I just spent two days in training for an athletic related certification. I spent Saturday and Sunday sitting in a conference room for two nine hour days. I learned some new information about planning training for my runners. I was affirmed in my beliefs about interval work, mental training, and injuries. Many good things came out of these two days.
But alas, it is difficult as a teacher of teachers to be in a room for two days, sitting for almost 9 hours each day, and not have some critique about delivery. Quality professional development does not simply consist regurgitating facts with anecdotes; or at least, it should not be. It should be about providing a learning experience that allows participants not only to take in information but also process it. Care must be given to adult learning theory, advances in digital communication, and frankly, the human body’s capacity to remain sedentary for 8-9 hours.
Here I was, at a training for coaches of running….where we were not actively practicing movement. It was disturbing. We were seated in rows with our workbooks consisting of hundreds of slides and this was supposed to turn us into qualified coaches. It was unclear who was in the room, other than the professional triathlete and coach upon whom the head instructor picked for two days. Who were we, why were we there, what has brought us into this space? How could we have used our 18 hours of seat time to build relationships with other coaches and coaches-to-be? How could the training have been appropriately tailored to the group for optimum efficacy?
Well, I’m just playing Monday Morning Quarterback, but here are some ideas:
- Engage in a pre-training survey that is shared with the coaching team. Plan seating to build for teams. Provide demographics up front (rather than a show hands) so that people understand who is in the room.
- Rather than a cookie cutter approach to the curriculum-use the pre-survey information to target where more/less time should be spent on direct instruction. The manual is great-but work beyond reading the slides and adding personal narrative to convey the information.
- Consider front loading or “flipping” some of the instruction and creating self-paced learning modules for some of the more cut and dry content areas and use a forum to provide Q/A. (For example, some of the physiological material, nutrition, and injury material could easily be front loaded as could the history of running/coaching)
- Use adult learning theory-have people team up and read material together and present synthesis (with coach guidance, of course). Provide practical application of physical elements like form and injury prevention. Use multi-media approaches to demonstrate topics. Do a demonstration the elements of a training meso-cycle before presenting the expectation of one. (I’m thinking a think aloud.) Go outside and RUN.
- Consider separate tracks of courses for those coaching at different levels or at different distances. I used to coach adult marathoners but now I focus almost entirely on middle school and I learned no accommodations for youth. Also, consider a track for coaches who focus on volunteer or program based coaching and those who focus on building a business of group and individual coaching.
- Finally, just because someone is a fast runner or a good running coach does not necessarily mean they will be the best program director. Parse out qualities within your coaching facilitators to determine who will best serve your population in terms of emotional intelligence and conveying the organization’s message. (I found 3 out of the 4 instructors to be excellent, given the material and format in particular, but they were not the lead. This was frustrating, disappointing, and at times, offensive.)
Yes, there will be a formal survey. Yes, I feel comfortable sharing this information with the organization. And yes, now I need to study for my 100 question t/f and mc test. (I won’t even touch that subject!!) As an educator, I hope to always be striving to do things better. To always attempt to grow and serve in the best way possible. My criticisms are not meant to condemn, but to critique and help a good organizational framework become great.