Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?
By Kristen Ferguson
As in nature, so in life: everything, including us, is in a perpetual state of change. Accept that, and anything’s possible.
For the past year, IREC has teamed up with the Weatherization Training Network’s Trainers Consortium for a series of learning events where we challenge each other to improve our teaching techniques. For me, improving teaching techniques means lecturing less and engaging students more. I appreciate the concept. It’s changing habits that are hard. Fortunately for me, the diverse group is no stranger to continuous improvement processes. And continuous improvement inherently means change.
DOE and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) network benefit from collective technical expertise of the consortium, a working group that includes a cross-section of weatherization training center staff, independent trainers, state and local agency staff, community and technical college instructors. One goal of the consortium, which has been meeting regularly for the past five years, is to ensure consistent and high-quality training throughout the network.
Four of the twelve monthly meetings this year are devoted to examining how we design materials and deliver course content. Our focus is student-centered learning: what the student will do, rather than what I, the trainer, will say. We think of specific skills the student will need for the job, and we create scenarios where they make decisions and problem-solve. We consider how to teach the right things, not just dump the contents of our vast experience. We think about how to assess each student before they leave a class so that failures occur in the classroom and not on the job.
With the help of Barbara Martin, Ph.D, who has been instrumental in elevating the level of instructional expertise in the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), instructional topics are getting some immeasurably wise insights. Although the group has technical expertise and decades of teaching experience among them, they are still open and eager for new ideas about how active learning techniques can help students succeed in the classroom and on the job.
Historical accomplishments aside, the consortium is an inspiring group, constantly welcoming change, making it easier for us (and me!) to shake off the discomfort of the new. Want to learn more about the consortium and its work? Visit http://waptac.org/