Abuya: What’s the matter? You look worn out.
Mwangi: I am worn out—and disgusted. I was up half the night getting ready for this lecture I just gave and I don’t think it went very well. I couldn’t get anything out of them—no questions, no enthusiasm. For all I know, they didn’t understand a word I said.
Kariuki: I know what you mean. Last week I was having a terrible time trying to explain chemical safety in Swahili.
Abuya: I don’t think it’s the language. You were probably just talking over their heads. How much technical information do these workers really need to know anyway?
Kariuki: Enough to protect themselves. If we can’t get the point across, we’re just wasting our time. Mwangi, why didn’t you try asking them something or tell a story?
Mwangi: I couldn’t figure out what to do. I know there has to be a better way, but I was never trained in how to do these lectures right.
Abuya: Why all the fuss? Just forget about it! With all the inspections we have to do, who’s got time to worry about training?
The above discussion in an African factory inspectorate, which could take place anywhere, highlights a real problem: how to get the message through in a training session. Using a real problem as a discussion starter (or trigger) is an excellent training technique to identify potential obstacles to training, their causes and potential solutions. We have used this discussion as a role play in our Training of Trainers’ workshops in Kenya and Ethiopia.
The ILO-FINNIDA African Safety and Health Project is part of the ILO’s technical cooperation activities aimed to improve occupational safety and health training and information services in 21 African countries where English is commonly spoken. It is sponsored by FINNIDA, the Finnish International Development Agency. The Project took place from 1991 to 1994 with a budget of US$5 million. One of the main concerns in the implementation of the Project was to determine the most appropriate training approach by which to facilitate high quality learning. In the following case study we will describe the practical implementation of the training approach, the Training the Trainers’ (TOT) course (Weinger 1993).
Development of a New Training Approach
In the past, the training approach in most African factory inspectorates, and also in many technical cooperation projects of the ILO, has been based on randomly selected, isolated topics of occupational safety and health (OSH) which were presented mainly by using lecturing methods. The African Safety and Health Project conducted the first pilot course in TOT in 1992 for 16 participating countries. This course was implemented in two parts, the first part dealing with basic principles of adult education (how people learn, how to establish learning objectives and select teaching contents, how to design the curriculum and select instructional methods and learning activities and how to improve personal teaching skills) and the second part with practical training in OSH based on individual assignments which each participant completed during a four month’s time period following the first part of the course.
The main characteristics of this new approach are participation and action orientation. Our training does not reflect the traditional model of classroom learning where participants are passive recipients of information and the lecture is the dominant instructional method. In addition to its action orientation and participatory training methods, this approach is based on the latest research in modern adult education and takes a cognitive and activity-theoretical view of learning and teaching (Engeström 1994).
On the basis of the experience gained during the pilot course, which was extremely successful, a set of detailed course material was prepared, call the Training of Trainers Package, which consists of two parts, a trainer’s manual and a supply of participants’ handout matter. This package was used as a guideline during planning sessions, attended by from 20 to 25 factory inspectors over a period of ten days, and concerned with establishing national TOT courses in Africa. By the spring of 1994, national TOT courses had been implemented in two African countries, Kenya and Ethiopia.
High Quality Learning
There are four key components of high quality learning.
Motivation for learning. Motivation occurs when participants see the “use-value” of what they are learning. It is stimulated when they can perceive the gap that separates what they know and what they need to know to solve a problem.
Organization of subject matter. The content of learning is too commonly thought of as separate facts stored in the brain like items in boxes on a shelf. In reality, people construct models, or mental pictures, of the world while learning. In promoting cognitive learning, teachers try to organize facts into models for better learning and include explanatory principles or concepts (the “but whys” behind a fact or skill).
Advancing through steps in the learning process. In the learning process, the participant is like an investigator looking for a model by which to understand the subject matter. With the help of the teacher, the participant forms this model, practices using it and evaluates its usefulness. This process can be divided into the following six steps:
- integrating new knowledge (internalization)
- programme critique
- participant evaluation.
Social interaction. The social interaction between participants in a training session is an essential component of learning. In group activities, participants learn from one another.
Planning training for high quality learning
The kind of education aimed at particular skills and competencies is called training. The goal of training is to facilitate high quality learning and it is a process that takes place in a series of steps. It requires careful planning at each stage and each step is equally important. There are many ways of breaking the training into components but from the point of view of the cognitive conception of learning, the task of planning a training course can be analysed into six steps.
Step 1: Conduct a needs assessment (know your audience).
Step 2: Formulate learning objectives.
Step 3: Develop an orientation basis or “road map” for the course.
Step 4: Develop the curriculum, establishing its contents and associated training methods and using a chart to outline your curriculum.
Step 5: Teach the course.
Step 6: Evaluate the course and follow up on the evaluation.
Practical Implementation of National TOT Courses
Based on the above-mentioned training approach and experience from the first pilot course, two national TOT courses were implemented in Africa, the one in Kenya in 1993 and the other in Ethiopia in 1994.
Training needs were based on the work activity of factory inspectors and were determined by means of a pre-workshop questionnaire and a discussion with the course participants about their everyday work and about the kinds of skills and competencies necessary to carry it out (see figure 1). The course has thus been designed primarily for factory inspectors (in our national TOT courses, usually 20 to 25 inspectors participated), but it could be extended to other personnel who may need to carry out safety and health training, such as shop stewards, foremen, and safety and health officers.
Figure 1. Orientation basis for the factory inspector's work activity.
A compilation of course objectives for the national TOT course was assembled step by step in cooperation with the participants, and is given immediately below.
Objectives of the national TOT course
The aims of the training of trainers (TOT) course are as follows:
- Increase participants’ understanding of the changing role and tasks of factory inspectors from immediate enforcement to long-term advisory service, including training and consultation.
- Increase participants’ understanding of the basic principles of high quality learning and instruction.
- Increase participants’ understanding of the variety of skills involved in planning training programmes: identification of training needs, formulation of learning objectives, development of training curricula and materials, selection of appropriate teaching methods, effective presentation and programme evaluation.
- Enhance participants’ skills in effective communication for application during inspections and consultation, as well as in formal training sessions.
- Facilitate the development of short and long-term training plans in which new instructional practices will be implemented.
The key subject areas or curriculum units that guided the implementation of the TOT course in Ethiopia are outlined in figure 2. This outline may also serve as an orientation basis for the whole TOT course.
Figure 2. The key subject areas of the TOT course.
Determining training methods
The external aspect of the teaching method is immediately observable when you step into a classroom. You might observe a lecture, a discussion, group or individual work. However, what you do not see is the most essential aspect of teaching: the kind of mental work being accomplished by the student at any given moment. This is called the internal aspect of the teaching method.
Teaching methods can be divided into three main groups:
- Instructional presentation: participant presentations, lectures, demonstrations, audio-visual presentations
- Independent assignment: tests or exams, small group activities, assigned reading, use of self-guided learning materials, role plays
- Cooperative instruction
Most of the above methods were used in our TOT courses. However, the method one selects depends on the learning objectives one wants to achieve. Each method or learning activity should have a function. These instructional functions, which are the activities of a teacher, correspond with the steps in the learning process described above and can help guide your selection of methods. There follows a list of the nine instructional functions:
- transmitting new knowledge
- consolidating what has been taught
- practising (development of knowledge into skills)
- application (solving new problems with the help of new knowledge)
- programme critique
- participant evaluation.
Planning the curriculum: Charting your course
One of the functions of curriculum or course plan is to assist in guiding and monitoring the teaching and learning process. The curriculum can be divided into two parts, the general and the specific.
The general curriculum gives an overall picture of the course: its goals, objectives, contents, participants and guidelines for their selection, the teaching approach (how the course will be conducted) and the organizational arrangements, such as pre-course tasks. This general curriculum would usually be your course description and a draft programme or list of topics.
A specific curriculum provides detailed information on what one will teach and how one plans to teach it. A written curriculum prepared in chart form will serve as a good outline for designing a curriculum specific enough to serve as a guide in the implementation of the training. Such a chart includes the following categories:
Time: the estimated time needed for each learning activity
Curriculum Units: primary subject areas
Topics: themes within each curriculum unit
Instructional function: the function of each learning activity in helping to achieve your learning objectives
Activities: the steps for conducting each learning activity
Materials: the resources and materials needed for each activity
Instructor: the trainer responsible for each activity (when there are several trainers)
To design the curriculum with the aid of the chart format, follow the steps outlined below. Completed charts are illustrated in connection with a completed curriculum in Weinger 1993.
- Specify the primary subject areas of the course (curriculum units) which are based on your objectives and general orientation basis.
- List the topics you will cover in each of those areas.
- Plan to include as many instructional functions as possible in each subject area in order to advance through all the steps of the learning process.
- Choose methods which fulfil each function and estimate the amount of time required. Record the time, topic and function on the chart.
- In the activities column, provide guidelines for the instructor on how to conduct the activity. Entries can also include main points to be covered in this session. This column should offer a clear picture of exactly what will occur in the course during this time period.
- List the materials, such as worksheets, handouts or equipment required for each activity.
- Make sure to include appropriate breaks when designing a cycle of activities.
Evaluating the course and follow-up
The last step in the training process is evaluation and follow-up. Unfortunately, it is a step that is often forgotten, ignored and, sometimes, avoided. Evaluation, or the determination of the degree to which course objectives were met, is an essential component of training. This should include both programme critique (by the course administrators) and participant evaluation.
Participants should have an opportunity to evaluate the external factors of teaching: the instructor’s presentation skills, techniques used, facilities and course organization. The most common evaluation tools are post-course questionnaires and pre- and post-tests.
Follow-up is a necessary support activity in the training process. Follow-up activities should be designed to help the participants apply and transfer what they have learned to their jobs. Examples of follow-up activities for our TOT courses include:
- action plans and projects
- formal follow-up sessions or workshops
Selection of trainers
Trainers were selected who were familiar with the cognitive learning approach and had good communication skills. During the pilot course in 1992 we used international experts who had been involved in development of this learning approach during the 1980s in Finland. In the national courses we have had a mixture of experts: one international expert, one or two regional experts who had participated in the first pilot course and two to three national resource persons who either had responsibility for training in their own countries or who had participated earlier in this training approach. Whenever it was possible, project personnel also participated.
Discussion and Summary
Factory training needs assessment
The factory visit and subsequent practice teaching are a highlight of the workshop. This training activity was used for workplace training needs assessment (curriculum unit VI A, figure 1). The recommendation here would be to complete the background on theory and methods prior to the visit. In Ethiopia, we scheduled the visit prior to addressing ourselves to the question of teaching methods. While two factories were looked at, we could have extended the time for needs assessment by eliminating one of the factory visits. Thus, visiting groups will visit and focus on only that factory where they will be actually training.
The risk mapping component of the workshop (this is also part of curriculum unit VI A) was even more successful in Ethiopia than in Kenya. The risk maps were incorporated in the practice teaching in the factories and were highly motivating for the workers. In future workshops, we would stress that specific hazards be highlighted wherever they occur, rather than, for example, using a single green symbol to represent any of a variety of physical hazards. In this way, the extent of a particular type of hazard is more clearly reflected.
The instructional methods focused on audio-visual techniques and the use of discussion starters. Both were quite successful. In a useful addition to the session on transparencies, the participants were asked to work in groups to develop a transparency of their own on the contents of an assigned article.
Flip charts and brainstorming were new teaching methods for participants. In fact, a flip chart was developed especially for the workshop. In addition to being an excellent training aid, the use of flip charts and “magic markers” is a very inexpensive and practical substitute for the overhead projector, which is unavailable to most inspectors in the developing countries.
“Microteaching”, or instruction in the classroom focusing on particular local problems, made use of videotape and subsequent critique by fellow participants and resource people, and was very successful. In addition to enhancing the working of external teaching methods, the taping was a good opportunity for comment on areas for improvement in content prior to the factory teaching.
A common error, however, was the failure to link discussion starters and brainstorm activities with the content or message of an activity. The method was perfunctorily executed, and its effect ignored. Other common errors were the use of excessively technical terminology and the failure to make the training relevant to the audience’s needs by using specific workplace examples. But the later presentations in the factory were designed to clearly reflect the criticisms that participants had received the day before.
Practice teaching in the factory
In their evaluation of the practice teaching sessions in the factory, participants were extremely impressed with the use of a variety of teaching methods, including audiovisuals, posters that they developed, flip charts, brainstorming, role plays, “buzz groups” and so on. Most groups also made use of an evaluation questionnaire, a new experience for them. Of particular note was their success in engaging their audiences, after having relied solely on the lecture method in the past. Common areas for improvement were time management and the use of overly technical terms and explanations. In the future, the resource persons should also try to ensure that all groups include the application and evaluation steps in the learning process.
Course planning as a training experience
During these two courses it was possible to observe significant changes in the participants’ understanding of the six steps in high quality learning.
In the last course a section on writing objectives, where each participant writes a series of instructional objectives, was added into the programme. Most participants had never written training objectives and this activity was extremely useful.
As for the use of the curriculum chart in planning, we have seen definite progress among all participants and mastery by some. This area could definitely benefit from more time. In future workshops, we would add an activity where participants use the chart to follow one topic through the learning process, using all of the instructional functions. There is still a tendency to pack the training with content material (topics) and to intersperse, without due consideration of their relevance, the various instructional functions throughout a series of topics. It is also necessary that trainers emphasize those activities that are chosen to accomplish the application step in the learning process, and that they acquire more practice in developing learners’ tasks. Application is a new concept for most and difficult to incorporate in the instructional process.
Finally the use of the term curriculum unit was difficult and sometimes confusing. The simple identification and ordering of relevant topic areas is an adequate beginning. It was also obvious that many other concepts of the cognitive learning approach were difficult, such as the concepts of orientation basis, external and internal factors in learning and teaching, instructional functions and some others.
In summary, we would add more time to the theory and curriculum development sections, as outlined above, and to the planning of future curriculum, which affords the opportunity of observing individual ability to apply the theory.
The ILO-FINNIDA African Safety and Health Project has undertaken a particularly challenging and demanding task: to change our ideas and old practices about learning and training. The problem with talking about learning is that learning has lost its central meaning in contemporary usage. Learning has come to be synonymous with taking in information. However, taking in information is only distantly related to real learning. Through real learning we re-create ourselves. Through real learning we become able to do something we were never able to do before (Senge 1990). This is the message in our Project’s new approach on learning and training.