Group Training Methods Increase Retention

The reader comes to this blog entry with some real life experiences. So my goal is to simply provide an opportunity for the reader to build on what they already know or perhaps change it to something that works better. As SHE trainers it is important for us to continue to learn new methods of training.

When training adults in safety, health, and environmental subjects I like to use group learning as opposed to individual learning. That is because adults prefer to work through information and get physically involved much like they experience in real life. Adults usually work in groups and issues are often resolved by groups in real life. To be effective trainers must learn about innovative methods and consider using them in their training. It is important to provide opportunities for the students to engage in the learning process. By engaging learners, the instructor can increase retention and understanding of the material. In this blog entry I will highlight three methods of group training for the reader’s consideration. I have drawn these three methods from an article I wrote for Professional Safety. The article was “Engaging Learners: Techniques to Make Training Stick”, Professional Safety, August 2011.

Method 1 – Group Projects with Single Response

The trainer breaks the class into groups of three or four students. Each student is provided a short description of a situation. This description is followed by questions that are to be answered by the group. Questions are normally limited to three, due to time constraints. Once the group has identified a single group answer for each of the questions the recorder stands and presents the answers to the class. Working in groups allows the students to get up and move around, discuss their ideas and opinions with other students, come to resolution of a single answer for the group, and lastly presenting experience to a class. Unfortunately, if working in groups is not supervised properly the students can drag it out and often include a snack or bathroom break using valuable class time.

The trainer breaks a class of twenty into five groups of four students. The students review an accident situation, answer two questions about the Psychology of Safety, and select a member to present the group’s findings to the class. The description of a situation reads: You’re a small plumbing company in your fifteenth year of operation. Your company is laying sewer pipe approximately nine feet underground in a small town. This project will install sewer pipe and build a central sewer treatment plant in a small town. Your contract calls for you to dig trenches, install pipe, fill trenches, and install sod. The students answer two questions about investigating accidents that have occurred to personnel during this project. The first question is: At approximately 9:30 am a backhoe operator burns his hand while performing a maintenance check on the backhoe after it began having hydraulic problems. The operator sustained minor burns but lost the current workday from the injury. He returned to work the next day. What are the Activators, Competencies and Consequences at work here? The second question is: At approximately 6:30 am a laborer collapses after being struck by a seven-inch piece of pipe while it was being sling lowered into the trench. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. He sustained a concussion and remained hospitalized for three days. What attitudes were present? Members of the each group agreed to a single answer to each of the two questions. The trainer then called on each group to answer each question. The recorder for each group stood and presented an answer to each questions.

Method 2 – Group Projects with Individual Responses

The trainer breaks the students into groups of three or four students. Each student is provided a short description of a situation. This description is followed by questions that are to be answered by each student. Questions are normally limited to three, due to time constraints. The students in a group can discuss the answers with each other, but must write the answer in their own way or come up with their own answer. Once each student has identified an answer for each of the questions the trainer calls on various students to read their answers aloud to the class as a whole. It is more interesting to get different, but correct, answers to the same questions to show how differently people think. One way to do this is to ask for a student who has a different answer than those presented thus far to read his or her answer. This method allows the students to get up and move around, discuss their ideas and opinions with other students, decide on their own answer for each group, and present their answer to the group. If the method is not supervised properly the students can drag it out and often include a snack or bathroom break using valuable class time.

The trainer breaks a class of 15 into 5 groups of three. Each group is provided a CFR 29, 1926 to work with and each student is provided the description that reads: Review Subpart D of CFR 29, 1926; answer the questions below; and be prepared to present your answers to the class. The first question is: What was your impression of OSHA Subpart D? Were there any unanswered questions after reading the assignment? Each member of the group decides upon an answer to each question that he or she believes is correct. The trainer calls on students at random asking for answers that differ from the previous ones presented. The trainer gets three answers to each question to demonstrate diversity in responses.

Method 3 – Group Examinations

A class of students is separated into groups of 3-4 students to each. That group is allowed to sit together and discuss the answers to the group tests; however, groups are not allowed to work together on the answers. The group hands in one paper that is given one score. Each student receives an equal score to the group. The examination provides students a real life experience in problem solving by forcing them to work place as a group with give and take among the members to arrive at a single answer. It is important for each student to pull his or her own weight in the group. Trainers should walk around as the examination and encourage each student to participate.

A trainer breaks a class up into groups tells them that based on the scenarios assigned to each question that the group is to answer that question. The members of the group are allowed to discuss the question and must arrive at one answer for each question. The situation for the examination is: You’re a small Asphalt paving company in your fifth year of operation. Your company is currently working on paving eleven miles of road in a rural setting. Your contract calls for you to develop forms, deliver and lay Asphalt, maintain all hazard-warning lights during paving operations and to remove forms and place dirt up to and level of the new Asphalt surface. Answer the questions below about reporting accidents that have occurred to personnel of your organization during this project. The first question is: At approximately 7:30 am a flagman is struck by an oncoming motor vehicle. The flagman sustained numerous minor injuries and is forced to remain in the hospital for five days before being sent home for an additional five working days. What actions must be taken to investigate this accident properly? The second question is: At approximately 10:30 am a laborer collapses on the ground near the laying site. He is rushed to the hospital by ambulance. He has sustained a serious back strain from shoveling Asphalt. The doctor noted no previous back injuries had occurred. The employee spent seven days in the hospital and received treatment twice a week for therapy for six weeks. Doctors recommended he not return to work for your organization. What actions must be taken to investigate this accident properly? The third question is: Five personnel are injured in a motor vehicle accident at approximately 2:30 pm on a rainy afternoon. They were riding in the back of a company truck when it was struck from behind by an automobile driven by a local resident. All five personnel received minor injuries and two spent two days in the hospital, two spent three days in the hospital and one was treated and released. The local residence’s insurance company paid all medical expenses. What actions must be taken to investigate this accident properly? As each group finishes answering the question the trainer gives them a break so they don’t disturb the other groups. Once all groups as finished the trainer gives the grade for each question to each member of that group.

This blog entry is about training. Many adults sit through classes waiting for some expert to provide them with all the answers to their jobs most challenging safety hazards and probably take little or nothing away from the training. Don’t be that kind of trainer. Learn as many new methods as you can. Not all will work for you, but the more you know the more appropriately you can target learning methods to the students.

Bibliography.

– Fanning, Fred, “Engaging Learners: Techniques to Make Training Stick”, Professional Safety, August 2011.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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