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TRAINING

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.

~ October 2006 ~ Topics

Learning Transfer
Fuzz Rates and Change


Learning Transfer

Did the learner get it? Was there understanding? Can the learners do it? Did the learning "take?" These are questions asked by trainers that relate to "learning transfer." Learning transfer means the student has absorbed the information to the point of mastery.

How does the trainer insure mastery? By designing a learning environment with elements to lead to transfer of information from the trainer-teacher to the student-learner. Here are some techniques to aid in transfer.

    • Vary training exercises in relationship to format, involvement, novelty, time consumption, realism, intensity, and degree of topic-relatedness.
    • Prior to training ask the volunteer what goals they hope to achieve during training. Ask the person to jot down two things he/she plans to learn during the training session. As part of the training plan, ask participants to report whether their goals have been met.
    • Exercises that are totally individual are desirable to ensure that everyone understands and/or can perform a task.
    • Work in teams of two or three. This leads to great participation and a wider variety of input. Adults learn best from one another.
    • Observation. Learners can observe something being done and then discuss what was within guidelines and what was not. Hospital volunteers being trained, for example, could be sent to the lobby for 20 minutes to observe patients in wheel chairs being pushed by other volunteers or paid staff. (The trainer might arrange to have a "bad" situation occur for them to observe, using other experienced volunteers.) The group then reconvenes to discuss what has been observed in light of the guidelines on using wheel chairs.
    • Create a job training plan. Ask the volunteer to write a training plan for a new volunteer for the job for which he/she has just completed training. This would occur near the end of training.
    • Contracting. Create a system of "contracting" with the volunteer that involves action planning when he/she is on the job. It is easy to forget the lessons learned in the classroom when the press of duties is strong. A written contract serves as a reminder of what was learned.

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Fuzz Rates and Change

The environment of a volunteer program is undergoing substantial shifts. Fewer traditional volunteers, short-term service, corporate volunteers working on project, advocacy volunteers, and the "drop-in." The role of the manager of volunteers, as well as the role for volunteers is undergoing a change -- a paradigm shift.

When social institutions, like volunteering change, it requires participants in the institution to change or fade-away. Managing some of the things happening in volunteering is a daunting task for managers who deal with it on a daily basis. What about the volunteer who has been involved with the organization for 10 years and is noting these shifts? Is she prepared to make the changes needed? Is he going to be enthusiastic about the years ahead for the organization and its mission?

Dealing with change is challenging. The best place to start with managing change is by knowing our own tolerance for change. It can be new policies, a physical move, new computer programs, expanded client services, or any of a million things. To know whether a person is likely to encounter some anxiety and resistance to coming change (It will come, you know!) it might be good to assess their tolerance for shifts in paradigm. Here is a simple tool to allow for personal assessment. After taking the assessment volunteers and/or staff, the manager of volunteers can develop in-service and training programs to help reduce the anxiety level for people who are dealing with a "shifting" world.

Change Tolerance Assessment

Directions: This assessment asks the respondent to rate their tolerance for change in four areas. Begin by determining your ranking. Then draw a line with an arrow to indicate how far to the left or right you belief you are prepared to extend your rating. In the EXAMPLE below the person starts at 2.75 and indicate they could move close to 4 in venturing into the unknown. There are no right or wrong answers.

Example
Safety
Avoid risks, protection is through rules.
Spontaneity
Willing to risk, like moving into unknown.
1 2 3 4 5

 

1. Safety
Avoid risks, protection is through rules.
Spontaneity
Willing to risk, like moving into unknown.
 
1 2 3 4 5

 

2. Comfort
Avoid challenges to belief system, no pain.
Meaning
Willing to confront life, o.k. with contradictions.
 
1 2 3 4 5


3. Information Insight
Value facts, answers, being sure Value asking questions, o.k. with uncertainty, eager to learn
1
2
3
4
5
4. Stability Possibility
Honor tradition, commitment, the past Change brings possibilities, no fear of surprises
1
2
3
4
5


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Want more ideas for training? Check out our online bookstore for Handling Problem Volunteers by Steve McCurley and Sue Vineyard. Details for Handling Problem Volunteers Book

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COLLEGE PROGRAMS ON NONPROFIT AND VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT

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://tltc.shu.edu/npo/. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.



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