How do I create a training program?
August 4, 2014 2:39 PM   Subscribe

So it turns out I'm pretty good at my job and I like to teach people. I'm at a place with my job where my department supervisor is comfortable letting me train to new hires and cross-train current employees at my job. I want to create a training program so that I can make sure my trainees are getting the most out of there time with me, but I don't even know where to start.

How do I develop a training program? What is a good place to begin? Are their texts or articles about training people to do a specific job that you can recommend? This is something I really want to get good at. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping my co-workers learn new things but I'm really new at both my job and training others how to do it.

I am looking for advice or practice pearls that people in my position have learned regardless of the field they work in. However in case it is relevant I am a veterinary technician anesthetist in a surgical department at a large veterinary hospital. I take animals from a conscious to an unconscious state so that surgery can be performed and then back to a conscious state when it is time for them to recover.
posted by OsoMeaty to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, training or teaching involves transmitting two types of information: explicit knowledge, as in, this information can be codified - written down or verbalised easily, read it in a textbook kind of stuff - and implicit knowledge, which is stuff you only really learn by experience, but some of which can be passed on by the 'watch one, do one, teach one' method (as in you can only really tell if somebody's grasped something if they can teach someone else). This part can be really fun, I have no idea how it might work for anesthetizing animals (cool job!), but think about stuff you've figured out over the years about certain breeds, or even dealing with the owners/vets/others, that you wouldn't find in a textbook. You won't be able to get everything across, but you can offer 'tips and tricks'.

The other biggy is being aware of learning styles - auditory (people who prefer to listen to someone explain), visual (people who prefer pictures, videos or demonstrations) and kinaesthetic (people who prefer to 'do') - bearing in mind most people are a combination of 2 or 3 - so making sure your training covers imparting information through all 3 methods.

It depends on the set-up at your job, but coming up with an x-number of hours training template, including reading material, other resources (videos etc), talks and 'hands-on' practice might work - you want something standardized but with the flexibility to adapt to each learner's preferred style.
posted by atlantica at 3:30 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Delivering good training is as much about structure and style as about content. You already have the content - it's all in your head - but without the right structure and style you won't be able to get it across.

The first two questions to answer are what do I want people to take away and how much time have I got? The answer to the first should be the guiding light for how you filter your content; the answer to the second helps with structure and style (for example, if your session is one hour, you are looking at a lecture plus Q&A, if you have two hours, you can fit in learning-by-doing activities. Things will always take longer than you think.

It's helpful to place lots of markers in the presentation of content to help people find their way through, particularly if you're doing lots of talking. This could include things like "there are four concepts to cover today. Concept one is...". Keep refering back to these markers as you go through "So we talked about there being four concepts, and we've covered concept 1 Blah Blah and concept two Blah Blah. Concept three is...."

If your training sessions are going to be long, build in things that give you a break - group work, coffee breaks, etc. Delivering training can get physically tiring because you are switched on and concentrating for long periods.

If you're going to do activities for learning-by-doing, thoroughly roadtest them with people first. For each activity, think through what you want people to take away, and check in with your testers whether that was what they actually took away.

When you are pulling your content together, leave time in each subsection for a personal story or anecdote if you have one (this grounds your material in practicality), and/or a few minutes for anyone in your audience who has questions or something to contribute.

In my experience delivering training, if you're standing up front talking, people can go for about 10 minutes of paying full attention and then their minds start to wander. You need a hook to pull attention back every 10 minutes or so. This can be leaving space for questions before you move on, or you prompt them to contribute the next bit, eg "what do you think happens if we do this?" or "what are some of the pitfalls we should watch out for here?"
posted by girlgenius at 4:19 PM on August 4

When I was designing a training program in a software field, the handiest book I came across I actually found at a local library: a book generally targeted at designing training programs for a practical skill, written by a guy who had been an electronics training instructor in the military or something like that, but this book was written towards a civilian audience. It was written in the late 20th century. A few searches aren't bringing it up and I can't remember its name unfortunately, but here are a couple of hits for books targeted to a military audience that look sort of similar based on their tables of contents:Although those are a bit more high-level and theoretical; his book was the only one I came across that was really at the nuts-and-bolts of the instructor's level, yet wasn't about teaching in an academic environment or grade school teaching.
posted by XMLicious at 6:33 PM on August 4

Hey, so a big part of my wife's jobs over the past 10 years has been developing training programs for vet techs and she would be happy to chat with you by email. MeMail me and I will give you her email address.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:48 PM on August 4

Developing good training is a whole discipline and profession in itself. Working at a university, there may be professional instructional designers who you could consult with for assistance in developing a program.

In the absence of that, begin by figuring out what you want people to be able to do at the end of training. Not what you want them to "know" or "understand" - what do they need to be able to do?

Then, figure out some sort of practical exercise that would demonstrate that ability. Can you simulate a key technique? Supervised exercise on an animal?

Finally, identify what your learners need to know to successfully complete the practical exercise. Not everything you know about anesthetizing animals. Not every trick for pughuahuas undergoing an appendectomy. Focus on what they need to know to accomplish the task. People can only retain so much, and you're far better off giving people a solid command of the basics then trying to impart everything you know.

Here's a nice slideshow that outlines this technique.

Feel like your learners can't get along with just basic knowledge? Build a program that allows them to obtain some practical experience in between training sessions. Space training out over time, with practical experience in between. During training sessions, build in some time for open questions and answers based on issues people have experienced while working. Look at a mentoring model - where new people get paired with a more experienced person - to help people function well while training is in progress.

Keep in mind that actual training is just one piece of the development of competence in a new job. Practical experience and discovery are also very important.

Some books:
Telling Ain't Training is a terribly-named, but good book on the subject.
Design for How People Learn is also very good.
posted by jeoc at 8:25 PM on August 4

I was a training person for quite a while before going back to practicing what I do.

So, typically when you design a training curriculum, it takes two people (at least.) One subject matter expert and one instructional techniques/theory expert.

Grossly simplified, you decide early on what your objectives are, and then break it down into a prerequisite skills/knowledge tree. The written job description is a good start. Say one of the bullets on the job description is, be able to use gas to knock out an animal. (I have no idea if that is something you do or not)

Well, that kind of naturally breaks down into knowing how the gas system itself works, like, mechanically, and knowing how much to give, etc. So there are going to be practical skills and theoretical knowledge. You're going to start getting a big ol' list of objectives and grouping them into reasonable time periods to train. This is the part where the subject matter expert is kind of leading the charge.

Then, the instructional techniques person is going to help you decide the best training methods to have the students be able to meet the objectives. This is probably going to mess up your timeline estimates, objective groupings, things like that. It's kind of an iterative, back-and-forth process.

The training person is also going to help you build in checkpoint metrics so you can tell if your training is working. That's not just the test at the end, you really need continuous formal and informal feedback during the training. Testing is harder than it sounds and there are many ways other than the obvious "here's a test to take" method to do it.

You could probably get a good start by working on the knowledge/skills/abilities tree, and then attacking the "building blocks" at the bottom of the tree. But I really recommend either taking an instructional theory course or somehow coming up with a trainer before taking it live. Contrary to what universities would have you believe, subject matter expertise bears no relation to teaching ability.

That's all for a formal, zero-to-qualified training program. Don't underestimate the power, though, of just taking the time to tag along informally with someone as a mentor offering tips that aren't in the book (i.e., Hey, that's a lot easier if you hold it like this.) I feel a lot of times that we (where I work) waste a lot of time and money on formal training when what the person needs is some personal coaching.
posted by ctmf at 8:26 PM on August 4

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