Systems Approach to Training

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Once the training plan has been established, it’s time to direct your attention to each individual training session within the plan. This chapter will take you through the process of developing and delivering training using a systems approach. By using a systems approach you’ll be able to create high-quality training events.

The five phases in a systems approach to training are analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate.

You may have heard these steps referred to as Instructional Systems Design, or ISD. It is also called ADDIE after the first letter of each phase of the training development and delivery system. No matter which term you use, a systems approach to designing and delivering training helps you stay attuned to the participants, work more efficiently, and achieve measurable outcomes.

Analyze the needs of your audience.

The ADDIE approach is an orderly process to help you work smarter and train better. The first phase of the process is analysis. In the analysis phase, look at the situation and the needs of the participants to determine what each specific training must include. The analysis can be exhaustive and include written surveys of all participants and thorough document reviews. On the other hand, it can be as simple as a few phone calls or informal questions asked of the likely participants.

The key benefit of a successful analysis phase is ensuring that every training session you offer meets the needs of the target audience.  Additional benefits include:

  • Ability to engage your audience and build investment prior to the training
  • Increased attendance at trainings because the sessions are relevant to participants’ needs
  • Deeper trust between the training organization and participating organizations

Design the training experience.

The design phase involves building the skeleton of your training. In this phase you determine many elements, including:

  • Educational objectives (determined, in part, by results from the analysis phase)
  • Training title
  • Training structure and outline
  • Brief description of the training
  • Method of delivery (in-person or virtual classroom)

Some aspects of the analysis and design phases of the ADDIE approach might already begin while the training plan is being created. There is significant overlap between the analysis and design phases and the steps needed to create the training plan. However, it’s still important to be intentional when thinking through the design for each individual training. The benefits of a successful design phase include:

  • Identification of the core learning objectives and purpose of the training
  • Careful thought about the specific components of a training session prior to engaging in detailed development

Develop the materials you will need.

In the development phase, you take the skeleton created during the design phase and fill it in to create a valuable learning experience for participants. This involves developing the instructor lesson plan, participant handouts, and selected media, such as PowerPoint presentations, video, or audio.

At this point, it’s important to think through the training session from the learner’s perspective. Consider using small groups or interactive activities to increase knowledge retention. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 50% presentation and 50% participation. Presentation includes delivering new information. Participation is any interactive teaching method, such as role play, simulation, discussion, demonstration, or opportunity to practice. During the development phase, identify presentation methods and participant activities that are appropriate for the content.

All adults have previous learning and predetermined ideas – correct or incorrect – about any topic being presented. Participants will adopt and interpret new information based on their pre-existing mental frameworks. It’s the facilitator’s job to present the framework that he or she will use to provide new information in a way that clears people’s minds and prepares them to learn. The facilitator also needs to bring everyone into the conversation, establish a shared vocabulary for purposes of the training session, and set and manage learner expectations.

The benefits of dedicating time to the development phase are:

  • A well-planned training session that addresses adult learners appropriately
  • Confidence on the day of the training
  • A reusable lesson plan that others can use to facilitate the session

Implement the training experience.

In this phase, a skillful trainer engages the participants and brings the lesson plan to life. As the training is conducted, the participants gain practical information that they can practice and apply in their workplaces. This can have a significant positive impact on their organizations. The trainer should be an instructor, guide, coach, and/or facilitator. Trainers need to be familiar with adult learning principles and should review them before entering a training session to best incorporate them into their facilitation. When implementing the training session, it is important to prepare participants by helping them identify their own personal learning goals and by helping them be “present” for the experience.

Presenting new information is critical to implementing a session. Lecture can be effective if you actively elicit group participation or stop every 10 minutes and instruct participants to share their thoughts and questions in pairs or small groups. Otherwise, it’s best to use more engaging and interactive forms of presenting new information. Ideally in the development phase, you’ve identified several methods and activities for presenting new information. The trainer’s goal in the implementation phase is to use methods that the participants will be most responsive to.

The benefits of well-implemented training include:

  • Learners who remain engaged throughout the session
  • The sharing of knowledge and skills that learners can apply in their workplaces
  • Satisfied participants and community organizations

Check your understanding of the ADDIE approach.

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Evaluate for ongoing improvement.

Although evaluation is the last phase of the ADDIE process, it actually occurs at every point along the way: analysis, design, development, during implementation, and after implementation. In the early phases, you’re evaluating the work you’ve done and your preparedness to move into the next phase.

The design phase is when you identify the intended outcomes of the training session and their indicators. This is the best time to ask yourself how you will know whether the learning objectives have been met and what kind of impact the session has had on participants’ behaviors.

During implementation, you’re evaluating your participants’ knowledge and body language and adapting your session as you go to meet their needs. Trainers often ask learners to reflect on the impact and quality of the training at the end of the session through an evaluation form. This is one way to measure whether you met the objectives of the session.

And finally, after implementation, you are evaluating whether the session led to changes in behavior for the participants. Great training organizations check back to see how these changes in behavior have affected the organizations, their practices, and their outcomes.

There are many benefits to evaluation, which include:

  • Targeted and engaging  training
  • Improved services offered by your organization
  • Ability to prove training impact and gain funding

Try an appreciative evaluation to deepen learning experience.

Click this link to download a list of appreciative review and standard evaluation questions.

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