Sue Gower has operational and strategic experience of the third sector, NHS, judiciary, local government, safeguarding and of early help transformation. She is a qualified teacher and project manager with experience of successfully implementing national IT initiatives in local government. Sue is also an LGA Peer and formerly a C4EO Sector Specialist for early intervention, child poverty, disability (including palliative care and young carers) and safeguarding. She is a qualified GDPR Practitioner, a CEOP Ambassador Trainer and a Core Skills Trainer for the National Offender Management Service.
Sue currently works as Programme Development Manager for Kent Safeguarding Children’s Board (KSCB), which role involves extensive partnership working across Kent. She leads on multi-agency Learning and Development, manages a college of trainers and has developed a successful training programme that both supports multi-agency partners and generates income. Sue also leads Kent’s Child Death Review arrangements, with responsibility for analysing child deaths and promoting learning. In this role, Sue developed and implemented eCDOP; a secure, web based, case management system that supports the statutory child death review process and is now used widely across the UK.
Sue received an MBE in 2009 for voluntary service to disabled children and young people in Bexley.
What makes for effective training?
In January 2018, I was both surprised and delighted to be the first recipient of the BASPCAN/NSPCC Trainer of the Year award. I’ve recently been asked to share my thoughts on training; how I’ve developed myself as a trainer and other aspects that may be of interest to others, which I’m delighted to do. One size never fits all, but hopefully this blog will be of interest to training colleagues!
So, what makes for effective training? If only there was an easy answer! But having reflected on the way in which my training has developed over the years, I have a few thoughts which I’m happy to share as a ‘4 step’ guide.
- … is everything! Make sure you have plans b, c and d to cover off potential issues – particularly of the IT type! Much of my training involves the use of a PowerPoint presentation/YouTube clips, so early arrival at a venue to set up and test is essential. If there are problems with the Wi-Fi connection, the personal hotspot on my phone is an invaluable alternative connection. I carry an inexpensive set of speakers and extension lead with me at all times, together with a portable flip chart and marker pens – and now also a HDMI adapter to cope with projectors whose leads are not HDMI compatible! My ‘Training Box’ contains blu tack, post it notes, pens and A4 paper and an encrypted memory stick that contains a copy of the presentation. It’s also useful to have some alternative ‘hard copy’ exercises at hand to call on if the technology fails.
- Always familiarise yourself with the delegate list so that you’re aware of who’s in the room!
- As my training is multi-agency, the standard delivery model is cabaret style using 5 tables of 5, each of which is numbered. Each delegate on the list has a number against their name and sits at that table. Although there is usually a bit of reluctance to sit apart from team members, the feedback is always how useful it is to sit with members of other organisations – added value to the learning experience!
- I develop a ‘Working Instruction; for each course I design. This details: the date of design and rationale for the course; aims and objectives; media clips and their web links, exercises and materials needed and a lesson plan with timings. I always have a copy with me and use it as a guide through the training – really useful to keep on track and manage the content and to timetable an update.
- A mid-morning break no later than 80 minutes after the course has started is a good idea i.e. 9.30-10.50. Much longer and people will start to wander, so always be guided by the body language and engagement of delegates.
- It’s difficult to engage people if you’re feeling nervous, so know your subject and deliver it confidently. Establish your expertise at the beginning and draw on relevant examples from your experience to support the subject. And use the expertise of the delegates in the room to support the learning - you’ll learn a lot too! It’s also important to remember that no one except you knows the content of the course or how you anticipate it running! Sometimes, when there’s been a good discussion on one topic and you have less time for another, have the confidence to change the delivery – for example instead of group work that might take 15 minutes, a ‘board blast’ involving feedback from everyone takes 5 and will bring your timings back on track.
Make it interesting - I always use a range of learning techniques in my courses:
- One of the most enjoyable is drawing! As an icebreaker to set the scene, it’s easy to ask a question such as: “what does safeguard children mean to you? Please draw your answer!” Using flip chart paper and marker pens, delegates soon release their hidden artist and produce a drawing which they initially explain, and which is then put on the wall and referred to throughout the training.
- You Tube clips are impactive and informative – limit these to 10 mins though to avoid distraction. Learn how to crop clips so that you can take advantage of the plethora of documentaries and other media.
- Quizzes – lots of research available to ensure that statistics are current and can be referenced for credibility. To limit ‘paper’ I now put these on a couple of PowerPoint slides and animate the answers
- Case studies – delegates love discussion and this is a powerful learning method
- Storytelling – I take a real-life case study and summarise so that it can be written on about 10 numbered A4 pages. Each table is given a couple of sheets and delegates who are comfortable reading aloud asked to read the text on the page in sequence. A story incrementally unfolds at the end of which discussion takes place about what worked well – or not. This method directly involves the delegates and creates a calm listening environment.
- Feedback – at the end of the course I ask each person to share one thing they have learned that they didn’t know before or one thing they will take back into practice. This simple exercise lifts the energy and mood in the room just before they leave and also confirms the impact of the course.
Following these four steps have worked well for me – I hope you find them useful too!
Look out for Sue's follow up blog piece in a couple of months time on innovative approaches to training and techniques designed to engage learners!