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The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer manager's training level.

Training Image

~ August 2004 ~ Topics

Why Field Trips? Dinosaur Museum Image

The words "field trip" conjures a visit to a dairy farm in sixth grade. The field trip is actually definedas, "visits to pointsofinterest away from the training room." So a visit to the copy room is a field trip in the strict sense of the definition.

Before the trainer decides to use this training activity they need to consider two things: the purpose of the move away from the training site and steps to maximize the learning when the move is carried out.

What is the purpose? (check all boxes that apply)

 It is a means of enriching the training activity
 It is essential to counteract training that is largely abstract or theoretical
 It will provide a needed change of pace
 It is a chance to develop needed skills for the volunteer position.
 It will be fun, a motivator, or novelty in the training plan
 It provides the opportunity for an in-depth look at something needed to successfully carry out the volunteer position.

If you checked one box, then a field trip looks like a good choice for a training activity.

Tips to maximize the learning from a field trip:

  1. Write learning objectives to be accomplished during the field trip. When you have written them down ask yourself the question, "Is this trip really necessary?" Example: "The learners will be able to identify the perennial and annual bedding plants in the gardens." Pictures might work for this, but if volunteers are conducting tours or weeding, best to have them see the real thing.
  2. Logistics, logistics, logistics. Suppose your visit is to the "equipment" room in the office - fax, copier, laminator, etc. Who do you contact in advance to set up a time when the room will be out of commission for paid staff and on-duty volunteers? How to get to the room without disrupting the flow of other work? Can you get all trainees in the room? How long will you take? Who can demonstrate the operation of machines? Success of field trips lies in the planning.
  3. Provide volunteers with worksheets or written instructions of what to look for while on the field trip. Allow volunteer trainees to work in groups or pairs to answer questions on the worksheet related to what they are learning. For example, in the garden visit a question might be, "Draw the annual bed with yellow and purple pansies. Draw the things around it and label them (walk-ways, statuary, trails, etc.)."
  4. Conduct a debriefing discussion when you return to the training room. Have photos or diagrams to display for people as you discuss what was learned on the field trip. Do not stint on time for this activity. Adults need process time to cement things in long term memory. This time helps provide that.
  5. In the evaluation of the training session, ask specific questions about the field trip. This brings you feedback to adjust the training in the future.

*From The Winning Trainer by Julius E. Eitington

Plan an EDU-VACATION - April 26-29, 2005

Training for managers of volunteers, leading to a certificate, is being held April 26-29, 2005. Sponsored by Washington State University, the Volunteer Management Certificate Program will be held in Port Hadlock, Washington, in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Topics include:

Recruitment Evaluation
Training Management and Supervision
Recognition Risk Management
Diversifying the Volunteer Pool The Internet as the Manager's Next Best Friend

Interactive Case Models based on student process is the focus of Learning Activities.
For more information, visit the website at: http://www.emmps.wsu.edu/volunteer.

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Assess Learning for Volunteers

Assessing training sessions should contain a public and private review of the material in the course. Here is a two-part method designed to allow for personal and group reviews.

Public Review
Private Review
  • Provide participants with lined 3X5 cards. Ask them to list five (two, seven, ten, whatever the trainer feels is appropriate) learning points from today’s training.
  • When the oral review is complete ask the person to turn the 3X5 card over. They are to select two items from the original list.
  • Ask each person to select one of the items they listed and report it aloud to the group.
  • For each item they are to write things to do to help cement or practice that learning for the future.
  • Trainer should limit comments to affirmations.
  • Suggest the card be placed in a location where the trainee will find it periodically to see how well they are carrying out the plans made during training.

  • A variation on this is possible if the training is done in two sessions. The trainer can assign a code number to each individual and have the person write it on his/her card.

  • Collect the cards, after the private review is complete, and summarize the plans of the group, without identifying names. At the next session return the card to its owner for future reference.

Interested in more information on training? Check out our online bookstore for Training Techniques in Brief, authored by Stan Smith and The Great Trainer's Guide by Sue Vineyard.

Training Techniques Book The Great Trainer's Guide Book Image


Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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