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2000 tips for trainers and staff developers – review

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Title: 2000 Tips for Trainers and Staff Developers
Editor: Phil Race
Publisher: Kogan Page, 281 pp
ISBN: 0749436883
Price: £22.50

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I’m sure that there are 2000 tips in this well-presented book from Phil Race, independent trainer and Emiratus Professor at the University of Glamorgan. But more useful than a simple list of "2000 things you didn’t know about training" it groups the tips into five chapters, each dealing with an aspect of training.

Starting off with a chapter on face to face training editor, Phil Race, and contributors Sally Brown, Steve McDowell and Brenda Smith cut straight to the chase with their first tip "A training event should be an active occasion for participants, not just for us!". This is closely followed by the second, "Plan each training event like a journey, with a beginning, a middle and a goal". The chapter is itself divided into six sub-sections and 60 topics. For instance, the sub-section Getting training off to a good start offers twelve topics ranging from First impression count and Introducing yourself, to Establishing ground rules and Working with mature students. It is within each topic area that the tips are given, thus the First impressions count section offers tips such as: tell people where to go; be there when participants arrive; feed your participants; chat to participants informally as they arrive and be comfortable yourself.

The book then moves onto further chapters covering: group based training; resource based training; computer based training and evaluating your training. Each follows the same sub-section/topic/tips format to allow the reader to dip in and out around a subject or topic at will.

The chapter on group-based training is as good an example as any. It offers a wide range of tips, such as handling disruptive, domineering, know-it-all and chattering delegates and advice on how to get people back on time after breaks (use an odd time, such as 10.43 rather than quarter to eleven, and write it up on the board or flipchart... they didn’t add then start on time to embarrass latecomers into better time-keeping at the next break, so make that the number 2001). Whilst many tips are obvious (groups need more followers than leaders) others are useful insights into the behaviour of both the trainer (hide your knowledge and wisdom sometimes) and the participants (may non-participation be a cry for help?). Some of the more unusual tips include: forming syndicate groups by astrological sign; exercises on making a junk sculpture and helping participants make non-verbal feedback (hopefully not too physically?). Particularly useful is the long list of "anti-tips" on poor facilitator behaviour; a useful checklist of personal performance (try it... and be honest with yourself).

The fact that most tips are separated by between one and a dozen lines of explanatory text illustrates both the strength and the weakness of the book. For anyone already experienced in training it offers a compendium of useful ideas, some new, many old, to incorporate into everyday practice. However, the newcomer may have problems putting into practice some tips without more detailed guidance or, worse, may misuse the advice (for example the very first tip suggests "building the training event programme around the things that participants will do during the sessions..." I was always taught that the aims of the event came first and achieving these determined the activities). However, as the book cover itself acknowledges, it is not designed as a theoretical text book and instead aims to offer "structured point-by-point advice" as a "dip-in resource and handbook for those seeking to develop or improve particular areas of their training". Taking these as its aim, it scores on both counts and in so doing doesn’t descend into being merely the type of "book of lists" so beloved by pub-quiz freaks.

Neil Wellman, NetWork Associates, [email protected]

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