Ramblings from Niki Tudge
Any training environment has the potential to exert pressure on students, and this can also manifest itself as stress. There are three key types of stress typically found in the training environment: unintended, intended and environmental.
- Unintended stress can be defined as stress that is not purposely placed on the trainee. It comes about as the result of poor preparation on the part of the trainer and can hinder the learning process. If we think about a time when we might have started a training session then realized we did not have the necessary equipment, or simply forgot where we were in the overall plan, our failure to be fully prepared may well create diversions and floundering on our part and place unintended stress on our students.
- Conversely, intended stress derives from the actual training conditions. It should be positive and increase students’ interest levels to create an optimal learning environment. Positive stressors should create skill-based or intellectual challenges that help students grow. They should in no way become aversive, and students should not fear or attempt to avoid them. The timing of training scenarios, or decision making and problem solving opportunities, can be positive stressors that students will embrace if they have been set up to succeed and are ready for the challenge.
- Lastly, there is the issue of environmental stress, which will naturally occur in the training environment. It is considered the “background or baseline conditions that may be part of a learning environment, but can still hinder the learning process.” (Davis, 2009, p.5). For example, our training environment may provide excessive noise, have poor lighting, or use equipment that makes for an uncomfortable experience. Sometimes the trainer can be perceived as intimidating by students and this can be stressful too. As trainers, we must always be cognizant of trigger stacking and understand how these multiple sources of somewhat inconsequential stress, when compounded, can greatly impact students’ ability to learn. Ultimately, they determine if the session is going to be productive and fun or not.
Like most jobs, the bulk of being a trainer is the consistent and regular application of basic skills and techniques that produce results… It’s not the flair for dramatics or unorthodox styles that educate students, despite the movies that glamorise otherwise. These basic manoeuvres are the simple steps that must be repeated over and over again to complete the journey from complete novice to competent practitioner. (Davis, 2005).
Training Should Reflect The Real World
Any training environment should best reflect the real world. This means that it must, as far as is possible, replicate any location where students will need to successfully implement the training.
If we are working with a private client and one of their goals is to prevent their pet from entering the kitchen while they are preparing dinner, then the kitchen is where the training should take place. Training should progress up the skill criteria ladder with each step being more difficult than the last, but all should be within the context of where the behavior is expected to be performed.
An example might involve teaching a client to train their pet to “leave it.” In this specific context, the client’s goal is for the cue to apply when their five-year-old child drops food on the floor. The training environment needs to incorporate all the normal setting events that occur in real life.
Situations such as this are where I think group classes often fall flat in terms of meeting clients’ goals. Encouraging clients to sign up for a set of classes to address a problem or a few problems that are not even in the class curriculum seems rather counterproductive to me. I believe we set ourselves up for failure in many situations because we try to squeeze clients into pre-existing service offerings that do not best provide solutions to their real-life problems. Yes, one can argue that if a client learns “leave it” in a group, then it can be applied to real world scenarios in the home. However, I would question whether most clients leaving group classes receive that level of support and post-group class tuition or follow-up. It is difficult enough when working with group classes to make it through the actual curriculum, let alone help each individual transfer these rudimentary skills to real life scenarios. Furthermore, this makes the assumption that the group classes are effectively working through the learning cycle. In my experience, they are more likely to consist of a series of uncomfortable lecture sessions, often with everyone on their feet throughout, no climate control, and very little hands-on practice and supervision.
What are your thoughts on this?