Leading Edge Training Solutions

training trainers, supervisors and their teams


Subject Matter Experts don’t always make good Trainers

It happens often, and I can understand why. A person becomes the Subject Matter Expert (SME) in his or her field of expertise and as a result is chosen to train the new team members. In many cases however, the learner is frustrated – the teacher is going too fast, assumes prior knowledge, doesn’t give sufficient practice, doesn’t give helpful feed-back on progress. It’s not the SMEs fault. Far from it, they have the knowledge and skills on the subject matter but have never been taught the knowledge and skills required to facilitate a learning process.

A simple and yet immensely helpful concept, is for a SME to realise that they could be ‘unconsciously competent’. This occurs when a subject matter expert is so far ahead of the learner, that they are no longer conscious of the small steps or concepts the learner needs to acquire the new material.

We teach this concept and more, in our 2 day ‘On-Job Trainer’ course. The idea is documented in a model of learning called the Competence (or Learning) Ladder, although the diagrammatic representation is more like Competence Steps to me. The Model is attributed to a number of people and organisations but seems to have been first documented in 1969 by Martin Broadwell in the ‘Gospel Guardian’, an American Christian periodical.

When I was first introduced to the four-step model, some 18 years ago, I felt there should be a fifth step and added this to my own model. I have since seen others introduce a fifth step as well. Here is my version –

On the first step, Unconscious Incompetence, learners don’t know that they don’t know.
On the second, Conscious Incompetence, they are aware that they don’t know the subject.
On the third, Conscious Competence, they know how but have to concentrate to get it right.
On the fourth, Unconscious Competence, they are experienced and can do without thinking.
On the fifth, Conscious of Unconscious Competence, they are able to revisit stage 3 and teach others. Not every SME reaches this level, to do so usually requires the trainer/facilitator skills typically taught on an ‘On-Job Trainer’ course.

I have a more detailed and helpful article if you are interested. Give me a call or use our ‘Contact Us’ form.

Competence Ladder


Humour in training

I recently joined an online forum for Training Practitioners; its one of those things you might consider to help you see what fellow trainers are thinking in other parts of the word. I was attracted by a a discussion on ‘Incorporating fun/humour into training’ So I joined in, most folk agreed that they found spontaneous humour helpful and there were some interesting ideas to plan in some chuckles. I thought I would share my contribution here :-

‘Part of it I think is about knowing yourself and what works best for you. I don’t remember jokes and would not deliver a good punchline, but there are people who do. Most stand-up comedians spend a lot of time rehearsing their lines and the timing is important to them. As for me, rehearsing would be a disaster, I am spontaneous. But I do know that my spontaneous humour works best when I know the people I am with, so I invest in getting to know and relax with my course participants before the course. How? A few emails going between us prior to the course, being there with them having coffee/tea before the course, instead of standing up front reading my notes, a fun warm up activity fairly early on. So in a sense I have prepared the way for my spontaneous humour. And then there are those short video clips or comic strips salted into the presentation, carefully chosen to make a learning point, introduce a topic, but at the same time signalling that you have a sense of humour and we are going to have fun.’

You will find the full discussion


Does technology scare you, as a trainer?

Well it doesn’t seem to scare Purdy, the office cat, she’s all over the keyboard and off course the mouse; she has even been trained to watch the printing.

Personally, I love technology and can find my away around most situations when it doesn’t behave. But even in this day and age when computers are part of everyones lives, not everyone chooses to become fully literate with their hardware and software. One cant blame them, there is more to life than that and the field changes so quickly.

Crammed on the trainer’s table at our recent training for trainers course was a projector, amplified speakers, two macbooks, a camera, cellphone, remote controls and off course all the connecting wires. Over the years I’ve had to deal with laptops not talking to projectors, flash drives not showing up on the computer, video clips not opening on the available software, VGA connectors needing an adapter and recently a ‘keynote’ presentation created in the latest version of the software not opening on a computer with the previous version.

What’s the solution? Well, for me it’s 1.Take my own laptop and projector, even if there is a built-in system at the venue, 2. Checklist to make sure I have all the hardware I need (including that little adapter that I have left behind before, and the power lead) Have multiple video clip playback programs (quicktime, VLC, MPEG streamclip etc) 3. Save my presentations on multiple media (hard drive, flashdrive, CD/DVD) If you have created your presentation with the latest version of software and you are presenting on someone else’s computer you could use the ‘save as’ function to save a second copy in a previous version.

Overkill? feel free to join in the discussion to share your presentation horror stories or to give your ideas to cover all the bases.

trainer technology

Train the trainer makes an impact

How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your training? One of the best known frameworks for distinguishing between different types of evaluation comes from Donald Kirkpatrick. He constructed a four level hierarchy of evaluation, each of which is relevant and provides useful information to measure the success of a training intervention.

At level 1 learner reaction to the training is measured, at level 2 learning during the course is assessed. Level 3 measures behaviour change back on the job and level 4 evaluation deals with the impact the training has on the organisation. This is the difficult one to measure, but it’s not impossible.

Those who attend an Impact training for trainers course regularly give us great feedback on what they think of the course (level 1) and demonstrate their new skills by presenting during and at the end of the course. (level 2) They and their managers report improved approaches to course development and presentation. (level 3) As for level 4, we as training consultants are not called upon to undertake before and after impact studies, and most people don’t, so we cant say.

Trainers, like teachers are in a unique position to impact the people in their care, and well trained staff are undoubtably having an impact on their organisations.

I would love to hear, and report in this blog, how some trainers have gone about measuring and documenting the success of their training interventions.

train the trainer courses

A new season for IMPACT! Training for Trainers course

My association with the IMPACT course goes back nine years. The PIC (Performance Improvement Centre) was part of the Auckland College of Education and I was 'at the right place at the right time.' I was co-opted in to the team to help edit and write some of the material before it was sent to the publishers. As an associate of the PIC I was called in from time to time to facilitate IMPACT train the trainer and other PIC courses.

So whilst I am sad that Tom and Susan will be shutting the doors on PIC at this time, I am delighted and privileged to have been entrusted to fly the IMPACT flag for this season. We at Leading Edge Training wish Tom and Susan all the best in their respective new ventures. We look forward to working with the PIC clients who have supported and valued IMPACT over the many years of it's excellent service to New Zealand Trainers.

Impact training for trainers