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close this bookA Trainer's Resource Guide (Peace Corps, 1983, 199 p.)
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View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentEvaluation of trainer's resource guide
View the documentPeace Corps training philosophy
View the documentAssumptions underlying the peace corps training philosophy and goals
Open this folder and view contentsStandards for Peace Corps training
Open this folder and view contentsPlanning
View the documentAdministrative checklist
Open this folder and view contentsTraining concepts
View the documentBehavioral objectives
View the documentIntegrated training: Effective volunteer
Open this folder and view contentsTraining evaluation
View the documentPeace Corps: Final training-Evaluation report
View the documentProject training plan
View the documentTraining session plan

Integrated training: Effective volunteer

As the philosophies and approaches of Peace Corps training efforts have evolved over the past few years, the phrase integration (and a lot of related phrases such as integrated training design, or integrated training ) has become a regular element of the vocabulary of the Peace Corps training network.

One of the persistent problems in Peace Corps training is the compartmentalization of training components into (primarily) language trading, technical training, and "all the other stuff". Integration is the process which facilitates the understanding of the relationships among constituent elements of a training experience, and which unifies those elements into a logical developmental learning process.

Integrated training is intended to avoid situations like the four blind men who were taken to the zoo, and came upon an elephant. The first man, standing at the head of the elephand, grasp the trunk, and decided, "Oh, an elephant is a fat, snake-like creature which can drip water out of its tail." Another blind man, standing at the side, reached out to its stomach, and determined, "An elephant is a round, balloon-like creature with a very tough skin.- The third man put both arms around one of the elephant's legs and said, "Why, an elephant must look very much like a large tall tree trunk." The last blind man was led to the elephant's tail. Grabbing the tail, he commented, "An elephant is a long, thin whip-like creature with wispy hairs on its head..

Integrated Peace Corps training enables trainees to understand the elephantness, of their eventual role as volunteers : their ability to communicate, to work effectively in development, adapt to the demands of norms of a new culture, and accomplish their daily tasks in education, agriculture, co unity development, or their particular specialty, are all parts of the same whole. Training needs to practice what it preaches, by interweaving the knowledge and skills needed to perform effectively as a volunteer through the totality of the training experience.

Very few individuals involved in designing and delivering Peace Corps training, particularly those whom have themselves served as Peace Corps volunteers, would dispute the above arguments. The difficulties we have seen in the field, in terms of actually implementing " integrated training", have often resulted form a lack of specific strategies to apply these principles in the training itself.

The purpose of this discussion is to assist individuals in "integrating training" by providing a framework for understanding how to integrate a particular training experience, by examining the different levels at which training integration occurs, and by providing examples of "integrative" training experiences in Peace Corps training cycles.

To examine a training cycle for integration opportunities, it is necessary to look at the several levels of learning activity which occur continously and simultaneously during a training event.

DESIGN

The design or schedule level consists of the structure, order or sequence of learning activities. The order of presentation communicates distinct messages about both the relative importance of the relationship among various segments of the training experience. An integrated design would inter-relate all modules or sessions within a co on conceptual framework or developmental sequence, intelligible to both trainers and trainees.

At the design level, the most obvious way to integrating components of a training design is by appropriate sequencing of modules of sessions. An integrated design would intersperse technical training, language sessions, and materials dealing with interpersonal, cross-cultural and developmental skills throughout the entire cycle. The sessions should be organized in order to demonstrate logical relationships among the particular sessions, to give trainees a sense of coherence and to appropriately structure the learning progression. For example, a training day might include a technical session in the morning, where a Ministry of Health official discusses childbearing practices in the region, followed by a session on information gathering and filtering (as a development tool) which leads into a village visit to observe the parenting behaviors of the host village, all of which concludes with a group discussion/process of the experience, and skills practiced, as well as the cultural norms and values evidenced through this sequence of activities.

Sound training design depends on the ability to relate individual activities or content areas to an overall logic, flow or pattern.

This pattern or framework must be understood by both trainers and trainees. Most training is intended to be developmental, that is, the elements of a training build upon each other to ensure the most effective accumulation of knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve a particular objective or set of objectives.

Developmental sequencing can be focused on either knowledge or skill areas, depending on the overall objectives and training population. In either case, however, an integrated and developmental approach requires that the skill or knowledge be introduced and reinforced at appropriate intervals throughout in the training in a variety of settings and situations. For example, the skill of "information gathering and filtering" might be introduced in a session conducted during in-country orientation activities. The skill might be reinforced throughout the training by applying it to identifying and examining cross-cultural health practices, to discussions of the appropriate role of a volunteer in aiding the development processes within the host country, to processing the information gathered during the visits of the Ministry of Health officials and current PCVs, and also to learning about the volunteer's job site and description.

That logic can also be based on an overall conceptual model or theory which underpins the training experience. For example, a training in effective problem solving might begin by laying out the six steps of problem solving, and proceed to devote a particular amount of time to addressing each of the six steps in terms of a specific rural development situation.

In addition to placing the overall blocks of training time into an order which encourages interaction among the various concepts, themes and experiences, other design options include threading a particular element of one training session into several other following sessions, and building upon those connections. Case studies, field trips, role play situations, all lend themselves to being continued through a sequence of "cross-cultural", "technical" and "language" sessions, to reinforce the point that the divisions we create in training are arbitrary. Coupling is yet another design approach to integrating: by juxtaposing two sessions and using the content of one session to facilitate the process of the other, you stimulate the establishment of connected learnings. For example, a discussion of effective helping skills might precede, or follow, a technical training session in preparing small vegetable garden plots. The technical training experience might then be examined in terms of the helping/ consultation roles examined during the first session. The trainees might be asked, "While you were bing taught to prepare your plot, what was the style and role of the instructor? How did you feel? How well do you think you learned? Would another style have been more productive at that particular point in time? Put yourself in the role of a local farmer--how migh he or she feel in that particular situation?" and so on.

TRAINER TEAM PERFORMANCE

The trainer team performance level raises questions of training assignments, cross-fertilization and co-training among team members, as well as modeling behaviors which enhance and suggest integrating, rather than segmenting training experiences.

In terms of the old "practice what you preach" issue, the behavior of the training team, and of individual trainers, can make or break the creation of integrated training. The training team can demonstrate its commitment to integration in a variety of ways: first, trainers can facilitate a session outside their perceived "specialty. For example, a technical trainer can facilitate (or at least co-train) a session on cross-cultural communications skills. A language coordinator might lead the session on women's roles in development. If this type of cross-training is difficult for a training staff, a co-training model might also be employed to achieve the same desired modeling behavior. The intent is to demonstrate that an effective volunteer puts all of the pieces together by having trainers 'unction in leadership or co-facilitative roles in different content areas.

The commitment to integrate training has major consequences for the training staff. First and foremost, in order to facilitate the understanding of the inter-relationships among different components, all trainers need a thorough understanding of the total training cycle. This necessitates involvement of the whole training staff in the entire training process, this ongoing collaboration places much greater emphasis on team building and training team management. Finally, integrated training requires ongoing staff attention to the developmental progressions of the training, tracking of learnings and growth, ensuring that milestones are achieved in training, and checking that the training is "on track", meeting its basic goals and objectives This can be accomplished through designated or shared readerships among training team members, the assumption of a "quality control function" by the Training Director or project leader, or perhaps by onging "process evaluation" measures conducted within staff debriefing and training sessions.

INDIVIDUAL TRAINER

The individual trainer behavior level focuses on individual actions, suggestions and examples which can foster the identification of themes and relationships among training activities, as well as continuing the modeling of "integrative" processes.

During the actual delivery of trianing sessions, individual trainers have numerous opportunities to integrate the various components of training. The most common strategies are using examples from other sessions or articulating linkages to both preceding and following training sessions. A trainer may, for instance, during a session on communications skills, recall an incident from a previous language training session when the trainees and trainers misunderstood each other on a particular point, or give a different example from the technical training provided by the host country ministry officials. The linkages are particularly critical to enable trainees to understand the logic and low of the training cycle: an effective trainer creates "bridges from preceding materials. "Last week, we.. .. so now we're going to build on that information and begin..." or "The work we've done on learning about new communities will be really helpful as we begin to prepare you for your week of 'Spending Time' at your eventual placement site." Other individual trainer behaviors which reinforce the integrative intent of training include reinforcement of goals and objectives, refreshing participants on the significance and direction of particular training activities; in sum, good training behavior, which includes open-ended probing questions to stimulate learning, can all facilitate the integration of a total training experience.

TRAINING GROUP

The training group level suggests tasks, activities and facilitative techniques which encourage the training group to begin its own verbal and nonverbal integration of the content and processes of the training event.

INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPANT

Finally, integration occurs at the individual participant level, as the trainee synthesizes the discrete elements of his or her training experiences and draws conclusions which are relevant to current or anticipated experience.

The bottom line for integration occurs at the participant level: the ability of the trainee to synthesize all of the information, activities and experiences into some coherent framework for his or her volunteer experience is the ultimate measure of the training's effectiveness. Thus, effective integrated training provides opportunities which facilitate that processing and synthesizing of input. In other words, to the extent that training enables participants to work their ways through the experiential cycle (experience-process-generalize-apply) that training enhances its effectiveness.

Integrated training, then, provides participants adequate opportunity to reflect upon their experiences, generalize from those experiences, and draw conclusions which are relevant to their anticipated roles as volunteers. These opportunities can be provided to both groups and individuals, and needs to recognize that different trainees make sense of their experience in different ways: some people are very verbal, and "process their experiences through talking them out with other people. Others are more solitary and reflective, and "mull things over" in their own heads; they may share their learning at a later point, when they've become clarified internally, or they may never disclose their conclusions.

The training, then, can facilitate this process of individual integration by structuring both individual processing and reflection time perhaps with the aid of a journal or worksheet format, as well as ensuring time for small group discussion and reaction throughout the training cycle.

Any aid to individual reflection which is aimed at enhancing the integrative process much itself be integrative, i.e., must interweave and reinforce the relationships among discrete elements of the training experience. A journal, then, which has separate sections for community analysis, technical notes, language references and development theories would be conveying the opposite message to trainees from that of an integrated model. An "integrative" journal approach would encourage individuals to perceive themes, patterns and relationships throughout the events and experiences of a particular period in their lives.

The regular opportunity to share learnings and experiences is an invaluable aid to integration. If trainees can be encouraged to relate their own "Aha's !" to other training group members, that realization is reinforced and the climate of openness and learning is further stimulated. Different models exist for creating these opportunities (such as the Intact Group from the CAST model) which may consist of retaining the same small subgroup throughout the duration of a training event, changing process groups at pre-determined intervals, or self-selecting at each group meeting.

SUMMARY

In an effective training cycle, all of these integrative strategies are simultaneously and constructively employed. As the saying goes, "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't". The event, experience or incident which creates a "teachable moment" in one trainee may not impact on another. Thus, in integrating training, we struggle to maximize those opportunities, at all levels on shich the training occurs, for integration to occur. Ideally, trainees leave the training with the sense that all of their activities and functions as a Peace Corps volunteer are intertwined and interactive, much like the developmental problems they will confront daily. In some cases, that internal integration may not occur until long after the completion of training, when in some county seat in West Africa, or on an island in Micronesia, a lightbulb goes off in a volunteer's head and he or she says, "So that's what that was all about !"

TRAINING INTEGRATlON STRATEGIES

LEVEL

STRATEGIES

EXAMPLES

Design

Sequencing

- Scheduling all training components throughout cycle.


Threading

- Building on a particular skill, theory, or model in several sessions.


Coupling

-Joining two sessions from different content areas together and examining relationships.

Trainer Team Performance

Cross-Training

- Lead training a session outside of one's specialty area.


Co-Training

- Taking a support or facilitator role in sessions outside of one's specialty area

Individual Trainer Behavior

Examples

- Citing incidents from other sessions that demonstrate inter-relationships.


Linkages

- Referring back to previous models and pointing ahead to upcoming sessions


Reinforcement

- Relating current sessions to overall goals and objectives.

Training Group Activities

Small Group Discussion

**Opportunity to talk through issues and themes.


Ongoing Processing

- Using processing and wrap-up sessions to facilitate learning.

Individual Trainee Activity

Reflection

- "What was this all about?"


Notetaking

- Structured worksheet format.


Journaling

- Training Integration Notebook.

Now that you have a better sense of what is meant by integrated training you may ask, "how does it translate into an actual training design?. The following training design is a sample of how to integrate various training components concerning a single theme - the village visit. Please note that all of the components (language, technical, and cross- cultural) focus on the upcoming village visit and help prepare trainees for the visit by increasing language, technical and cross-cultural skills. Furthermore, trainees are made aware that all of these skills are joined together in successful volunteer work.

SAMPLE INTEGRATION

Preparation For Village Visit

MORNING (Day 7)


8:00 - 11:00

Language / Cultural - Vocabulary for Village Visit


-Language classes emphasizes village visit and the importance of language skills in that experience.


-Class dwells on vocabulary useful during visit and trainers help trainees explore anxieties about the visit.


-Basic cultural factors for village visit are discussed and practiced. (i.e. greetings, ceremonies, dress, etc.)

AFTERNOON


1:30 - 4:30

-Technical /Cultural - Identifying Various Roles in the Village


-Session emphasize observation and listening skills as ways of gathering information related to the country.


-Session focuses on identifying and discussing sex role patterns and traditions as they exist in the village (i.e. family, work education, health, etc.) and how they may impact on the Peace Corps Volunteers' work.


-Session review the process of framing appropriate questions to find out needed information.


-Small group task have trainees being framing questions to ask during the village visit the next day.

Preparation for Village Visit

MORNING (Day 8)


8:00 - 9:00

Language


-Review basic greetings, dialoges, cermonies, etc. prior to departing for the village. Clear any remaining questions.

9:00 - 5:00

Language, Cross-Cultural, Technical

VILLAGE VISIT

EVENING


7:00 - 8:00

Discussion of Village Visit Experience


-Session focus on differences between trainees expectations of roles and what they actually observed in regards to various roles.


-Session emphasize language acquisition and its' importance.


-Implications of role constraints that may aide or hinder the development process is also discussed.