“No matter how small and unimportant what we are doing may seem, if we do it well, it may soon become the step that will lead us to better things.” Channing Pollock
I recently had the challenge of conducting a train the trainer program for two participants.
I feared that the learning experience would be less rich than it would be with a larger group. Much of the learning in any training program occurs during interactions between participants, both during the training and during breaks. Larger groups also generate much more dynamic energy than two individuals can possibly generate.
The small group would limit the number of perspectives that could be shared and the interpersonal learning that could occur. When feedback was necessary, it would be restricted to what the other participant and I could offer.
In any train the trainer program, I believe that it is important for the trainer to model how to set up, assign, facilitate and debrief participatory learning activities. Since most small group activities typically require at least 5 or 6 participants, the small size of the group would definitely affect the type of learning activities that could be used.
With only two participants in the class, the training would be more intense. They would be continually accountable for learning, with the constant expectation and pressure to actively participate and contribute. They would not be able to coast through the class, relying on other participants to raise issues and volunteer for activities.
My participants came from very different cultures (Hawaiian and Midwest), had very different personalities (extrovert and introvert), had very different learning preferences (hands on and print), and worked in very different areas (energy efficiency and insurance). So, between the two of them, we had a lot of diversity in the classroom.
They also had many traits in common: a love of learning, an openness to try new things and go beyond their comfort zones, and great intelligence and insight. Both were very articulate and practical, with extensive experience conducting training in their areas. They bonded beautifully.
The experience facilitating the train the trainer for these two individuals was actually very rewarding. Trainers don’t often have the chance to spend an extended amount of time with participants, learning about their backgrounds, and benefitting from their differing points of view.
Because there were just the two of them, I had great flexibility to tailor the training to their specific needs and interests. It was a real luxury to be able to take our time, have lengthy discussions, and conduct multiple practice sessions to make sure that they could apply what they had learned.
I was able to give each of them focused attention and immediate feedback. Although the group was small, they successfully helped each other identify practical alternatives to address their curriculum design and delivery problems.
Both participants left the training with lesson plans and learning activities that they could immediately incorporate into their training programs. (I’ve subsequently learned that one of the participants will actually be patenting and selling the activity she designed!)
I left the training with renewed energy and new insights from these two wonderful trainers. The experience also reinforced how important it is to build in sufficient unhurried time for participants to learn new skills, practice under the guidance of the trainer, practice with the assistance of other participants, and ultimately practice independently. If a program has too much content and too many participants, the learning process can be severely shortchanged.
As a general rule, I don’t recommend conducting a train the trainer program for two people. A larger group offers many more options and benefits for learning. However, if well planned, a train the trainer program for just two people can still be very effective.
May your learning be sweet.