Introduction to Participant-Centered Training Delivery

Or, how I spent last week 🙂

Nothing is more fun than three ring binders.

Nothing is more fun than three ring binders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So last week I was down in Toronto, the Big Smoke, Hogtown (never figured out why they call it that—oh, my friends Google and Wikipedia have discovered the answer: livestock processing was a big part of Toronto at one time) co-facilitating the Introduction to Participant-Centered Training Delivery (IPCTD) course.

Ostensibly, this is part of my attempt to become certified as a trainer through my employer.  The co-facilitation of this course was listed as a recommendation to anyone going through the process.  I didn’t think I would have this opportunity, having been told in the fall that the delivery of this and all other certification courses was being outsourced.

When the opportunity arose, I could not pass it up.

My co-facilitator and mentor for this part of the journey had just been certified in November herself and part of the purpose of our training together was so that she could give me a few pointers, watch out for those unconscious bad habits of the past.

I’ve blogged about Participant-Centered Training (PCT) before, but just to recap for those of you not interested in reading the whole post:

[In PCT, t]he trainer is merely present to elicit the desired knowledge from the learners, to encourage the appropriate behaviours, and to facilitate the process of discovery that will lead the learners to exhibit the desired performance in the workplace.  It’s no longer about [the trainer] having all the answers, but about being able to help the learners, now active participants in their own learning, find the answers for themselves.

The tag line is: Instead of the “sage on the stage,” be the “guide on the side.”

The course is two and a half days long and includes a practical demonstration by the participants, of the techniques they’ve learned.

Prior to the course, I met virtually with my co-facilitator a couple of times.  We divided up the material so that neither one of us would be leading the class for very long.  I read through the material to refresh my memory (when I took the course as a participant, it was 2009 and the course had subsequently been revised) and made copious notes.  I also brought a second copy of all the manuals, flipcharts, and PowerPoint presentations on a USB.

I travelled down on Tuesday morning and helped my co-facilitator set up the room.  That’s one thing to keep in mind with PCT: it may demand less of the facilitators in the classroom, but it requires much more preparation.  There are usually tonnes (I’m Canadian, eh?) of flip charts, visuals, learning aids, and activities to be set up in order for the session to go as planned.

The facilitators’ manual is critical as it lists times and required elements for each section of the course.  Most PCT courses are crammed full of information, the enrichment materials marked as “optional.”  Most of the time, there is no time to address much of the “optional” material, but every attempt is made to at least refer to it and ensure that the participants have access to those additional references and resources.

The course

The course was designed with a nautical theme and contained four sections: Opening and introduction; Methodologies and techniques; Communication, group building, group management techniques, and co-facilitation skills, with the practical component thrown in for good measure; and the Course closing.

The pre-course materials and assignments were to have been printed out, reviewed, completed, and brought with the participants.

The course opening includes an activity first thing to immediately engage the participants in the topic, review of some of the pre-course materials, expectations, comfort rating, course objective, agenda, participant introductions, and an introduction to PCT.

A note on objectives: prior to getting into PCT myself, I didn’t know the criteria for a good course objective.  A course objective should include performance, process, and standard or method of evaluation.

Examples: By the end of this course, you will be able to build a bird house using the bird house building instructions so that the result will meet the criteria described in the bird house schematic.

Or: By the end of this course, you will learn how to process an application, using the application policy, such that you will be able to achieve our 80% quality assurance goal on the simulation test.

Or: By the end of this course, you will be able to use Microsoft Word, in accordance with the Microsoft Word for Dummies Tip Sheet, so that you will be able to create documents for your employer more efficiently and confidently.

And yes, the standard or method of evaluation can be the participant’s own comfort level.

The methodologies and techniques section deals with the different PCT methods of delivery and the specific techniques, or activities that can be used to effectively engage participants.

The next section is the big one.  Communication skills, group building, group management, and co-facilitation are all covered, and then the participants are divided into groups, assigned a topic, and given an hour and a half to work on a 20 minute presentation in which they will demonstrate the skills, methods, and techniques they have learned.

The closing section revisits much of the material presented in the opening to answer the following questions:  Did we meet the course objective and participant expectations?  Do the participants feel they have learned valuable tools that they will take back to their jobs?  Review and transfer strategies are also incorporated.

Throughout the course, the co-facilitators are actively demonstrating all of the skills that we teach.  That’s another difficult aspect of adopting PCT: developing your awareness.  Though PCT takes the pressure off the facilitators to be the “talking head” or subject-matter expert, they have to be aware of everything that’s happening in the class: the participants’ attitudes, changing levels of engagement, the environment, and their own behaviours.

If you’ve done any training in a traditional environment, it’s essentially lecture.  Students sit there like baby birds waiting for their meal to be shoved down their throats.  This establishes some habits that have to be consciously broken when the trainer moves to PCT.

Questioning techniques are paramount.  Relays and overheads fly and form the foundation of debriefing every activity and conducting every review.  Knowledge must be drawn out of the participants, not fed to them.

This can be demanding, especially for someone like myself.  Though I enjoy training and think that I am good at it, I am, at my core, a shy person, and more fond of information than of social interaction.  This makes delivering training an exhausting activity for me.  I’ve noticed that even in the last six months that my tolerance seems to have decreased.  The need to retreat at the end of the day is nigh on irresistible.

Despite this, my co-facilitator said that after the first day, she didn’t notice any bad habits or poor behaviours on my part.  I was a little too fond of the closed questions at the start.  We worked well together and delivered a course that was well-received by the participants.

I won’t be able to review the assessments for a while yet, but there was nothing but compliments flying about the room that last day.

So that’s the Learning Mutt’s adventure for this week.  Tomorrow, I’m heading out of town again and we’ll see if the life of a training coordinator will provide any more fodder for Writerly Goodness in the future 🙂

Next weekend, look forward to an interview with Laura Conant Howard in conjunction with her cover reveal blitz for the upcoming The Forgotten Ones, another pupdate, and, if I have the gumption, my review of the Galaxy Note II as the smart phone writers want 🙂

Goodnight everyone!

Sunday night line up: Once Upon a Time; Beauty and the Beast; and Lost Girl 🙂

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