Preparing your training from start to finish

The Training Cycle

The Training Cycle

The training cycle is made up of four stages: firstly, you must identify the training needs; then you can design the training; before you deliver the training; and then measure its success.

This process is cyclical and ongoing: as a trainer and facilitator you should constantly be observing the workshop or activity and applying your observations to its design and delivery. Click below to read more detail about each stage:


Identify training needs

Usually, the training needs will have been identified before you were approached about the training and your training briefing will indicate the purpose of the training. Nevertheless, there is still additional information that you can collate to help inform you of the participants' training needs, both in advance and during the training.

In advance, you should think about what you need to know about the participants. We will usually find out what previous training experience they have and what experience they have of the subject matter. If there is anything else you need to know, just let us know. 

During the activity, observation is key. You can then establish the gap between the participants’ skills and/or knowledge and adjust the pitch of the programme accordingly. Just as importantly, you must ensure the other participants are aware of and understand the variance of skills and knowledge in the group. Sometimes, it is a good idea to use the more knowledgeable members of the group to help with the training.  

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Design the training

It is only possible to measure the success of your training if you know what it it is you want to do. This is why aims and objectives are important.

Aim

  • An intention or aspiration; what you hope to achieve.
  • Aims are statements of intent, written in broad terms.
  • Aims set out what you hope to achieve at the end of the project.

Objective

  • A goal or a step on the way to meeting the aim; how you will achieve it.
  • Objectives use specific statements which define measurable outcomes. For example: what steps will you take to achieve the desired outcome?

Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T

  • Specific – be precise about what you are going to do
  • Measureable – so that you will know when you have reached your goal
  • Achievable – Don’t attempt too much. Only set out what you know you can do.
  • Realistic – do you have the necessary resources to achieve the objective? For example: time, money, skills, etc?
  • Timely – determine when each stage needs to be completed. Is there time in your schedule to allow for unexpected delays?

Your event should have both an aim and a set of objectives. You may want to go even further and give each session its own set of aims and objectives. Whatever you decide, to ensure you keep to your aims and objectives you should share them with the participants at the start of the programme or session. They then know what it is you are trying to do and it will help you manage their expectations from the start. 

When designing each session, remember to take account of each type of learner and include elements that satisfy each of these. This means you need a mix of theory, with practical application, an example of how this skill is applied in real-life and a chance to reflect on what was learnt.

A typical session may begin with a group exercise to identify the participants' knowledge and understanding of a skill - capturing these on a flip-chart - and then collating these together into a pre-prepared piece of theory. You can then split the participants' into smaller groups and set a task with clear instructions and purpose. Finally, you might ask each group to present back to the plenary with time for feedback and questions.

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Deliver the training

It is usual practice to begin a training programme with an 'ice-breaker': an introductory exercise for the participants to meet each other and to create a more informal learning environment. This is especially beneficial when the participants do not know each other. Ice-breakers do not normally form part of the formal training programme, but they can teach new skills, such as team-working, public speaking and problem solving. A good ice-breaker should be enjoyable and involve movement, conversation and exchange.

Energisers help to motivate tired groupsEnergisers are short snappy exercises used to motivate and animate the group at particular points through the day. These are usually useful after lunch or late in the afternoon when energy levels are typically low. Energisers are also an effective way of sorting the participants into smaller groups for group work as they can get everybody to move around and change seats. For example, you could ask everyone to stand in height order, in alphabetical order or by the date of their birthday.

Don't forget to introduce your aims and objectives at the start of the programme and review these at the end of each day. This will not only help you to ensure you are achieving what you hope to achieve but will also help the participants' track their own progress.

An effective tool we use is a 'learning log'. This is an A4 piece of paper that you hand out to each participant at the start of the training. It should consist of a table which enables the participants to reflect on each session and to help them remember what they learnt and what they thought they could do at the end of each session. This plays particularly well for 'reflectors' but also brings benefits when measuring the success of the training. 

The learning log should look something like this:

Session What did I think of this session? What did I learn from this session? What can I use from this session? How can I learn more about the topic of this session?
         

You can either pre-populate the name of each session in advance on the log, or get the participants to do it themselves. You can also put in time at the end of each session for participants' to complete the log, or leave it to them to fill it in as they go.

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Measure success

By referring back to your aims and objectives you will be able to determine whether the training was a success. Did you do what you set out to do?

You will only be able to measure what change you have brought about there and then; you can't know what the participants will do when they return home. But you can get participants to agree to an action plan. Get them to write any agreements out on a piece of paper and sign it at the bottom. Once you collect these we can use them to write to the participants several weeks or months later to see if they did what they said they would do.

Peer assessment is essential to work of this nature and you should collect as much quantatitive evidence as you can: ask each participant to complete an evaluation form; encourage verbal feedback; and take videos or photos of the group practising what you have taught them. The evaluation is also an ideal opportunity for participants to review their individual learning logs and to draw out specific things they have learnt and what they said they would do. 

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