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September 20, 2011  |   Comments (2)   |   Post a comment

Getting the most out of in-service training

Theories on adult learning suggest that for it to be effective, educators must gain buy-in from the adults, get them involved in the topic and keep presentations fresh. Creating a theme for instructional sessions, a technique that can easily be applied to training for pupil transporters, helps to achieve buy-in and involvement.

by Keith Lowery


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This team during the 2009 Maryland Driver Instructor Conference was called the Raiders.
<p>This team during the 2009 Maryland Driver Instructor Conference was called the Raiders.</p>

Themes enhance the learning process

Building a meeting around a theme can create excitement, build morale, generate anticipation and increase attention spans. The best part is, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Coming up with an appropriate theme for an in-service meeting can be as easy as typing in “theme for event” in any search engine. By using this and other, similar searches, a plethora of ideas will be at your fingertips. The difficulty will be narrowing all of the theme options to just one.

Creating a theme for your next in-service meeting fits in nicely with the principles of andragogy. The employees will enjoy learning in an “adult-oriented, cooperative, non-authoritarian setting and climate,” according to material on Knowles from Gale Virtual Reference Library. With bus operators and assistants participating in theme-related large or small group activities, they will be glad they came and eager to come to the next meeting. 

Themes work for conferences, too
In 2003, having a theme for the Maryland Driver Instructor Conference started off as a creative way to get attendees to the workshops on time, ready to participate and learn. Every other summer in Maryland since then, the driver instructors use a different theme to create excitement, build teamwork and have fun.

Once the theme is chosen, a conference program is developed; the program cover helps to visualize the theme. Participants are separated into four or six teams and given a name that captures some component of the theme. Name badges are then created for each participant with his or her name on it as well as his or her group name. Since the participants come to the conference from all over the state, they are mixed together with attendees from different districts to develop new friendships and encourage networking.

A little friendly competition
A group activity takes place on the first night, and subsequent games are planned for the second, third and last day of the conference. Visuals or props are made to help each team see how they are progressing through the conference-long contest.

For the 2005 “Survivor” theme, the winning team was the last one to have at least one of its tiki torches still lit (with a paper flame).

The 2007 “music” theme highlighted popular Motown groups like the Supremes and Temptations. The objective that year was to get enough points to reach the top of a jukebox. Each of the six teams also had platinum, gold and silver records awarded to them after each competition, which were displayed on the teams’ tri-fold boards. On the final day of the conference, each of the six groups got on stage and performed a pre-selected song that the singing group made famous. The rules for the activity only required that the performances be fun, but tasteful. Some groups sang with the music, sang over the music, danced to the music or made up new words for their song.

The 2009 “pirate” theme featured sails made out of burlap, with the team name on the top and a geographic area of Maryland on the bottom. Each map resembled a treasure map, with broken lines marking the path the teams would take through Western, Central and Southern Maryland, as well as the Eastern Shore. The culminating event required each of the four groups to enter two of their members in a “scallywag fashion show.” Each group was awarded points based on the outfits, script, walk and overall presentation.

Why has the planning committee for this conference put a priority on supplementing the customary workshops with theme-related activities and events? By creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment, attendees get out of their comfort zone and feel free to share with other attendees their struggles, triumphs and successes.

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Read more about: in-service

Inservice training to be effective with adults attending must adapt the content to three groups in the audience: Regular Route Drivers, Special Needs Drivers and Special Needs Bus Monitors. Much of the monthly inservice training is geared for regular route drivers and does not address the unique questions, challenges and safety performance requirements to special needs driver teams. Another point please--the presenter should not read to the adults what is viewed onthe screen. Adults can read for themselves. The presenter should have brief statements on the screen and discuss each face-to-face with the audience and not turn away from them to read it aloud. Another challenge presenters often experience is the questions that occur mid-sentence, mid-thought or mid-presentation. A presenter who says "Hold all questions until the end of my presentation please." has lost the audience's urgent need for questions. Why not interrupt the presentation and deal with questions as they occur? The presenter should adopt the approach of "any question answered, any time asked." Further, if the presenter does not know the answer to some of the questions put forth by audience members that authority figure should say: "I don't know the answer but I will get back to you with it as soon as possible." This MUST be followed up with minimum delay to get the answer not only to the individual in the audience that asked it, but to all of the audience. The answer can come in the next monthly inservice meeting where all can hear, know and utilize the information provided. With adults in an adult audience we presenters must never "talk down" in any way at any time to those in the audience. Adults understandably resent this greatly and shut off their attention to the presenter and that content of the presentation. When you have lost your audience it becomes painfully clear to the presenter that everyone in the audience already knows what you are saying and needs to know more or they have hear

Dr. Ray Turner    |    Sep 21, 2011 02:48 PM

I was blessed with a country mother that knew how to trigger what is over 5 decades later referred to as ‘Self-directed learning.’ Not much later after birth (less than a year) my mother would began reading stories from books, then at about a year or so later began accumulating all sorts of curiosities. By the time I was a few years of age (2nd child) we had three complete encyclopedia sets in our living room, 1,000 stories children’s book collection volumes, all sorts of other books and magazines, including National Geographic, Life, Popular Mechanics, Ranger Rick, etc., eventually erector sets and wood construction sets (my sister and myself would combine these for expanded projects), science, electronic an biology project labs (made paper and tape missiles with fire crackers in the top that shot 400+ feet up, then exploded), all sorts of coloring books and drawing tools...it seemed endless the stuff accumulated that we had available to play with while having no idea we were also learning all sorts of essentials with no fuss at all. She didn’t instruct us to study, simply had abundance available that most any normal kid would eventually explore.

jkraemer    |    Sep 21, 2011 11:34 AM

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