Just being an experienced mariner does not make for a good educator and trainer
Captain John Lloyd, Director, National Centre for Ports and Shipping, Australian Maritime College
ike many professions in the maritime sector, maritime education and
training is heavily dependent upon former mariners to deliver the skills and knowledge necessary to the next generation of seafarers.
It takes a special person to join the world- wide band of maritime educators. It takes someone with a desire to ‘put something back’ into a career that offered the opportunity for travel and responsibility at an early age. But just being an experienced mariner does not make for a good educator and trainer. A whole new set of skills need to be developed to complement the nautical skills established at sea.
Working ashore is different. The traditional hierarchy on board a ship provides a structure of responsibility and authority not usually replicated on shore. Consequently, the first adjustment to make is working in an environment leaning more to coalition and negotiation, agreement and implementation, rather than just decision and action.
The desire to help others learn is very much a pre-requisite for the aspiring educator. Helping others to learn requires a number of key attributes:
Subject Knowledge: It is essential that the instructor knows his or her subject better than the learner. Learning to operate a Radar set successfully is a skill required by all navigators. The instructor though, must be prepared for all the questions that students might think of. How does this work? What order do we adjust the controls? And, most daunting of all: ‘Why?’
It is a truism to say you only know your subject properly when you have learned how to teach it to others!
Communicating: The seafaring commun- ity is an international one and while English may be the language of the sea, students come from many different places to learn and have widely differing educational standards on entry. The educator needs to be clear with the information transmitted, must be able to give clear written and oral instructions and be able to present information in a manner that can be understood by the learners. This may be in written handbooks or learner guides or may involve the use of multi-media presentations and materials. Assessments must be valid, reliable, fair, clear and unambiguous so students have a clear grasp of what is required for success.
Integrity: All instructors want their students to do well, especially in their own specialist area of instruction. Assessments, tests and examinations are provided to ensure that learning has taken place. There is no room for personal favouritism and bias in the assessment process and all academic staff must display a high level of security and integrity if they are to provide a robust and effective assessment regime. Even so, many organisations provide for anonymous marking of scripts to ensure there can be no suggestion on impropriety.
Cultural Awareness: Different student groups learning in the same environment provide an enriching experience for many students. But different cultures and countries have different expectations of what and how the learning should occur. The experienced teacher becomes
a facilitator of learning for the students, whatever their background, and helps those unfamiliar to cope with the educational delivery system so each can demonstrate full potential.
Patience: No matter how hard the effort, teaching can be frustrating. Enabling students to grasp difficult concepts is not easy. Often the tutor will wish the students undertook more private study, asked questions when stuck and worked with peers to explore issues together. All too often this does not happen and when progress is slow, it is important that frustrations are kept under wraps and the students given every support to learn in their own time.
Pedagogy: This term generally refers to strategies of instruction and the correct use of those strategies. Understanding the fundamentals of pedagogy is an overarching skill necessary for educators to bring together their skills and attributes to enhance the students’ learning experience and maximise their chances of success. A clear understanding of instructional strategies also greatly assists today’s maritime educators to find their way through the maze of technology which can be used for educational delivery, and make to choices which assist students to learn.
Ultimately the work of the lecturer is hugely rewarding. Helping keep our ships safe and the environment protected by developing highly competent seafarers is often reward enough. The icing on the cake is when these students, now expert mariners, return to acknowledge the commitment and professionalism of those who guided them through their college phases.
The importance of training the trainer S
Rus Slater, Professional learning and development specialist, Coach and Courses (UK)
ome time ago I worked for a boss who had a simple approach to the provision of training. His view was this:
“Anyone who knows a subject can run training in it; all they have to do is brain- dump everything they know onto PowerPoint slides and talk the trainees through it”
Consider for a moment the potential consequences of this approach:
• Trainees will probably be bored witless by an endless stream of PowerPoint slides.
• The trainer stands facing the slides not the class, whilst he or she reads the slides;
the trainees will feel insulted, as they are capable of reading the slides them- selves without having it done for them.
• Since the visuals on the slides are replicated by the speech of the trainer,
the trainees have nothing to ‘do'.
• Some trainees may already have some of the knowledge that the trainer is
attempting to impart. • The trainer is doing all the work, all the time.
• The trainer is totally reliant on the projector working and being adequately
visible to the entire group of trainees.
• The content of the training is entirely focussed on the trainer’s knowledge
rather than the trainees’ needs
Ultimately there are serious consequences, both of which relate to trainees’ memories: They won’t remember much of the content
that they have endured; nor will they remember that the trainer was possibly the most boring person in the world. It is doubtful if either of these was an intended outcome of the training.
A good Train the Trainer programme will help any subject matter expert to become a respected trainer by developing two areas of skill: the ability to focus on the trainees’ needs in the planning stages and the ability to focus on the trainees’ needs in the classroom.
Being a good trainer isn’t about spoon- feeding your trainees with everything they need; it is about letting them, helping them or forcing them to do some of the work themselves.
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