The COVID era saw us rushing to move training to virtual formats taking trainers, teachers, and subject matter experts along with us. Often this was a hurried affair focused primarily on the technology – how to manage audio and video, turning features like chat on and off, basic troubleshooting, that kind of thing. Referred to as “emergency remote teaching”, this kind of instruction often prepared those charged with training and teaching to read slides and otherwise deliver mostly-scripted content with few tech glitches. But it didn’t prepare them for the things that support and enhance learning.
As research shows, many of those involved in (and often “volunteered” for) training tasks felt their preparation was inadequate. They craved more focus on and practice in facilitating experiential learning activities, managing discussions – including skill in listening and questioning – and handing challenging situations and learner behaviors. They specifically asked for more opportunities to watch good trainers work and to receive good coaching and feedback. More than anything they wanted to develop confidence with these new skills, which in turn would feed better and more productive experiences for all involved, an outcome borne out by research. Organizations providing more extensive train-the-trainer work will likely find it a worthwhile investment.
The Learning Guild’s July 2022 report, Train-the-Trainer: Evidence-Based Practices by Jane Bozarth, reports on the data around the need for and outcomes of robust train-the-trainer efforts. Some highlights:
- Presentation is not training. Many of us have likely experienced instruction in which a presenter did little more than read slides. Simply preparing trainers to deliver content with minimal technical problems will likely not offer learners an optimal experience – or fully meet the organization’s goals. As noted in the report: “Experiential and interactive teaching strategies, although effective, are challenging for the teacher/facilitator and learner alike, requiring self-confidence on the part of the teacher/facilitator regarding both training content and pedagogical choices and willingness to engage on the part of the learners. In order to fulfill the dissemination goals of a train-the trainer program, most participants must learn how to teach.” (Williams et al. 2014, p. 343.)
- Among the competencies mentioned in studies describing effective train-the-trainer programs are “the ability to create a positive, comfortable, trusting atmosphere and learning climate (emotional safety), ability to bring theory and practice together, skills to support critical reflection and deep dialogue, and ability to assess learning outcomes” (Koivisto et al. 2018 p. 208).
- Regardless of topic, trainers in most situations need some skill at listening, asking questions, managing challenging situations, and being able to flex plans a bit. Helping them gain skills in these areas will help overcome the confidence barrier that can limit willingness to engage in activities and discussion and will help to provide a better and more effective experience for learners.
Different environments bring different challenges. Depending on the platform used the instructor working in the virtual space may encounter constraints like working without eye contact or dealing with a chat tool that lags behind real-time conversation; depending on the delivery plan they may be juggling multiple groups in separate remote rooms or trying to facilitate conversation around a dry-as-toast topic. They may be dealing with unresponsive learners or competing with multiple distractions. Providing help beyond building technical prowess help the virtual trainer feel more comfortable, effective, and empowered in dealing with these and other people-related issues.
Complete with examples of successful train-the-trainer program agendas, the full report, Train the Trainer: Evidence-Based Practices, can be downloaded for free with a (free!) Learning Guild membership.
For more information on InSync Training’s train-the-trainer programs, please visit InSync Training Academy where we have the right program to meet your needs: Virtual Facilitation Mastery, Virtual Design Mastery, Master Virtual Producer, Virtual Learning Coach, Virtual Learning Expert.
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