Welcome to my first guest blog, written by Simon Smith. Simon is a colleague of mine who I’ve worked with on a number of projects in which trainer development has been a key element. He has lived and worked in Africa, Asia and East and Central Europe. As well as being interested in trainer development, he is also very keen on supporting teachers of children in the primary sector. He has just co-developed our online trainer training course which starts in October.
He writes here about an engaging way to start a course.
I’ve just finished working with a group of experienced trainers, and have been thinking about opening activities on trainer development courses. Here’s a board game I have adapted from the Values Topics Board Game in Friederike Klippel’s classic Keep Talking (1984).
The procedure I follow is usually something like this:
- Trainers throw the dice and move their counter forward (they agree where to start from) . They tell others in their group about the topic they land on. If a trainer lands on a ‘free question’ square, others can each ask them a question. A trainer can refuse to answer a question if they feel it is too personal, or if they have no experience of the topic referred to on their square.
- After an agreed time limit, I find out in plenary what trainers learned about each other and make any summary comments on what I found interesting and why.
- We discuss and exemplify ways of adjusting the activity to suit trainers’ own contexts.
As they do the activity, I’ve noticed that trainers have a choice of whether to go for spread or depth in their discussion. Some groups like to keep a brisk pace, while others like to spend a long time on each question, and may move into areas not directly related to the question, such as trainers’ pay, trainers’ status, and so on. Other groups will tend to vary their pace according to the level of interest they perceive in the question.
I think this activity works well as it provides good opportunities for trainers to get to know each other, to draw immediately on and share their own experiences, and to follow up on points of interest with colleagues outside of the course classroom. This seems to apply both when trainers come from different countries and on courses where they all come from the same country. They usually see good possibilities, too, for using the board game format with their own teachers (e.g. for a focus on classroom language).
The board game is often helpful to be as a course tutor and designer, as trainers’ responses during the board game and after it can help me to find out about their values, attitudes and beliefs. If a number of trainers say that they are interested in finding out more about classroom observation and feedback, for example, I can use this information to fine-tune the design of the trainer development course itself.
What are your reactions to this board game? What activities do you use to start off a course when you work with trainers or teachers? I’d be really curious to know.