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Train the Trainer: why it’s not about becoming the perfect learner, by Connor Salter

30 August 2018

The ultimate goal as a trainer is to see a change in behaviour among your learners. There will be people who have done things a certain way for many years, and who might be a bit reticent about being taught something they think they already know, but a great trainer will be able to help them realise that there’s actually a much better, safer way.


Some people are resistant to change, which can make the role of trainer challenging. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes accidents to make people change, which is why trainers have such a fantastic opportunity to encourage behavioural change before the worst may happen.


If you can change just one aspect of the way someone works to make them safer, you’ve done your job. The key lies in delivering something valuable which the learner feels they can apply immediately the next day at work.

Big revelations for seasoned trainers

Even if you’ve been training for many years, a refresher course is a great idea, because you’ll inevitably pick up on little things that help you refresh your approach to training.


One of the biggest revelations for some trainers is when we cover how people learn; course attendees really seem to like discovering how we input, process and output – how we apply what we’re taught. It’s something that happens during every training session, but you don’t necessarily think about it.


This also helps the learners recognise aspects of their own personality. For instance, during a Train the Trainer session, you might discover that you respond best to kinaesthetic learning (i.e. anything that is hands-on), and consequently deliver most of your own training in that way. This presents a problem, because you may not be providing all the different learning modalities for learners who respond better to audio or written input for example.

The importance of assessment and the 5 Ws

The course also reveals that there’s lots of different ways to assess learners. The written test is a classic example, but you can also perform an audio or visual recording, and assessments that take place before, during and after the training.


Something else we cover regularly during Train the Trainer sessions is a phrase known as ‘bottoms on a rugby post’, where an ‘H’ is drawn (hence the rugby post reference), and five ‘Ws’ placed on it (hence the bottoms!). These relate to the questions you can ask learners: how, who, what, where, when and why.


A problem that often arises is with the use of the word ‘why’. It is quite an accusatory and judgemental word, and can make people feel like they have to explain or justify themselves, which is why it’s best left out during practical assessments with learners.


A much better way to encourage learning and make questions less accusatory is for the learners to get things wrong. This enables the trainer to ask questions and actually do some training; far too many courses concentrate on learners getting things right. The result is missed opportunities to help the trainers to learn.

Our approach: a mix of traditional learning and hands-on

There’s a nice mix between hands-on and traditional classroom training during NTS sessions. For example, during a PPE (personal protective equipment) module, we have a whole lot of equipment available from goggles to helmets and full-face masks. Some of the kit is deliberately unsuitable, which enables us to ask learners to highlight what shouldn’t be there.


We also split the group into two quite often, and ask them to write down points and work together to answer questions posed by the trainer. This helps them, ‘break the ice’, discuss and reflect on the learning material - it can also help them be more pragmatic and feel valued, because they can share their experiences.

Why Train the Trainer sessions are so valuable

If you’re unsure about attending one of our Train the Trainer sessions, it’s important to remember that learning is vital; that’s often the biggest hurdle to overcome for some people, but it’s for their own health and safety as well as that of colleagues.


The safest and best way to get over any fear you might have of learning is to undertake it with other trainers, because we all know what it’s like to stand in the spotlight; if you make an error, it’s fine - in fact, you need to get it wrong in order to be given chance to correct the approach.


This is all about becoming a great trainer - not a perfect learner. I think that’s a really important distinction.

For extroverts and introverts alike

I remember training a young learner once on three subjects; abrasive wheels, manual handling and working at height. He was working on a massive project in London, and when he initially came in he was really quiet. Despite this, he began to flourish as each course progressed and realised that he had valuable insights and experience that others could learn from.


Everyone has experiences, no matter how inexperienced they are, and this learner really came out of his shell once he realised people were listening to him. It’s character-building and a great example of how a Train the Trainer session is about far more than just the course content. The learner in question will be able to apply what he learned about himself to his own sessions and make the learners feel as valued as he did at NTS.


When people feel valued, they want to participate, and are more inclined to learn. Using the knowledge that is already in the room is the key, and it’s why I love my job!


To find out more about our Train the Trainer courses and book yours online, click here.

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