How to be a Proud Member of the Trainers’ Guild?
Experts who shared their views on the topic were: trainer-consultant Signe Valsberg (Aeternum Koolitus ja Konsultatsioonid), trainer and the Chairwoman of the adult training professional review committee Anu Harjo (Estonian Education Centre OÜ), trainer Georg Merilo (Läbirääkimiste Koolitus).
During the discussion, the focus was on the need of the trainers’ network, quality of training and the pride of being a trainer. The opinion of the training landscape being very fragmented stood out during the discussion – people talk about training as if the term would have very different meanings. This situation may be due to the fact that the vocation of a trainer is hybrid profession that is characterised by the fact that professional knowledge and skills are partially or fully obtained in the process of life-long learning. Trainers operate in different contexts and the professional group of trainers is not controlled by a vocational association, autonomy emanates from trustworthy relationships between the trainer, the client and the trainees. According to experts, the general public may indeed from time-to-time not understand what the profession of a trainer entails, because there are no unified values or principles that would have been agreed upon in the community of trainers.
Tuuli Perolainen, designer of the learning experience, suggested that we would define the terms of trainer and training in a very narrow way. A trainer is not only the person standing in front of us, but a person who supports, guides and also learns from his own trainees.
Georg Merilo proposed the development common standards for trainers, such as an introductory profile, initial assignments, feedback form, post-training report, etc. There were also opposing views to the proposed ideas.
Signe Valsberg thought: “Standardisation is, on the one hand, perhaps necessary to even out the quality, but at the same time, if we offer in-house training, then the client may have personal expectations and visions of what a high-quality training ought to be like. For me, quality is perhaps that Your “toolbox” is diverse enough that as a trainer, you are able to offer training that is suitable for the needs/expectations of the group. Who is responsible for the quality? In my opinion, both parties are responsible for the quality of the training, both the client and the one who executes the training.”
In the opinion of the participants in the discussion, it is not possible to formulate and foresee all the parameters influencing the training, rather the role of the trainer has to be performed in a meaningful way, since there are many ways to reach a goal. The main principle that has to be adhered to, is that the trainer must understand the needs of the TRAINEE and build a partnership between all parties. Jaana Liigand-Juhkam highlighted the fact that during the negotiations, the trainer has to understand the quality and content that the client wishes to receive. During the negotiations, the trainer is able to expand the understanding of the client in terms of the quality of the training. The discussion also led to confirming that it is a sign of quality, if the trainer has the courage to tell the client that there are people who are better than him/her and if the trainer does not attempt to accept all the offers he/she receives.
Signe Valsberg pointed out that thorough preparation is most likely to produce the desired result. In teaching, it is important to keep in mind what is the agreed upon learning outcome / result. It is also important to understand that an adult learner always has previous experiences and background knowledge prior to receiving the training. According to Signe, one of the signs of quality is if the trainer is able to rely on the values and principles of adult education.
According to Georg Merilo it is important to have a public database of trainers, a so called “mini-google”, in which it would be possible to see each trainer's specific ability, prior experience and the evaluations they have received. This would be valuable both to the clients, but also for the guild itself to learn to know each other and become more capable as a community.
The term “guild” raised different opinions among participants, they thought that it's better to talk about “networks” – this term is softer and better relies the actuality of the content. Networks are necessary for the professional development of a trainer, because it is important to have a community to rely on and provide professional feedback. In addition, less-experienced trainers need support for developing as trainers. It was also discussed how to benefit from the diversity of trainers and how is it possible to highlight the fact that all trainers are a valuable part of the community.
A good example of networking are the regional communities of trainers. Eda Anton presented the example of Tartu trainers’ club that regularly comes together to share experiences and to get to know each other, at the same time they discuss topics that are important for the community. Anu Harjo added that regular trainers’ meetings also take place in Tallinn and elsewhere (see also https://andras.ee/et/koolitaja-professionaalne-eneseareng-0). Signe presented examples of how her colleagues regularly do reflections, finding better solutions in the process; for that purpose, the trainers also invite a so-called “critical friend” to the training, so that he/she could highlight issues that the trainer may not notice.
The participants thought that it would be important to create a space and a room to be in a unified information field and to develop together though that. For training subjects to understand each other, they must speak the same language that would be a good starting point for the networking of trainers. Anu Harjo thinks that a certificate of a trainer is the quality label of a trainer and that certified trainers help to improve the training landscape. According to Anu, such a certification is important for the trainers’ own personal development including the aquisition and undestsanding of the necessary terminology about the field of training.
Trainers are proud if they can co-operate, act in a competent and ethical manner, understand the reasons for the activities they carry out and if they can influence something or somebody with their training activity, while also learning something from the trainees.
The participants also highlighted the importance of:
- Courage to say that I am a trainer and an expert in a particular field.
- The contentment of both parties is important even if the value for the result may differ.
- Feedback is something to be proud of. Contentment with the fact that i was able to help people.
- A trainer who knows what he/she is doing and has a sparkle in his/her eyes when speaking brings me joy. While while also being an “omnivores” who does that what must be done.
- It is a great feeling to see that I have reached a certain result.
- Dilemma inside me – is it possible to state that the training is of high-quality or perhaps should it be asked, whether the training is ethical?
- This work can not be done unless you feel proud for your role!
- The trainee gets more value from time spent with me instead of working at it alone.
- Pride is created step-by-step – first I learn to carry out group tasks, etc. Today, I feel pride for knowing that a person can say that he/she has used knowledge received from me.
- If you reach the tip of the iceberg and get a good feedback.
- I am proud if people around me have created new awareness and act differently. The process matters. I grow with the group. If somebody has a sparkle in their eyes, then this gives me something.
Signe's thought: "Yes, I am proud to be a trainer. I have also been in other roles during my career and I have always been proud of my roles. It sounds kind of timid, but if you do your work with love, commitment and thoughtfulness, then you can take pride in any role you are in."
At the end of the discussion, it was found that the it is possible to influence the proud feeling that one gets by participating in a trainers’ club and by valuing the vocation of the trainer. Pride is related to recognition, so we ended up hoping that we would strive for creating a higher status and more social recognition for the role of a trainer. Our wealth is diversity: we have a lot of trainers, organizations and associations, but in order to better understand each other and to co-operate more, we pose the question: “Who will take the responsibility and, by the end of 2018, draw up the concept for a network of trainers?”
Katrin Karu has been working as a lecturer in the field of andragogy in Tallinn University since 1997. She has been one of the creators of the (3+2) andragogy curriculum and since 2016 also the curator of the Bachelor’s curriculum in this field. She has also been one of the trainers and the manager of the program for the Minor program “Adult Education Trainer” in 2008-2013. Since 1997 to the present day, she has also worked as an adult trainer, whose target groups are university lecturers, in-house trainers and adult trainers.