Train the Trainer Model
When I first came across the term Train the Trainer Model, I didn’t quite understand what it meant. A model? Does it mean a model of training? Does it mean a model of training other trainers or is this about an ideal teaching method?
It turns out that it is none of the above and instead is a relatively straight forward concept, though one that is incredibly powerful. Here, I will share with you what the Train the Trainer Model means, what the benefits are and how to apply it.
16 January 2020
What Is Train the Trainer Model?
The model is often used for trainer's professional development (PD). The Train the Train Model refers to:
A structured method to teach a person or people who in turn trains others in their own environment.
As a result, the Train the Trainer Model has a strong network effect.
A master trainer that knows about the topic, teaches others. This trainer can share training materials and educate other trainers on how to approach the teaching task. These trainers can then deliver the course and in addition train other trainers.
This is peer to peer teaching where each peer can be from the same organisation or other organisations. Other terminologies used include pyramidal training, helper model training and triadic training.
In the Train the Trainer Model, you don’t have to rely on one trainer who teaches all students. Multiple trainers can teach the course at the same time and accelerate the speed of training deployment.
When to Use the Train the Trainer Model
The network effect and the speedy deployment makes this a great tool to offer consistent training across a region.
You can apply the model to a variety of topics such as management, productivity, software, health & safety, disease awareness, taxation, government regulation, food safety and many others.
There is a strong body of literature supporting the effectiveness of the Train the Trainer Model (Suhrheinrich 2011).
For example, the Train the Trainer model was used to train health professionals on evidence based decision making with great success (Yarber et al. 2015). Other researches considered using the trainer model for situations where demand exceeded course capacity and they asked each participant to agree to run a workshop no longer than six weeks after attending the course.
What Are the Benefits of Using the Train the Trainer Model?
Why should we bother with such a model? Why not just send a bunch of trainers to deliver courses. The answer is that this can be costly and difficult to monitor for consistency.
First, you would need to train many people at the same time, possibly in the same venue. The commute and the coordination cost time and money.
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
There are however great benefits when using the model:
Benefit #1: Training Costs Much Less
With the Train the Trainer Model you don’t need to spend significant resources to train an army of trainers. You can send one or just a handful of trainers to a course and in turn they train others.
New trainers are then used both as students and as teachers so you can kick start a chain reaction to train even more trainers quickly and at significantly reduced costs. Hence, this model is ideal when you have a lot of people you need to train on a given topic. Of course, not all students are going to be trainers. Usually, you select professional trainers and teachers in the field who can then start teaching the new topic.
Benefit #2: Deployment Is Faster
The Train the Trainer Model is perfect in situations where you need to educate a large population fast.
There can be many training sessions in parallel so a master trainer is not tied down to teach only a few trainers. Other trained trainers can then go on to teach many others respectively.
As an example, suppose there is an outbreak of a disease and you need nurses, doctors and medical personal to be trained on the topic so they can quickly deal with the impending epidemic. The Train the Trainer Model, with its network effort, makes this efficient and fast.
Benefit #3: Deployment Is Consistent
In the model, a course is cloned and the training materials are passed to the next trainer. The new trainer sticks to the script and in turn teaches the next trainer. This way, a consistent training can be deployed efficiently. For example, this can be used to maintain consistent curriculum between different schools so they can participate in a national exam with certification.
Benefit #4: Helps with Trainer Personal Development
The peer to peer teaching is also a great chance for personal development. The master trainer can coach the trainee trainers on various aspects of teaching methodology. Because of the model, in addition to the content of the training course, the teaching method is also communicated. This means that trainers are monitored, coached and mentored by other professional trainers in the field.
Benefit #5: Promotes Mutual Learning
Rather than imposing a training doctrine when you send an army of trainers into the field, the model helps with cross fertilisation of training methodologies. Trainers from different organisations or even from different departments within an organisation may have local training cultures. The peer-to-peer teaching helps these trainers to connect and share ideas on what methods work and what don’t. The coaching is also a great opportunity
Benefit #6: Easy to Deploy Consistent and Up-to-Date Training
You can control the training model by seeding the network with consistent training materials. Each trainer passes on training materials to the next trainer while also sharing their experience of using the materials. Along the way, the training materials might be enhanced and updated based on experience in the field. This is immensely valuable as you don’t end up with a rigid outdated set of materials.
Care must be taken to reflect any change to other trainers as you want to deploy consistent training across the board. This is crucial in situations where standardisation is important. You can make this explicit in the training materials and trainers can teach their trainer-students the importance of various methods or topics.
Benefit #7: Teaching a Topic Helps People to Learn It
In order to teach a topic to others, the trainers themselves must understand the topic well. Since they need to teach others about the training methodology when conducting peer-to-peer coaching, they would need to learn it well before they can teach others. This focus can be immensely useful for personal development.
Train the Trainers on Adult Learning
One of the great opportunities when using the Train the Trainer Model is to coach other trainers on adult learning. This opportunity for personal development can help raise teaching standards across a region.
Trainers can discuss various adult learning principles as well as methods that work for the specific course. Here are some important learning methodologies and concepts in educational psychology:
What Are the Drawbacks
Training materials and the model is scripted and other trainers are expected to follow the exact same course.
This can be limiting. Some trainers may have a different style of teaching, or prefer to cover other topics. They may want to approach the teaching in a different way.
As a result, these trainers can get frustrated when they are told what to do. However, the whole point of the Train the Trainer Model is to provide a consistent standard training across the board. This frustration is therefore expected and should be accepted as a side effect of the process.
We cannot have the benefits without the price. We cannot have consistent training but include flexibility for trainers to do what they wish. There has to be a compromise and this can be balanced during the design stage.
Another concern with the model is that time spent teaching is allocated both to course subject as well as teaching methodology. This means there is less time to focus on the course subject in comparison with directly teaching trainers in a course.
How to Use the Train the Trainer Model
Once you have decided to follow the model, there are a number of steps to follow. Careful planning is important.
Step 1: Choose the Trainers
The master trainer, especially at the beginning, can have a great impact on the success of the process. Choose a trainer with the following characteristics:
- Must be well-respected
- Must be experienced as a subject matter expert
- Must be experienced as a trainer
- Should be able to demonstrate how to measure success
- Should be able to share the results of student performance to improve training
- Must be reflective and able to accept feedback
The design of the training materials is also significant. For example, at Skills Converged, we offer soft skills training materials designed to save time for trainers but also to help them deliver courses that lead to long-term results. It takes a significant amount of effort to offer a well-crafted course and also to design something that can be picked up easily by trainers worldwide. To see what areas we look at, explore our training course design process.
Step 2: Choose the First-Level Participants
The first-level participants who are soon-to-be-trainers are important because their choice and understanding dictates the success of the training programme. At this early stage you want to make sure the training course is understood. If any issues are raised, address them quickly and subsequently update the course and the training materials. Choose the first level participants considering the following characteristics:
- Have some background. Have some experience as a trainer and also of the topic of the course.
- Are available and have time. You don’t want the trainer to feel rushed because they have other important duties they must attend to. Any misunderstandings at this level can magnify as training is passed on from one person to another. You want to have their utmost attention.
- Are interested and enthusiastic about the programme. Again, their commitment can help with the success of the Train the Trainer Model.
- Have an open and accepting personality. Participants will be told what to teach and how to teach it. The model will not work if they want to do their own thing and do not accept imposed methodologies.
- Have good communication skills. Good communication skills help identify teaching issues at an early stage and can be addressed quickly.
Step 3: Prepare the Training Programme and the Model
You must design the following:
- Define the purpose of the programme; what would make the model a success?
- Define measurable objectives.
- Design the curriculum and syllabus. What should the course certainly cover and what is optional?
- Decide how the training be assessed.
- Design the training course. See how to design a course for a comprehensive guide on this.
- Prepare training materials that would be passed on to other trainers and help deliver a consistent course. A variety of trainer resources are often included in training materials such as workbooks, slides, videos, exercises, handouts, trainer script, etc. As an example, see what we include in our training materials here.
- Compile a list of resources that can be shared such as videos, software, online content, papers and so on. Decide if these are accessible by subsequent trainers or students. Often, there can be licensing issues which you will need to address from the outset.
Step 4: Deliver the Training Course
Finally, after preparation you are ready to start delivering the programme and set up the peer-to-peer network. Consider the following tips:
- Be prepared to review and update the course and training materials based on feedback received by master trainers. Ideally there should be a team meeting where issues are discussed and updates are suggested.
- Have a communication system in place where subsequent trainers in the model can provide feedback to the programme organisers. This could be in the form of an online tool.
- Monitor the effectiveness of training methodology as well as the effectiveness of the process itself.
The Train the Trainer Model is a tool that can be applied to solve a given problem. Just like any tool, you need to practice it and monitor its performance in order to get the most out of it.
Suhrheinrich, J. (2011) “Examining the Effectiveness of a Train-the-Trainer Model: Training Teachers to Use Pivotal Response Training”, Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness
Yarber, L., Brownson, C. A., Jacob, R. R., Baker, E. A., Jones, E., Baumann, C., … Brownson, R. C. (2015). “Evaluating a train-the-trainer approach for improving capacity for evidence-based decision making in public health.” BMC health services research, 15, 547. doi:10.1186/s12913-015-1224-2