Training Methods and Materials Session Overview Training has been popularly used as a means of enhancing the capabilities of people in different sectors in our society. Training as deliberate strategy of human resource development is affected by several factors one of which is the trainer’s use of methods in affecting behavioral changes in the participants.
Training is essentially a communication transaction among the resource persons and the participants. The training methods used by the resource persons are the channels of communication.
A training method refers to the systematic procedure employed by the trainors or resource persons in getting the lessons or message across the training participants in the most effective and efficient manner.
Training materials are instructional materials/media used to make the training-learning process effective and efficient. Instructional materials provide different learning experiences, make communication more precise and add interests to learning experiences.
At the end of the module, you should be able to: (1) define training methods and materials and other terms relevant to the topic; (2) explain the factors to consider in the choice of methods and materials; (3) describe the methods and materials; (4) explain the advantages and disadvantages of each; (5) prepare selected training materials; (6) design a delivery plan for selected training method; (7) write a case about the use of a particular method or material from where a reader could derive lessons.
Discussion Notes Factors to consider in the Choice of Methods
There are factors that need to be considered in the choice of training methods. These are human factors, objectives, subject area, and time and material factors.
The Human Factors. (a) The Trainers – The trainer’s knowledge, skill, attitudes and experiences are of primary importance in the choice of methods. The trainer should have a clear and significant message to pass but he should have the mastery of the subject matter. The personality of the resource person/trainer should be acceptable to the participants so that effective communication relationship can be established quickly and easily. The trainer should also have favorable attitudes toward the training session and participants. (b) Participants – Since the participants are the center and object of the training, methods must be suited to them. Their age, educational background, interests, needs, experiences and abilities to learn must be taken into account.
The Objectives. Appropriate methods should be selected in order to attain the objectives of the training. For instance, field trip is best for the participants in order to see agricultural projects and get firsthand information about them from the project in-charge. If the objective is to develop skills in grafting for example, method demonstration and hands-on experience are appropriate.
Subject Matter/Area. Subject areas like human behavior in organizations, leadership styles, communication problems and other topics which are intended to provide opportunities to the participants to analyze behavior may use training methods like group dynamics, case study, role playing, and experiential learning, etc.
For subjects that pertain to agriculture demonstration either method or result may be useful. Lecture-discussion supported by audio-visual materials is also a common method and easy to use.
Time and Material Factors.Decisions about the choice of teaching methods are dependent on time, financial resources and other factors.
Preparation time (which affects the cost of the teaching materials as well) varies for the different teaching methods. Hence, methods that need more time to prepare and use are not advisable for limited time allotted for the topic.
The length of the course predetermines the kinds of methods which can be used. The longer the course, the better are the chances that the teacher will be able to use complex and other experiential type of training methods, i.e if only a few topics are included.
The time of the day is more important than many course designers could imagine. Hands-on experiences in the field are suggested to be scheduled early in the morning or towards the end of the day.
The available facilities and equipment. The resource persons can only use audio-visual materials in a training venue with electricity and available equipment. Some still need a darkened room to be effective in using projected audio-visual materials.
Training Methods With the mentioned factors here are the methods that a trainer can choose from for effective and efficient training.
Action Maze. A printed description of an incident, for analysis, followed by a list of alternative actions is called an action maze. Each action choice directs the participants to new page, which gives the result of that action and a new set of alternatives from which to choose. The results the participant receives after each step may give more information, as well as reaction to the action taken. The selection may also lead to a dead end, sending the participant back to the original situation to make another choice. This is a popular style in the new children’s books from America (Franco,1991).
Adventure Learning. Adventure learning focuses on the development of teamwork and leadership skills using structured outdoor activities. It can help develop the skills related to group effectiveness such as self-awareness, problem solving, conflict management, and risk taking. Adventure learning may involve mountain climbing, wall climbing, climbing ladders, and traveling from one tower to another using a device attached to a wire that connects the two towers (Noe, 1999).
Apprenticeship. Apprenticeship training is a system in which an employee is given instruction and experience, both on and off the job, in all the practical and theoretical aspects of the work required in a skilled occupation, craft, or trade. Most apprenticeship programs range in length from one to five years (Byars, et al, 1991). The effectiveness of apprenticeship training largely depends upon the ability of the skilled employee to supervise the learning process.
Behavior modeling. Behavior modeling involves presenting trainees with a model who demonstrate key behaviors to replicate them. It also provides trainees with the opportunity to practice the key behaviors and provides feedback and reinforcement on practice attempts (Noe, 1999). To the degree that interpersonal skills learned prove useful on the job, some attitude change occurs. The trainer can use film or videotape to present key behaviors to the trainees. This encourages the trainees to involve activity in the learning process and can easily see the value of modeled behaviors in the approximated job situations (Stone, 1982).
Trainees are actively involved
Provides practice for each participant in handling difficult situations
Provides on-the-job environment, which facilitates learning
May be difficult to isolate step-by-step procedures for each behavior
Brainstorming. Franco (1991) explains that brainstorming is a problem-solving approach in which participants are given a problem and asked to bring into the discussion any ideas that come to mind, no matter how outlandish. All ideas are gathered and recorded, without criticism or evaluation, before any are discussed. Idea gathering is usually limited to five to fifteen minutes.
Buzz group. Franco (1991) mentions that buzz group is a large group divided into several small groups of four to six people who discuss a topic or perform a task, usually in less than ten minutes. Originally called the “six by six” technique, which meant six people for six minutes, such a strategy has come to be known as a buzz group. Although there is no finished product, provision must be made for some feedback, others call this “dyads”(two people), or “triad” (three people).
Case study. Case studies attempt to create learning by doing. Participants are presented with cases based upon actual experiences or typical problem situations and then are requested to state their solutions or recommendations to the other participants. The presentations are long and detailed (Benton, 1972). The objective of case studies is to teach trainees how to analyze information, generate decision alternatives, and evaluate the alternatives. Cases can be analyzed by individuals or small groups. Feedback and reinforcement are provided through oral discussion in class or written comment from the instructor
Classroom training. Classroom training is conducted off the job and effective means of imparting information quickly to large groups with limited or no knowledge of the subject being presented. It is useful for teaching factual material, concepts, principles, and theories. More frequently, however, classroom instruction is used for technical, professional, and managerial employees. This training can use training methods such as case discussion, films and tapes to enhance the learning experience (Byars, et al, 1991).
Coaching. Coaching is informal, unplanned training and development activities provided by supervisors and peers (Haris, 1997). In this training method, a trainer, boss, or coach works with one or few trainees. The coach assigns tasks, monitors trainee behavior, and provides reinforcement and feedback. Coaching is commonly used for all kinds of trainees, from unskilled to managerial (Stone, 1982).
Computer-based instruction.It refers to any form of interactive learning experiences between a computer and a learner in which the computer provides the majority of the stimulus and the learner is required to make some form of response during the learning (Cherrington, 1995). The learners can learn at their own pace and on a need-to-know basis either at home or in their own offices (Harris, 1997).
An employee’s understanding of the material can be easily evaluated.
Developing the materials can be very expensive
Some employees are intimidated by and are uncomfortable with computers.
Customer education. Customer education is used for teaching customers and clients how to use the organization’s products and services. It can conduct in a variety of forms, including owner’s manuals, assembly instructions, job aids, troubleshooting guides, toll-free telephone number, user seminars, and demonstration by field representatives, seminars on investment opportunity, etc. (Cherrington, 1995).
Delphi Technique. It is a strategy that employs a number of experts who independently, and without knowing whose opinion is this or that, offer judgments or specific questions on two or more successive occasions is referred to as the Delphi technique. At each iteration after the first, the material to be evaluated is accompanied by information showing the amount of group agreement on the previous iteration. A list of reasons for the judgments of the group can also be provided. Each expert is free to consider this information in convergence of opinion, without the biasing influences of face-to-face confrontation (Franco, 1991).
Demonstrations. Farmers like to see how a new idea works, and also what effect it can have on increasing their crop production. Both purposes can be achieved by means of a farm demonstration. A good, practical demonstration is an invaluable method in extension work. The demonstration is a particularly powerful method to use with farmers who do not read easily. A demonstration will give such farmers the opportunity to observe, at first hand, the differences between a recommended new crop practice and traditional practices. The strength of the demonstration should lie in its simplicity and its ability to present the farmers with concrete results.
There are two principal types of demonstration used by extension agents—method demonstration and result demonstration.
Method demonstrations basically show farmers how to do something. In the method demonstration, the farmer is shown step by step how, for example, to plant seeds in line, to use a mechanical duster to control insects, or to graft a fruit tree. The extension worker will probably be dealing with farmers who have already accepted the particular practice being demonstrated, but who now want to know how to do it themselves.
The main advantage of the method demonstration is that the extension worker can explain simple farming skills to a large number of people, thus increasing the impact of his extension work. Moreover, as farmers are able to see and participate, there is a greater chance that they will benefit from the demonstration than if they were passively hearing it in a lecture.
The main limitation of a method demonstration is that, if there are too many farmers present, only a few get a chance to see, hear and do. The agent must be conscious that the demonstration is a learning experience and prepare the event accordingly. It is also vital that the demonstration be well thought out and competently conducted.
The main purpose of a result demonstration is to show local farmers that a particular new recommendation is practicable under local conditions. Comparison is the important element in a result demonstration: comparison between compost and no compost, between poor seed and selected seed, or between use of fertilizer and no fertilizer. “Seeing is believing” is an age-old expression, but one appropriate to a result demonstration. Until a farmer has actually seen the results of, for example, the application of a fertilizer, he will not be convinced by the extension worker’s recommendation. By showing tangible results of a new practice recommended by the extension service, the extension worker can help to create confidence among the farmers and can greatly encourage them to try the practice themselves.
A result demonstration is an ideal way to present to farmers a comparison between traditional and new practices. It can also help to establish confidence in more scientific farming methods and increase the farmers’ confidence in ideas originating from research stations. It shows proof of the value of a new practice. A result demonstration is also a useful tool that an extension worker can use to establish confidence among farmers in a new area.
Its major limitation is that it takes a long time to mature and is thus a costly use of extension resources. If, in the end, for whatever reason, the new practice should fail, it could have disastrous consequences. Often such failures (for example, because of lack of rain) are outside the control of the extension worker.
Both method and result demonstrations are extension activities that require a lot of thought, careful planning and efficient execution. Although the two demonstrations differ somewhat in their purposes, they share a lot of common points and, in terms of their preparation and execution, they can be considered together.
Basic principles for demonstrations.Before the agent begins to plan and prepare for a demonstration, he should be clear about a number of key points that will guide his preparation and handling of the demonstration.
Participation. Where possible, demonstrations should be carried out on local farms with farmers’ participation rather than on an extension plot or research station. Farmers will have more confidence if a demonstration is held on a neighbor’s land, or if a new practice is shown by a fellow farmer, than if it is carried out by agents on extension land. The more the local farmers can be involved in the whole process of a demonstration, the greater will be their self-confidence and readiness to learn.
Simplicity. Simple, clear-cut demonstrations of a single practice or new idea will be far more effective than ambitious and over-complex demonstrations that demand too much of the farmer. It is better to proceed step by step with a number of demonstrations than to try do to everything at once.
Learning. The demonstration is a learning environment and should be run in such a way that the farmers do infact learn something. A demonstration is a type of class-room, and the agent must be conscious of classroom requirements in terms of space, time, equipment and the teaching method to use.
Preparation. An extension agent should never contemplate holding a demonstration without careful planning and preparation. A demonstration hastily given could have disastrous consequences.
Planning the demonstration.When the agent decides that a demonstration would be useful at a particular time, he must then dedicate some time to planning and preparing for it. In this respect, he must ask himself a number of questions.
What is the objective of the demonstration?
Why is the demonstration the most suitable extension method, and what would be the usefulness of the new idea to be demonstrated?
When should the demonstration be held? When is the most convenient date and time both for the farmers and in terms of the application of the new idea?
Where is the demonstration to be held? Which suitable location is the most convenient for the farmers.
The agent should work out in some detail his answers to the above questions before proceeding any further. It is very important that the reasons for the demonstration be appropriate and clearly understood and that there is a realistic expectation that the demonstration will be of benefit to the farmers involved.
Preparing the demonstration.The more carefully the agent can prepare all the details of the demonstration, the more chance he will have of it running smoothly. The following are the key areas of preparation.
Consult the local people and seek their help and advice in the preparation of the demonstration.
Prepare a detailed plan of the demonstration, the main issues to be covered, the sequence of events, the resources needed and the contributions required from other people.
Collect information and material available on the new idea or practice to be demonstrated, and make sure that the topic is familiar and that questions can be answered.
Check that all the support material is ready (e.g., audio-visual aids, implements).
Select those farmers who will take part in the demonstration and brief them on the outline of events.
Ensure that the demonstration has been publicized and that the farmers know exactly when and where it is to take place.
Visit the demonstration site beforehand to make sure that all is in order and that the site is appropriate.
Supervising the demonstration.During the demonstration, the agent's role should be to supervise but not to dominate. He should actively support the farmer who may be assisting in the demonstration, and encourage the others to participate as much as they can. The agent should be keen to ensure that all those present benefit from the demonstration. During the demonstration, therefore, the agent should:
Welcome. The participants, make them feel at ease and ensure that they have all they require to benefit fully from the demonstration.
Explain. The purpose of the demonstration, what it is hoped to achieve and what the various stages are that will be followed. Distribute any literature or other material which may have been prepared as a guide for the participants.
Conduct. The demonstration in person or be ready to help the demonstrator farmer. Proceed at a pace the farmers can follow, and be prepared to explain again or answer questions from participants. Emphasize key points and explain the practice step by step in simple words. In a method demonstration, ensure that all those who wish to do so have a chance to practice the demonstration themselves.
Summarize. The main issues or points which have arisen, encourage questions from the farmers and make sure that the participants have had every opportunity to try out or examine the practice being demonstrated.
Conclude. The demonstration with a vote of thanks to all concerned, and with a few comments about any follow-up activities planned.
Follow-up. It is important that any interest generated by, or decisions taken at, the demonstration be followed up. Farmers will feel let down if the agent does not do so. This follow-up will be useful for the agent as well. Demonstrations can often result in good contacts with local farmers, and the agent may be able to enlist their support for future activities. It is also important that the agent reflect upon the demonstration and evaluate its effectiveness. The agent should, therefore, write a report and prepare a record of the demonstration, noting the names of the participants, the effect achieved and personal impressions of the usefulness of the demonstration.
Strong Points (2)
The audience's attention is easily captured by the skillful demonstration done by the extension worker.
This method enhances application of learned principles.
It is challenging and thought-provoking.
The pace of demonstration is flexible.
Weak Points (2)
It demands careful preparation and organization
Some may not be able to see and hear if physical setting is not well-arranged
It is considerably expensive.
It is not much useful for large group, rather, it is more effective to small groups.
Ethics Training. It is a constant example and demonstration of ethical behavior by managers at all levels in order to eliminate falsified employment applications, deceptive advertising, time card abuse, theft of trade secrets, and embezzlement (Schuler, et al, 1989).
Exercise. Similar to a case study, the exercise is a short problem focusing on a specific learning point. Most exercise have one correct solution. A group of exercises may be used as a test. Franco notes that this is useful for technical topics (Franco, 1991).
Field Trip. Field trip provides the participants the opportunity to relate the concepts learned in the lecture discussion. The learner is taken to the place where knowledge to be taught is actually done or applied. It also gives the trainees the chance to interact with project managers and researchers to enrich the knowledge learned (Acoba, et al, 1997).