more fun !
Trainers can apply the same methodology in evaluating trainees. As said before, the competence one wants them to acquire should be clearly written down. Ideally the trainer writes them down in levels of competence. Rather than giving trainees a simple score or telling them they pass, he or she could let them feel that they have acquired the skill by discussing the results with the other trainees. If the competencies are clearly scaled other trainees can share how the others masters the competence. This is a useful group discussion and far more effective for the trainee. If areas for improvement are identified, you can work with a buddy system to complement the evaluation. The buddies are fellow trainees that watch each other. During the day they note down what they see the others do and at the end of the day they can share how their buddy has performed during the day on the different areas for improvement.
These were just a few of many techniques. As always, please do have the comfort-stretch-panic model in mind when building a training. When setting goals, try and set ones which take trainees out of their comfort zone and stretch them. But don’t set too many unrealistic or unachievable goals, which would put them into the panic zone.
Dimitri Van Uytfange
Jordan is a Director of Organisational Development at the World Scout Bureau - Europe Support Centre, Geneva
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