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Effective Planning in Training and Development reviewed

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Title: Effective Planning in Training and Development
Author: Leslie Rae
Publisher: Kogan Page
ISBN: 0-7494-3359-0
Price: £19.99

Leslea Rae is well known in the world of training and is responsible for many well known and equally well-thumbed books such as his guides to training techniques, training aids, people skills and so on.

This latest volume focuses less on the practical nitty-gritty of training and what happens in front of learners and more on the vital processes that lead up to training in the first place... planning and designing the training programme and deciding on how to best deliver the learning. However, in doing so it frustratingly mixes useful detail and critique with sparseness and brevity.

Divided into four parts, the book first considers the organisational, programme and learners; needs and objectives. Starting with training needs identification and analysis (TNIA) Leslie clearly sets out the roles of all of the management, trainer and learner stakeholders and usefully points out that training may not be the only solution to a problem. He then goes on to touch on the principles of pre-course consultation, adding the caveat that if your not going to take notice of learners' responses, don't do it! Chapter two covers learning theory and offers both the traditional Kolb learning cycle and an alternative model of learning which recognises that we flit about between experience, reflection and so on rather than slavishly follow Kolb's neat circle. These lead naturally into Honey and Mumford and a succinct explanation of how training activities can be adapted to suit individuals' learning styles. A useful section also discusses how language, the environment, trainee psychology and trainers themselves can raise barriers to learning. The third chapter offers advice on both setting and writing learning objectives (with a useful lexicon of action verbs) together with an analysis of their pros and cons and practical applications.

Part two focuses on on-the-job training. The first chapter (four) handles the planning stages, making reference back to the previous chapters, and offers a series of key questions to ask prior to deciding on a course of action. The rest of this, and the following chapters, describe competence based approaches (NOS/NVQs) and a range of on-the-job training techniques ranging from good old "sitting with Nellie" and "GAFO" (go away and find out) to individual coaching and mentoring, team development and delegation. Split across the two chapters, each is dealt with in turn but in varying levels of detail. The pros/cons and processes of coaching take up eleven excellent pages and it is a pity that this is not repeated for each method. The final chapter in this section covers "alternative on-the-job training approaches" such as action and open learning using books and text based learning, video, multi-media and CBT. As with the previous section, the level of detail varies and is at times leaves the reader wanting more evaluative comment.

As one may anticipate, part three covers off-the-job training approaches. Organised in a similar way to part two, it covers the same planning considerations, pros and cons and also offers a useful blueprint to designing programmes. It then briefly describes training techniques, from trainer presentations, workshops, seminars and so on to role-plays, brainstorms and simulations. Again, the level of information is variable and in this case role-plays are singled out for the greatest coverage. Chapters nine and ten offer invaluable guidance on planning sessions, deciding on appropriate techniques and preparing tutor material for both traditional "training" and "activity" based events. On a practical note, Leslie points out the dangers of relying on technology (we all know the dangers of not having a lo-tech back-up) and also rather quaintly refers to "a surfeit of slides" as an alternative to the more graphic "death by overhead" (or increasingly PowerPoint).

The final part covers post training evaluation and validation. Comprising a single chapter (Leslie has previously written entire books on the subject) he first discusses reactionaires. Better known as "happy-sheets" he points out that they do have a genuine, if limited, use to monitor the physical aspect of the course and venue. In describing more rigorous evaluation techniques, a range of techniques is described and sample material offered. The chapter also closes the training loop by considering how evaluation reflects back to the TNIA starting off point and should be measured from each stakeholders' perspective as identified in chapter one.

Overall I would describe this book as a bit of a Curate's Egg. Just about everything it offers is of value but in some cases the information is a little briefer than one may wish. These sparser parts may not have seemed so obvious if others had not been much more fully developed and jam-packed with useful information. Somehow I feel that Leslie could have written a much more useful book if he had either brought his vast knowledge and experience together into a thicker volume which covered all aspects in equal depth or edited out some of the detail to create a "bare-bones" planning guide.




Neil Wellman
NetWork Associates
wellman@aol.com

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