Training trainers in Toronto

This past week, I was out of town.  The purpose: to teach a bunch of trainers the content of Business Writing Made Easy, so that they, in turn, can teach others.

The class was composed of three trainers from one business line and 6 from the other.  BWME Nov 19-22 001Though I may, as I mentioned last week, be returning to the training team in September, there are several possible alternatives that might prevent this from taking place.  I have to be prepared for the possibility that I won’t be able to help train staff much or at all in the future.

This was my fourth time co-facilitating the course, and I’ll be training it one more time this week coming.

The course is 15 hours, or two days, spread over three.  I added a day onto the end so that the participants could adapt portions of the course, present them, and get some focused feedback from the rest of the class.

The class is very participant-centered, that is, there are a lot of activities and the facilitators are constantly using questioning techniques to engage learners in their own learning.  This last is a challenging bit for me, because I’m a word-nerd and a total grammar-Nazi.  I have to restrain myself from talking about the things that I love.

The course went well.  I was able to help one of my colleagues get some experience co-facilitating the course because she may be turning around and delivering it to her business line in the future.  I also got the trainer’s high that come when you see the participants getting enthusiastic about the subject matter.

I think they’re all going to be brilliant 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, the course involves learning a business letter writing model, tips on clarity, concision, and readability in writing, and a final module on grammar review.  The practical component is a letter that the participants draft as part of their pre-course work and revise as the course progresses.

Actually, looking back, every time I’ve blogged about BWME, it’s been about the process surrounding the course, not the course itself (eeps!).

I learn, or have something confirmed for me every time I teach this course.  I hope that my newly-minted business writing teachers feel the same way.

I still get nervous every time I have to train too, but I hide it well.  I’m introverted (as all get out) and training, though enjoyable, tires me.

I’m reading Susan Cain’s Quiet right now, and will likely post about introversion in the future.  For now, let’s just say that I’m learning a lot about myself 😉

Just yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook by the wonderful Nancy Kress, who said that in preparing for a 4-hour workshop, she was nervous, even after her many years of writing and teaching.

One of the comments that followed mine was that, if you care at all about the subject you are teaching, or presenting about, you will be nervous.  Every time.

I do find this to be true.

Getting back to the course, since it’s only two days, I can’t teach anyone who to write properly or how to use the principles of grammar.  The course is a combination of review and resource-building that we hope will give participants the tools to continue improving on their own.

Practise makes perfect.

bunch of starsThe participants seem to enjoy the word pairs exercise most (affect/effect, practice/practise, principle/principal, further/farther, etc.).  The “snowball” fight is a great energizer, and the subject/verb agreement and punctuation exercises tend to confirm that most participants already know a lot about grammar, it’s just not something they’re aware of in their everyday work.

The key with BWME, as with so many other topics, is to cultivate that awareness, and promote its continuance on the job.

 

Have you had the opportunity to learn or teach something that you’re passionate about? How was the experience?  Do you practise after the fact?  What stayed with you most?

 

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Caturday Quickies: The certification run

This past week, I travelled to Chatham to deliver yet one more session of Business Writing Made Easy.  The critical difference this time?  I was assessed for my trainer certification.  Eeps!

An omen?

What started my week was the journey to Chatham, some six and a half hours away.  Phil dropped me off at the car rental place at 8 am (we only have the one car).  Past experience taught me that I’d be in and out in less than 15 minutes, back home to load up my luggage and boxes, and on the road by 8:30 am.

When I walked in, there were four people waiting, one of them had an insurance claim to deal with due to a dent in the rental, and another was returning a car from another rental company.  The rental location was two employees short-staffed, and I settled in for a wait.

The first car I was given had some issues.  I couldn’t afford to wait any longer, so gratefully accepted an upgrade and was finally on the road shortly after 9 am.

The loveliness of the ETR

The journey itself was great.  For the first time, I used the 407 express toll route (ETR).  In the time it would have normally taken me to reach the hotel near our regional headquarters from the ETR on-ramp, I was exiting at Halton Hills, not far away from Guelph.

The ETR saved me precious time and allowed me to reach Chatham before the end of the day.

Lusting after the Zzzzz’s

I quickly checked into my hotel (more about that in another caturday quickie to come) and toted my boxes to the office, arriving just before 4 pm.  I spent the next several hours setting up the training room with my co-facilitator, Carole.  About 8 pm, we gave up for the night, Carole checked into the hotel, and we enjoyed a late supper at the hotel’s rather excellent restaurant.

I rarely sleep well when I’m on the road, but that first night was especially challenging.  I don’t know whether it was nerves, the trains that passed by periodically all night, or something else, but from 2:25 am on, I couldn’t sleep.  I’d gone to be just after 11 pm, and there’s no way I can function properly with only three hours’ sleep.

Despite that, I met up with Carole for breakfast the next morning, we finished setting up the room and our activities, I met my assessors, and class got underway.

The assessment

Really, I’m trying not to think about it much, because every time I do, I start thinking of all the things I did wrong, all of the technical difficulties I encountered, and all of the other things that could potentially have done me in so far as certification went.

I started asking closed questions.  My SMART Board activity bombed.  Toward the end of the second morning, I was exhausted and running on instinct rather than cultivating the Zen awareness critical to my success.  I curtailed a couple of side bar conversations clumsily.  I forgot participant names.  What’s the expression?  I sucked so hard …

The assessors were very kind.  I’d actually worked with one of them before, delivering workshops in Cornwall a few years ago, but their job is to make sure that I can facilitate in a participant-centered manner in accordance with a set of 18 competencies.  They assessed me for a full day, 1 pm to 4:30 pm the first afternoon, and again from 8:30 am to noon the second day.  I had to facilitate the class solo.

At the end of the first afternoon, the assessors asked me a series of questions about the competencies that weren’t clearly visible in my facilitation and presentation skills.  Things like the room set up, placement of visuals, the joining instructions, utilization of pre-course assignment materials, continuing professional development, and so forth.

At noon the next day, I bid them farewell and was advised that I would be informed of the outcome of the assessment within a couple of weeks.

I’m kind of dreading it.  I think that having to go through the assessment again would be a little bit more than I can handle moving into the new fiscal year.  Thus the avoidance tactics 🙂

The good parts

My co-facilitator bought me a wee gift.  Isn’t it lovely? congratulations

I tried not to tell her she was counting my chickens before they were hatched and just appreciated the gesture.  Carole also asked me to focus on all the things I had done well in the class.  Though I was able to list several things, my mind quickly gravitated toward the negative and I returned to avoidance.

The final day of class, with Carole at my side, went well, and by the end of it, several of the participants not only told us how much they enjoyed the class, and what good resources they got out of it, but also told us that their colleagues were asking how they could get on the list to attend the course.

That kind of validation warms a facilitator’s heart 🙂

After class, we packed everything up, and had an hour or so to enjoy Chatham and some of the quaint shops in the area.

At breakfast on Friday morning, Carole asked me some very helpful questions about the certification process.  She has an interest in pursuing it, and was curious about what might be next for me given her expectations for my success.

It was another very helpful way of keeping my mind from dwelling on all of my short-comings.

I dropped the set of posters I’d borrowed for the delivery of the course back at regional headquarters on my way through Toronto, and was home by 4:30 pm.

At home, Phil reminded me that my focus on the negative wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Being conscious of what I did wrong means that I’ll be less likely to repeat those errors since I am, as always, my toughest critic.  I get so embarrassed about it that I determine never to fall into the same trap again.

It’s all about doubt, something that plagues me in both spheres of my professional life (training and writing).  I constantly question the value of what I do, regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

So … the next you’ll hear about this is whether I have, in fact, been successful or not.

Have you been assessed, or tested recently?  How did you feel about the process?  What did it teach you about yourself?

Caturday Quickies: Business Writing Made Frozen, er Easy

The road to certification

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Timmins to deliver the second of three sessions of Business Writing Made Easy.

BWME Nov 19-22 001The first delivery was back in November and in the much warmer Toronto.  At that time, I was observed by the person who designed the course and who was, at the time, one of the leads in the trainers certification program.

Then, my hope was to certify in Timmins.  My observer told me, point blank, that I wouldn’t pass.  We then made plans for another delivery of BWME.  Timmins would be a practice run, to let me become more familiar with the material and more practiced in my participant-centered training delivery methods and techniques.

My mentor was unable to continue coaching with me and my observer volunteered to take over.  An opportunity arose for me to co-facilitate Introduction to Participant-Centered Training Delivery in January, further cementing my skills.  My co-facilitator, a recently certified trainer herself, said that I was ready.

In February, however, things began to devolve.  My observer-turned-mentor was assigned a project and could not continue to coach me.  No one would be able to take over.  In a final meeting, we whizzed through the remaining material we had to cover.  I was again told that I was ready for assessment.

My own workload did not lessen and as I started to prepare for my delivery in Timmins, I realized that I was within the six-week deadline to arrange my observation.

Frantically, I contacted the certification program lead.  I had to complete an assignment on the 18 trainer competencies, showing how I’d been working to develop each one, and complete a pre-evaluation interview to ensure that I was, in fact, ready.  She felt confident that I was.

While I worked on Joining Instructions, pre-course assignments, and prep for the delivery, I waited on pins and needles to find out if assessors could be located for my certification run.  Just before I left for Timmins, I was informed that I had one more assignment to complete.  I did, and was propmtly introduced to my certification team.

The drive up to Timmins was lovely.  It was a bright, brisk, winter day and we made excellent time.  We set up the room and started organizing the activities.

That night, the weather grew stormy.  10 cm of snow, followed by another 20 or so the next day.  Then the deep freeze descended and for the rest of the week was less than pleasant.

The training went well, thankfully.  There were a few rocky places, but there always are.  No training ever goes perfectly.  I firmly subscribe to the good enough theory of life, the universe, and everything.  I wonder if good enough = 42 😉

The weather improved for our journey back to Sudbury on Friday.

Sunrise over downtown Timmins, Ontario, Canada

Sunrise over downtown Timmins, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week, I strove to catch up on my regular work and still conserve some time to prep for next week’s delivery.  The certification program lead emailed me to once again offer a few words of support, and here I am, with a skimpy weekend between me, a six and a half hour journey, hasty room and activity set up, and a full 8 hours of solo assessment of my facilitation skills.

My main goal?  To remain mindful in the moment.  Yes, training is a Zen kind of thing.

Will let you know how the certification attempt goes, but I won’t know anything for a while after.  The earliest I can have my debrief is April 4 (!)  While the report should be released within a couple of weeks, I’m not certain if they’ll give me a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before the debrief can happen.

The nerves come and go in waves.

Keep me in your thoughts trainer types.

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 🙂

Business Writing Made Easy in techno-colour

I mentioned back in the spring when I took the training-for-trainers version of the course that I would eventually be delivering Business Writing Made Easy.

The idea was that the two of us advisors from the training team would teach the course to a combination of processing staff, team leaders, and other advisors and consultants, to build capacity, so that the advisors and consultants could then turn around and help us train the entire business line.  It was to be a kind of domino effect, wherein the burden of the training would not fall to any individual or small group of specialists.

Then I was fortunate enough to get this acting gig as training coordinator, which left one advisor on the training team to do the job.  At that time, I was given dispensation to assist in the training.  There would be three sessions offered to staff in all sectors.  The training plan was developed and received approval.

Then Business Transformation (BT) kicked in and not only threw our organization into chaos, but also created new training demands and pressures.  Two of the three sessions would be cancelled.

The organization’s College which had designed and delivered the training-for-trainers for the course transformed in its own way, outsourcing its training and adopting a greater emphasis on e-learning (which I laud, btw—it was just inconvenient in this particular instance).

Part of my personal goal in delivering this training was to achieve my training certification in the process.  While the College would still administer the certification program, its delivery would be in the hands of a partner school and its trainers.  I’m still not sure how this will work out in the “real” world and what it will mean for me as a certified trainer.

Then my fellow advisor, potentially “affected” by BT, took an opportunity of her own and also left the training team.  Plans were amended.  I and two other consultants from another business line would deliver the training across both business lines.

Prep commenced, and as all of us worked in locations 4 to 8 hours’ travel apart, most of it was conducted at a distance.  2-hour conference calls, time stolen from our in-person meeting, and other opportunities were taken.

Then (yes then) my mentor accepted a position that meant that she would be less available to me for coaching.

As the time of delivery neared, I made contact with my mentor in the certification program and she arranged for someone from the college to come in and “observe” me during the training.  The point of this was to assess whether I could be ready to make my first attempt at certification with my next delivery (in February).

Nerves set in.

See, I took the first step toward certification in September 2011.  Incumbent upon me were the tasks of completing post-course assignments, 30 hours of training in a participant-centred training (PCT) style, coaching sessions, co-facilitation of the introductory PCT course, eventually leading to an in-person assessment and the hoped-for certification.

Subsequently, the training that I was to complete in Q3 and Q4 last year was cancelled.  My first opportunity to conduct any training was in May 2012, just prior to my accepting my acting position.  Though I’ve tried to implement PCT in my training, I hadn’t had the opportunity to really exercise my abilities in PCT.

Also, the restructuring of our College meant that the introductory PCT course would not be trained in-house anymore.

So I headed down Monday and had a day to help my co-facilitator set up the room.  I reviewed my sections of the training and met with the observer to schedule her visit and time for our debrief afterward.

Day one went well.  We were actually able to let the class out a little early.  Once again, I took my trainers’ guide back to the hotel to review.

I showed up early, organized our materials, our observer arrived, and we began.

At morning break, which was also about a half hour early, the observer came forward with some tips.  I felt my hopes of certification before the end of fiscal slipping out of reach.  After the break, however, my co-facilitator and I rallied.  We immediately implemented the observer’s suggestions, and even after she departed at lunch, we continued on our streak of epic win, ending the day on time and on a fairly high note.

The debrief was thankfully less painful than I expected, and a plan was settled on.  I still had a lot of work ahead and if my current mentor wouldn’t be able to continue coaching me, then our observer offered to help me out.  An opportunity to deliver the introductory course would be coming up in January.  The planned February delivery of Business Writing would be a chance for me to further hone my skills in delivering the course, and another opportunity to deliver the course to the other business line was identified.  That would be in March, and my opportunity to certify.

My co-facilitator is a people-oriented person.  Though she wasn’t in the program or seeking certification, our observer had as many tips, tricks, and kudos for my co-facilitator and she did for me.  It was pointed out, however, that my preference for facts meant that the kind of interaction that came naturally for my co-facilitator, was difficult for me to muster and maintain.  I hadn’t thought about that.  I enjoy training, but I do find it tiring.  It was an important personal realization for me.

Admittedly, the final day of training posed a few problems for us, but my co-facilitator and I, buoyed by our encouraging review, went with the flow and adapted on the fly.  Ultimately, the participants were what made the course so much fun.  We had a bunch of stars in the class.

In the end, the training was a success.  Our observer happened to be in the bathroom following the class’s dismissal, and heard some positive, off-the-cuff reactions to the course.  It’s interesting where you receive some forms of validation 🙂

The Learning Mutt is still in recovery mode.

Back into the fray on Monday!  Have a great weekend, everyone.

Participant Centered Training and Personal Knowledge Management

Bob Pike is responsible for introducing the concept of participant centered training (PCT).  He’s been in the training industry since 1969 (the year I was born, incidentally), but focused on PCT since 1979.  Needless to say, PCT is not a new idea.

Traditionally, corporate training has been conducted by a “talking head,” a subject matter expert, who imparts her or his wisdom to waiting students.  The assumption of this kind of training is that the students are sponge-like, highly motivated, and that they will somehow find a way to absorb what the trainer is saying, or to mimic the trainer’s behaviours, and be able to magically transform that information into the performance their employer desires.  But how does the average learner, who may or may not be sponge-like, accomplish this feat?  That’s the problem.

PCT turns that paradigm on its head.  The 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 having all the answers, but about being able to help the learners, now active participants in their own learning, find the answers for themselves.

Not the “sage on the stage.” Instead, be the “guide on the side.”

Primarily, PCT is a classroom methodology, and that is how it’s often taught, but once learned, the principles can be applied to any kind of training.  If you can design the right kinds of activities and ask the right kinds of questions, it’s still possible to implement PCT online in synchronous courses, or even online, asynchronously.

It’s the facilitation (or the framework) that’s the key.

I took an introductory course to PCT delivery in 2009 and in September of 2011, took the next course on my way to training certification within my organization.  There’s a lot more to PCT than what I’ve mentioned here, but that’s the key learning behind PCT.  How the trainer, or designer, accomplishes it has been the subject of books, academic papers, and the foundation of many a training business.

It could also be the innovative trainer’s ticket …

So check it out.

Some resources for you:

I’m a novice at this whole training gig and I know I have much farther to go.

Case in point: Harold Jarche.  The man has seriously been blowing my mind in the last weeks with his posts on his blog: Life in perpetual beta.  I cannot articulate the awesome right now.

Just go read his blog.  Follow it.  Become a PKM disciple 🙂  What’s PKM, you ask?  That would be personal knowledge management.

PKM takes PCT and turns that paradigm on its head 🙂  The learner is ultimately and intimately in control of their own learning and in many ways takes facilitation out of the equation altogether.  As a newbie trainer it freaks me out a bit, but PKM is the way I prefer to learn, through networks and connections, and as an addicted learner, I’m a fan.

Acronyms abound!  So what do you think?  PCT or PKM?  A liitle from column A and a little from column B?  Does it depend on the learning situation?  Can PCT be a stepping stone on the way to PKM?  Tell me what you think.