Train the Trainer


Date: Mon, 02 Mar 2009 17:06:41 -0500
From: Jo Latimore
Subject: [volmonitor] Training volunteers to train others

Here in Michigan we are working on a “Train the Trainer” type program for our statewide volunteer lake monitoring program. Up to this point, we have held a single, centrally located, required training event for the entire state each year. Every year, without exception, there are interested individuals who would like to volunteer, but cannot make it to the training event. Sometimes program staff can meet with them individually to provide training, but that is often not possible.

To keep us from losing those interested individuals, we are planning a new program to train some of our more experienced volunteers to be “Volunteer Mentors” around the state. These trained Mentors would then be available to train new volunteers in their area on an “as needed” basis. We plan to continue the statewide central training event, just using these Mentors to train individuals who can’t make it to the event.

Have other programs attempted/succeeded with such an effort? Any thoughts, comments or lessons learned would be greatly appreciated.
Jo A. Latimore, Ph.D.
Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife
Michigan State University
13 Natural Resources
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 432-1491


Date: Mon, 02 Mar 2009 15:15:02 -0700
From: “Horn, Barb”
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Training volunteers to train others

Yes—but you have to accept the change in YOUR resource output as well. If you were doing side trainings to train these folks (outside your one training) then this model of might save you time..but if you are not, and it doesn’t seem you are –you are ADDING another training to your time. The trade off is perhaps more folks trained than you could train, but is it will be an increase in training for you. You will still have your annual event. T-T-T is a great model if you support the have to have training for them, that includes how they would train others like you would and ways to test their training if you will. If you choose to train them one at a time, that is not likely efficient. So they will need to come to a training likely anyhow. In the end if you do all you can to have trainings at a variety of times/locations and it means enough to them they will find a way to come, otherwise they may not be worth the investment. Good luck, hope this made sense.
Barb Horn
Water Resource Specialist
Colorado Division of Wildlife
151 E 16th Ave
Durango, CO 81301
Vc: 970.382.6667
Fx: 970.247.4785


Date: Mon, 02 Mar 2009 17:29:30 -0500
From: “Schenk, Ann”
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Training volunteers to train others

Concur with Barb Horn that the trainers will have to be supported. But you know that.
Suggest you have the prospective trainers actually do the training at your next annual session after having them meet the day before at a special “train the trainers” session. They then get experience actually doing the training, and your get the confidence that they are doing it correctly. They should then have access to your staff for additional questions that may arise, and hard copies of training materials.
Any public acknowledgement, like listing in web sites and publications, will also increase the likelihood of getting a long-term commitment to quality training. These trainers are special people, and should be treated special.
Ann Schenk
Natural Resource Biologist III
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., C-2
Annapolis, MD 21401
phone: 410-260-8609


Date: Mon, 02 Mar 2009 14:51:22 -0800
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Training volunteers to train others

There is brief information about Alabama Water Watch’s training of trainers in the Winter 2005 issue of The Volunteer Monitor, page 6. (For this and other back issues see
Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112


Date: Wed, 04 Mar 2009 10:11:19 -0600
From: Chris Riggert
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Training volunteers to train others

We tried this in Missouri several years ago…with mixed success. We really liked the idea of having additional trainers to theoretically cut staff time by reducing the number of Program staff needed at each of the regular trainings (we usually hold 25-30 trainings a year, of differing levels, all over the state…and nearly all on weekends).

The TTT training was set up at a central location, and we never had issues with people not showing up. The individuals that attended were other agency staff as well as very dedicated volunteer monitors. Here are some initial suggestions:

1) I would suggest you don’t have an “open training,” but rather target specific individuals with which you have built relationships and have a handle on how they relate to people, what “teaching” skills to they have, etc.

2) I would also highly recommend you think long and hard about how these individuals would be utilized. Draft a summary of expectations, rules/guidelines, etc. ahead of time. Be up front with these individuals on all of this.

3) I am not sure what information you have set for this type of training, but be sure to spend time on the “logistics” of putting on this kind of training. What needs to be done ahead of time, what is done the “day of,” how the workshop should be run, paying attention to the time required for the presentations, and then the inevitable post-workshop aftermath.

As eluded to above we still wanted at least one Program staff there as to answer questions, handle the “day of logistics,” haul the training materials, equipment provided. It also gave us a first hand evaluation of these trained trainers. What we found was other agency staff (Conservation Dept. and Natural Resources) tended to be more dependable when it came time to teach…both on being there, as well as what was said. But there were also issues of them receiving “permission” to do this from their supervisors…sad, but true.

As for the volunteer trainers, most are VERY good at collecting and reporting the data. However, teaching in the classroom was a different ballgame. Additionally, several of these volunteers began to schedule their “own” training sessions. Our policy is that we will only accept data from those that have attended our workshops (for QAQC reasons). So when we began receiving data from individuals that we didn’t have listed as taking a workshop, we made a lot of phone calls telling these individuals that while we appreciated their passion, we could not accept their data for these QAQC reasons. Or, we’d get wind of a training that we had not scheduled and tried to get a staff member there so it would “count.” It got to be such a hassle, and was actually costing us more staff time, we quit doing this. Now, some of this blame can be placed on ourselves. We were probably not as clear with some of this information as we should have been. Combine this with some passionate volunteers and it was a recipe for failure.

Additionally, we were not willing to “give up” control of these lower level of trainings because we felt strongly that this was the foundation on which the other levels of training were based. We did not want to waste time “re-teaching” what should have been learned at the entry level of training. Let me be clear that I don’t believe this was a wasted effort. We did end up with some excellent trained trainers that we still use today (both volunteers and other agency staff). However, it wasn’t worth the amount of effort put forth for the relatively small percentage of successes. The other individuals still have valuable talents that we try to utilize. For example, rather than having them assist the classroom teaching, we invite them to give us a hand during the field portion of our workshops, as well as point them out as potential mentors for new monitors. This has been more successful, but requires some very good “people skills.” The key is not to offend them by not inviting them to teach in the classroom. I am probably not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but these were the hard lessons we learned. We haven’t totally abandoned the idea of this TTT workshop. It is one of the many things cooking on the “back burner.” But it would need to be re-written, we will be much more selective on who we invite to these trainings, etc. I wish you luck, and do not hesitate to give me a shout if you have any additional questions!

Christopher M. Riggert
Stream Team Program
Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator
Missouri Department of Conservation
P.O. Box 180
2901 W. Truman Blvd.
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180
Phone: (573) 522-4115 ext. 3167
Fax: (573) 526-0990

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, love only what we understand, and understand only what we are taught.” — Baba Dioum, Ecologist


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