Tip #83: Auditing Training: Looking at the Content Decisions
The first training decision category is what content to teach next.
The findings from an audit of an asbestos abatement project design refresher class will help to elaborate on the types of strengths and deficiencies I have observed in this category.
The general purpose of a refresher class is to review, share ideas, and update the trainees on the new developments in the industry.
First, the training program as it is currently organized includes the review and update on many new industry developments.
The topic of the problems with asbestos and real estate was a good choice.
The section on health effects, respirators, negative air machines and containments was very complete. The group discussion on negative air machines and the problems in maintaining negative pressure in containment covered a number of important issues, including the suggestion that they should test the negative air machines before using them to see that they were still efficient in taking asbestos fibers out of the air.
The safety procedures section was very thorough, particularly the discussion on emergency cases. Other safety suggestions that the instructor made were also very important, including checking for signs on more than just the first day and making sure to use the right respirators for hazards other than asbestos.
The section on legal updates for federal, state, and local regulations was also very well done.
Second, some excellent examples were given that related to the trainees’ experience to help them comprehend the information.
It is clear that the instructors are competent and have practical knowledge and experience in their field. In discussing how asbestos impacts the industry, five realistic examples were given to identify the interests and concerns of all the parties who can be concerned by the presence of asbestos in a building, including tenants and mortgage lenders.
The section on electrical safety was done particularly well. Every trainee could relate to the example of the lighting system in the training room. Asking them what troubles they could get into if they were not careful about turning off the electricity got everyone involved and helped them to understand what they did and did not know about the subject. Since liability and safety are major concerns, the instructor had their undivided attention.
Third, the discussion of the role and responsibility of the project designer was very complete and effective. There were good discussion and examples given relating to what the project designer’s role is, when to accept a client, and what to tell the client. The trainees were given a good set of questions to ask and problems to be aware of relating to the skills, knowledge, ability, and ethics of a project designer.
For example, the instructor established a credible and effective ethical position when he said that it is the project designer’s responsibility to see that the job is done right. “If you want to get out of the responsibility, get out of the business.”
Deficiencies and Recommendations
There were six major concerns regarding the content, focus, and organization of the program.
First, there is no organizing principle. The program presentation and emphasis should be placed on what the project designer needs to know to do his or her job well. However, there was no cohesion or continuity to the structure of the course.
Second, the content is incomplete. Although the subjects presented were important and necessary, there were several content areas that were overlooked.
For example, the following subjects were either not covered at all or insufficiently covered: (1) potential exposure situations, (2) recommended and prohibited work practices, (3) scaffold and ladder hazards, (4) preparing abatement drawings and particular problems with abatement drawings, (5) when to consult with an architect or engineer, and (6) when it is necessary to get an architect’s signature on structural changes.
In the future, it would be helpful if the instructors conduct a task analysis of the material to identify the necessary information that should be included in the program content.
Third, the content emphasis is misdirected. The program seemed organized around the new equipment that is available to help the project designer do the job rather than what the project designer needs to know to do the job well.
For example, the instructor mentioned that a certain piece of equipment will help the trainees with their documentation. However, the instructor did not detail the kinds of documentation that the project designer will need to be in compliance or to limit liability.
In the future, the instructor may want to ask questions such as “What documentation is needed for air monitoring?” or have the trainees discuss sample problems keying on documentation or the other concerns that need to be reviewed. Then the instructor could present the slides of the equipment and say “As we discussed earlier, it is necessary that proper documentation of personal air monitoring be done and this piece of equipment will help you with that.”
Fourth, the information is presented in a way that lacks clear organization. The auditor recommends that, in the future, the instructors should give the trainees an overview of the format and content of the session.
For example, the beginning of the class should be devoted to letting the trainees know what to expect during the day and what the instructors expect from the trainees. In other words, the class should get a brief overview of the day’s events.
The trainees should also be given an agenda which identifies the various subjects that the instructor will be covering. This will help the trainees have a better understanding of the format and content of the session. It is not necessary to identify specific times for these subjects or for the scheduled break times on the agenda.
The learning objectives should be identified at the beginning of the session. Once a learning objective has been covered, it is useful to get closure and then provide transitional statements so that the trainees understand the relationship between the subjects that are covered.
For example, when the instructor summarizes health effects, he could ask the class to list the three major health problems associated with asbestos. After someone has answered this question, an example of a transitional statement is “Because we all know of the health problems, the next topic is set up to review and hopefully give us a better understanding of what we as project designers need to do to help limit exposure to asbestos fibers.”
Fifth, the course did not sufficiently take into consideration the specific content needs and concerns of the trainees. It would have been useful in determining the coverage and emphasis of specific subject areas if, at the beginning of the session, the trainees were asked to identify any specific information they wanted to get out of the training. Waiting for questions only ensures that the trainees will get clarification on what is presented. It does not ensure that what they feel they need to learn is presented.
Sixth, too much information is presented at one time. Despite the fact that this was a refresher overview, there was still too much information covered for the trainees to absorb and remember. Real learning is more likely to occur if a short meaningful amount of information is presented and then the trainees are given time to practice using that information.