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Trainer Assessment: A guide to measuring the performance of trainers and facilitators – Review


Author: Leslie Rae
Publisher: Gower
Published: March 2002
Price: £47.50

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As I read this book, the Winter Olympics were drawing to a close amidst controversy over the scoring system used for the figure skating championships. 'Artistic interpretation' and 'technical merit' are scored using a panel of judges whose marks are combined to produce a total score. Whilst some errors produce automatic deductions, the system still requires a considerable subjective element. With the memorable exception of Torvill and Dean, skaters just do not score perfect top marks. And when you ask "what would it take to get a perfect score?", no-one can tell you.

In my experience, similar thinking applies to the evaluation of many trainers. You listen closely to the client's needs, you develop a memorable course, your performance on the day feels just brilliant, the verbal feedback is excellent. And then you look at the participant evaluations to discover that they've marked you at 4/5. Just what would it take for them to give you perfect score? They don't know. There is something indefinable, something personal, something entirely subjective, about the process of evaluating the performance of individual professionals.

OK, maybe this analogy takes the comparison a little too far, but the question of measuring effectiveness lies at the heart of Leslie Rae's revised second edition of his 1991 handbook on the subject. Leslie is a highly experienced trainer with a host of respected books to his name. Here he's tackling not the common subject of evaluating training, or measuring the impact of learning, but the more complex issue of assessing the effectiveness of the trainer's own skills.

This is a comprehensive book. It successfully places the trainer's role within the wider context of learning theories. The earlier text has been extensively updated to reflect the many changes in theoretical approach and practical role which have taken place over the past decade. In particular, the role of the trainer as learning facilitator, the greater use of participant-centred activities, the introduction of online tutoring, the growth of self-study, and the use of multi-format learning are all explored for their impact of measuring professional effectiveness. I enjoyed the chapter of Trainer Types for it's succinct presentation of much useful material on the role of different trainers. If (as many trainers do), you feel somewhat lacking in a solid grounding in training theory, there is much of value in this book.

As you'd expect, the book is full of assessment techniques, questionnaires, feedback tools, rating scales and other instruments, both within the body of the text and in a series of appendices. In such an authoritative book, my main quibble would be that Leslie's text has been somewhat let down by the publisher's format. This is a relatively dense text over 230 pages. The font size varies to distinguish text from instruments, but there is insufficient differentiation. Because of the limitations of the books size, many of the instruments do not lend themselves easily to being copied and used: instead, the reader would need to cut-and-paste, or photo-enlarge them.

My interest naturally took me to the new chapter on technology and the trainer. Leslie has added a useful overview of the changes facing trainer delivery in this area and includes a useful tool for assessing internet and multimedia training programmes. I suspect that over the next year or two, we will see the rapid growth of tools for the assessment of online tutoring and training skills, as we develop more familiarity and expertise with these methods. Certainly many of the programmes and tutors operating in this medium today leave much to be desired in terms of their effectiveness in supporting learning.

This is probably not a book to read from cover to cover, but its an excellent resource to dip into one chapter at a time. There is much material to remind, challenge and develop us all. So how would I score it? Oh, probably 5.9 on my subjective scale – but then I can't define a perfect 6.0 either.

Tim Pickles,
Founder, TrainingZONE


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