Training programs are used for many diverse purposes, and organizations that initiate training projects do so for widely varied reasons. Most commonly, perhaps, organizations see training as a tool to expand their capacity and quality of performance. Improving efficiency and performance to ensure that an organization is capable of responding to competitive challenges may sometimes require a very special kind of training program. But in striving for enhanced efficiency and levels of performance, training can also be seen as a part of individual professional growth. An organization can increase the likelihood that it will keep valued employees if it demonstrates that it is willing to invest in their careers by helping them gain new skills and expertise by supporting their training.
In broadcasting one of the strongest motives for training has always been the need to respond to challenges presented by new technologies. As our technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace, it demands new and ever more advanced skills. In addition, the resulting changes in job descriptions frequently blur boundaries between previously distinct jobs, producing greater demands for a multi-skilled staff. In the end, staff members will require training from time to time in the new skills called for by technology changes, and some of that retraining will be conducted within their organizations.
The symptoms of poor training are many. The most self-evident are haphazard work, delays and malfunctions because of errors or mistakes, performance and quality standards not met, excessive wear on equipment, and failures to follow established rules and procedures. Other more subtle signs include a lack of interest in work, untidy work, a lack of a sense of responsibility, absenteeism, schedules not met, and poor communication.
Some of these may seem beyond the realm of training, but effective training imparts not only a way of doing but also a way of thinking. A well trained person when faced with a problem should be able to respond quickly and appropriately with a degree of professionalism. Appropriate training should lead to a better adjusted and happier person on the job, an individual who is able to function as part of the organization’s team.
Where an enterprise has dispersed operations, perhaps with production units located in several different locations, a central training program can even help to promote a sense of “esprit de corps” throughout the organization. Employees who attend training programs will have met people working for other units and made contacts that can be maintained as part of an enriched working experience. Common working practices developed among employees in scattered locations also ensure that they can work in harmony and in concert. Moreover, when demands at one location require personnel to move to another job site, the time it takes to assimilate them into operations at the new location will be significantly reduced if they have had previous institution-wide training.
In all cases a training program needs to match the broader goals of the organization. The costs of providing training need to be compared with the benefits it brings. Unless the outcomes of the training economically move the organization forward in ways that match its larger organizational plan, the costs will outweigh the benefits. It is easy to see therefore that training programs need to be initiated as an integral part of a broader organizational strategy.
What trainers do.
It is not always well understood what trainers are expected to do in connection with their daily work. Of course they are involved with instruction in the training room, but it is important to accept that they must assume a number of additional entirely different roles. Although the main concern might be conducting training activities, there is actually much more work to be done “behind the scenes.” Most of this occurs prior to entering the training room or after trainees have gone back to their regular jobs. The following pages will describe many of these tasks, but some aspects of trainers’ duties are beyond the scope of this basic reference guide. For example, we will not get into a detailed description of the techniques of using various types of training aids, nor will we get into a full discussion of instructional design. These complex topics require more discussion and explanation than we can offer here.
Generally, we can identify five separate categories of responsibility. In the way broadcast organizations usually carry out training, these tend to occur in a sequence and tend to be repeated again and again. Trainers must be capable of mastering all five, although the precise demands in each of these areas depend on the policies and operational practices of the organization to which trainers are attached. For instance, some organizations have planning departments that assume certain training roles, notably ones involving needs assessment and management consultation. Needless to say, in cases where planning departments have been assigned these roles, close coordination between the planning and training departments is vital.
The starting point of training is usually training needs assessment. In this stage, the trainer is expected to be able to properly determine and specify training requirements. This exercise usually must include current deficiencies and the projection of future organizational needs. In this process, the trainer must also be able to lay out specific training and developmental objectives. These objectives must be directed toward the requirements of the organization and must be carefully tailored to the capabilities of staff members who will receive training. Often in needs analysis the trainer must assist in judging staff members’ readiness for training and in selecting trainees from among a pool of persons nominated by their supervisors.
Second, the trainer is required to design courses and programs—including evaluation schemes—according to the most appropriate modes and media (i.e., methods and means). This is done by taking into account the specific subject matter, participants, trainers, and training resources. Included in this category of responsibility are tasks such as sequencing of instruction, preparation of all required course materials such as handouts, OHP transparencies or PowerPoint presentations, and design of course activities. In laying out practical exercises, the trainer must make arrangements to obtain everything needed including equipment, materials, and support staff.
Third, naturally, the trainer must be prepared to conduct training in courses. This obligation typically includes presentation of instruction, management of practical sessions, leading discussions, coordinating trainee evaluation and feedback, and oversight of incidental matters such as refreshments, parking, security, accommodations, and the like. Trainers need to be proficient in the use of training aids and materials. Needless to say, trainers must be skilful communicators, able to present complicated ideas in a straightforward and easily understood fashion.
Fourth, the closing of an activity produces another set of responsibilities in training evaluation and analysis. This means collecting from the trainees their estimation of the training, both its adequacy and its results. Also required will be a systematic assessment of the performance of trainees, to be used as a guide in refining and improving the results obtained in future offerings of the training program.
Fifth, trainers should be expected consult with management on overall human resource needs as well as particular organizational issues that training might address. Today, organizations’ view of training has evolved into a more comprehensive view of staffing. Instead of considering each person as an individual cog in the overall organizational machinery, enterprises now recognize personnel as the most important of its assets. Any organization can acquire equipment and facilities—given the right amount of funding—but its human resources are priceless. For most broadcasting organizations, it would be difficult to replace their highly experienced staff members with equally qualified persons. Consequently, managers generally work hard to retain their staff and to develop them in ways that make them more useful and productive, while also attending to individual staff members’ personal needs. Clearly, to satisfy such an objective, trainers must have access to top levels of the management team. When this is done, their role is enlarged from mere trainer to that of a human resource consultant and manager.
Because of the increased breadth of responsibilities that trainers must assume in the modern organization, they must exhibit greater levels of skill and professionalism than previously. As before, trainers must have communicative and instructional abilities and a knack for explaining. But today trainers must also play significant roles as consultants, providing problem-solving, counselling, and leadership functions to their organizations’ management. On top of this, trainers must stay abreast of the state of the art in training and human resource development—a field that is constantly evolving and changing. The human qualities of leadership expected of trainers has grown also; today trainers are expected to exemplify the highest standards of professionalism. Collectively these demands represent a very tall order for persons who take up training responsibilities, but this is offset by the knowledge that the influence of trainers on their organizations has never been greater. Whether it is recognized or not, most organizations’ futures depends on their human resources (or training) departments and on the effectiveness and productivity of trainers who work in them.
Training compared to education.
This manual is based on two fundamental beliefs about training that have shaped our approach and the suggestions we make.
Training is different from education. Clearly there are overlaps, and the boundary between the two can sometimes be blurred but Milano & Ullius (1998, p.4) summarized the distinction very well when they wrote that: “Education focuses on learning about; training focuses on learning how.”
Education has broader goals than training and the material covered is intended to be used in many different contexts. This distinction is clear if we contrast broadcast education with broadcast training. In addition to including courses in such skilled areas as production or management, a university’s undergraduate curriculum in broadcasting will also include courses in topics such as the history of broadcasting, its social purpose, the legal and regulatory frameworks that shape its performance, and the ways its output has been critiqued. The graduates of that program will move on to many different occupations and they will use what they have learned in a wide variety of ways.
While training may, of necessity, occasionally touch on these more inclusive areas of knowledge they will be less central to the activity. Fundamentally, training helps someone do something better, and the skills it develops are usually specific to a particular task. Therefore, the objectives in training are more narrowly focused than those in education. In training it is usually easier to state the goals in a clear and ultimately measurable form because the expected outcome is more easily defined. In education the objectives are less specific and thus determining whether or not those goals have been achieved becomes a much larger problem.
Because of the contrast in aims between training and education, the strategies and techniques each uses in instruction will be different. A common problem for trainers is to “unlearn” teaching methods they have unconsciously acquired during their schooling years. For many, breaking habits of instruction modelled after their schoolteachers can be the first step toward becoming a highly effective trainer.
Adults learn differently from children. This is the second fundamental belief about training that has shaped our approach to this manual. At its core is the recognition that to be successful, adult training must show that it values the experiences adult learners bring to the training setting and to build on those experiences. Ideally, a visitor happening upon a training session should find it difficult to identify immediately who is the trainer and who are the trainees. The session should be more of a dialogue among those participating.
Clearly, there will be times during almost any training program when the roles of trainer and trainee are well defined. For example, it is sometimes very much appropriate for the trainer to be at the front of the room facing in one direction with the trainees sitting facing him or her—the familiar lecture format. The problems arise if this is the only format. In our teaching we all tend to mimic the techniques that we observed as students. If those experiences were limited to rote memorization of lectures, we might tend adopt the same approach in our training. Many would question how successful this approach is even with children, but it will certainly be less successful with adult learners.
While we would never suggest that even the youngest child brings no prior experiences to the classroom, it is obvious that adults will bring more. Learning programs need to build on those experiences and incorporate them into both the initial design and the final execution of training. To do otherwise is to miss a wonderful opportunity. In planning your training activities avoid limiting yourself what learners need to know. Also consider what they already know, and find ways to incorporate that into the sessions. Even the conventional lecture format can be converted into much more of a conversation. By doing this you will also demonstrate to the trainees that you respect them and value the experiences they bring to each training session. Since, as adults, we are all largely a product of our prior experiences your recognition of their previously acquired knowledge is one of the ways to increase motivation among adult learners. This idea will be developed more fully in Section Six of this manual along with other suggestions to heighten motivation.
Three principles that guide our approach to training.
Building upon these two fundamental beliefs: (1) that training is different from education, and (2) that adults learn differently from children, three principles emerge that have additionally guided the approach to training we have adopted in this manual.
(1) We need a learner centred approach because:
(a) The trainees are adults,
(b) Recognizing that they are adults improves learner motivation, and
(c) It enhances the potential of achieving long-term gains from training.
(2) It is crucial to recognize the distinction between adult training and our prior learning experiences in school as children and adolescents.
(3) Planning training is a circular rather than a linear process. It includes the potential for an unlimited number of revisions based on feedback from prior presentations.
A learner centred approach. The shift to a learner centred approach involves several changes from the more traditional teacher centred model from our school days with which most of us are more familiar. First, the role of the trainer changes from being the source of all knowledge for the trainees. Instead, the trainer is seen more as a facilitator or guide to the learning process. As their guide, you create opportunities for learning to occur. Although the term “empowerment” has been so overused recently as to render it almost meaningless, you are to a very real extent empowering the learner. Birchall and Smith (1999, p. 357) make the following observations about the assumptions behind the learner centred approach.
Generally, adult learners are now assumed to learn most effectively when:
- Use is made of ‘authentic’ learning tasks seen as meaningful by the learner.
- Use is made of discovery learning methods where the learner constructs his or her own understanding, rather than instruction by the teacher . . .
- There is an emphasis on learning how to solve problems rather than learning facts.
- There is support for collaborative learning and problem solving.
Evident in these four assumptions is the idea that the role of the learner also changes in a learner centred approach. Instead of passively absorbing knowledge, the learners in this model must assume a much more active role, taking responsibility for their own learning.
Adult training is different. The distinction between learning in children and adults is so important that experts have assigned them different names. Pedagogy is the word used to describe learning by (and instruction of) children. “Ped” is taken from the Greek word for child and “gogy” is taken from the Greek word for learning, hence pedagogy means the art and science of teaching children. Unfortunately, many people use the term pedagogy more generically, denoting any kind of instruction. It is more accurate to use the word to mean instruction only of youngsters. Adult learning has a different name, andragogy—“andra” from the Greek word referring to man.
Pedagogy is biased toward education rather than training and is associated mainly with the development of knowledge on topics where no previous learning exists. When a baby is born, its brain is a “blank slate” and all of the child’s learning is new. Gradually, the youngster grows into adulthood and the process of learning changes from one of new learning to learning that is incorporated into an increasingly complex bank of knowledge. Pedagogy has as its goal the shaping and formation of a well-adapted, socially adept human being. Adults, of course, are already fully developed human beings and therefore their learning needs are more about adaptation and restructuring of knowledge.
Andragogy takes into account the learning needs of adults in a number of different ways. The most important concern is that by the time people reach adulthood, they have accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge. Andragogy stresses the importance of building on the individual’s foundation of previous learning gained through life experience. Another issue is that adults neither need nor will they readily accept learning imposed on them by other persons. But adult learners generally will act maturely and responsibly as partners with their instructors in the learning process, if the needs and benefits of learning are clear to them. Andragogy therefore emphasizes the participation of learners in setting instructional objectives and defining each person’s own learning needs. Other aspects that distinguish adult learning from pedagogy include the greater need among adults for applied learning and for immediately useable knowledge.
Pedagogy’s perspective is centred on the teacher, because the child learner is a highly dependent being and is expected merely to follow the dictates of the instructor. Andragogy, on the other hand must be centred on learners because they are expected to participate in the definition of their own individual needs and objectives. Pedagogy attempts to mould children to make them into socially adapted adults and therefore learning must follow a somewhat rigid, hierarchically structured pre-determined syllabus. This is contrast to andragogy that aims to match learning to the individual requirements of each person, and so must remain flexible and adaptable according to individual needs.
Comparing children and adults, Hart (1991, p. 15) includes the following in a list contrasting the differences between children and adults as learners. Children “rely on others to decide what is important to be learned.” Adults “decide for themselves what is important.” Children “accept the information being presented at face value” while adults “need to validate the information based on their beliefs and experiences.” Children “expect that what they are learning will be useful in their long-term future.” Adults “expect that what they are learning is immediately useful.” Finally, at least in our abbreviated list, children “have little ability to serve as a knowledgeable resource to the teacher or fellow classmates.” By sharp contrast, in the adult training situation the trainees “have significant ability to serve as a knowledgeable resource to the facilitator and group members.”
Again, evident in the final quotation from Hart’s list is the idea of a change of roles for both the trainer and the trainees. The “teacher” becomes a “facilitator” and the child with his or her “fellow classmates” becomes a member of a group. Training programs designed for adults must take all of these differences into account if they are to be successful. A training program that rigidly communicates to participants what it is they must learn—failing to actively involve them in the learning process—is ignoring the reality that adults learn differently. Achieving this kind of learner involvement does not require complex structures. It might be something as simple as building into the design of the training program several points where decisions can be taken either individually or collectively about where the emphases should be placed in covering the material and perhaps inviting additional suggestions for further topics.
This idea of a training program as something that is not fixed in stone, but rather capable of changing and adapting brings us to the last of the three principles that guided us in the approach we have taken in this manual. It refers to the need for, and importance of evaluation and feedback.
Planning training is a circular rather than a linear process. One textbook on the design of training programs suggests that there are five stages (Milano & Ullius, 1998, pp. 17-20). Summarizing their ideas, the sequence is:
(a) Set the “goals and objectives” based on an earlier needs assessment
(b) Identify the “key topics” that need to be covered
(c) Select the “training flow” -- that is, the optimum sequence to present the topics that you think will be most successful.
(d) Design the “training materials” to be used
(e) Create a strategy for evaluation and design the “evaluation tools.”
It is evaluation, the final part of the sequence, that concerns us here. Those who design training programs know that their task is never over. Each presentation of a program provides an opportunity to collect feedback from participants that can be used to enhance future presentations. But evaluation of the program need not be limited to those who have participated in it. For example, you might also consult with their colleagues on the job to investigate whether what they learned really matched the requirements of the units from which they came? What had happened to the trainees six months, or a year, after they returned?
The topic of evaluation will be covered in Section Eight of this handbook. The remaining four stages, and several other topics will also be covered. But in the next section we begin with an explanation of why the planning process should begin with a careful assessment of what training is needed.
Birchall, D. & Smith, M. (1999). Technology supported learning. In A. Landale (Ed.), Gower Handbook of Training and Development. (3rd ed., pp. 354-362). Aldershot, England: Gower Publishing.
Hart, L.B. (1991). Training Methods that Work: A Handbook for Trainers. Menlo Park, CA: Crisp Publications.
Milano, M. & Ullius, D. (1998). Designing Powerful Training: The Sequential-Iterative Model. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.