In the last instalment we discussed the need to limit the amount of information we introduce in a single course. Rome wasn’t built in a day and there is no sense in trying to cram years of your own education into a single training day. Even in longer courses with much more delivery time we need to be realistic.

We’ve already noted that the information we do include needs to hang together but we haven’t really covered the way to ensure that it does. The basic principle here is to concentrate upon consistent and complimentary themes.

If the training consists of 10 ‘jigsaw pieces’ (see part 7) then they should be linked together by around three different themes that run through the whole training. When I was growing up I briefly took up jigsaw making as a hobby. I would spend hours completing some really rather complex jigsaws and, if I liked the finished result enough, I’d flip the jigsaw over, glue sheets of paper to the back to ‘hold’ it and then stick it in a frame to hang on my bedroom wall.

To continue with the idea of training as a jigsaw, these themes become the ‘glue’ that holds it all together. That’s why we only need a small number of themes – the same notions recur over and over, allowing participants to build upon information throughout the training and create a comprehensive ‘schema’ in their minds. We’ll cover schema specifically in the next instalment. Here’s an example of how we use themes to connect the training together.

One subject I regularly deliver training upon is ‘deliberate self harm’. The jigsaw pieces most commonly included in a one day self harm awareness day are:

  1. Self harm is not about us
  2. Self harm isn’t suicide – but people who harm themselves are at higher risk of suicide
  3. Self harm is about coping
  4. Most self harm is done in private and kept secret
  5. When coping fails people behave in more and more extreme ways
  6. We all use particular coping strategies to feel better when distressed
  7. The most effective coping strategies change brain/body chemistry (endorphins)
  8. Deliberate self harm stimulates endorphins
  9. People generally use the best coping strategies they know
  10. Our job is to enhance coping strategies – not to remove the only effective coping strategy a person has.

 

Now let’s examine how the use of themes (constantly referred to throughout) can help pull all this information together into a cohesive whole. The themes I’d use for this particular jigsaw are….

  • Deliberate self harm is a coping strategy.
  • We’re all the same.
  • Care workers are not the focus of people’s problems – it’s not about us.

Now let’s see how these themes can be used to link the training together by constantly returning to them as we move through the ‘jigsaw pieces’ in order.

The pieces most commonly included in a one day self harm awareness day are:

    1. Self harm is not about us (theme 3)
    2. Self harm isn’t suicide – but people who harm themselves are at higher risk of suicide (theme 3)
    3. Self harm is about coping (theme 1)
    4. Most self harm is done in private and kept secret (theme 3)
  • When coping fails people behave in more and more extreme ways (theme 2)
    1. We all use particular coping strategies to feel better when distressed (theme 2)
    2. The most effective coping strategies change brain/body chemistry (endorphins) (themes 1, 2 & 3)
    3. Deliberate self harm stimulates endorphins (themes 1 & 3)
  • People generally use the best coping strategies they know (theme 2)
  1. Our job is to enhance coping strategies – not to remove the only effective coping strategy a person has. (themes 1 & 3)
  2. Developing alternative coping strategies (themes 1,2 and 3)
  3. Looking after ourselves (theme 2)

The jigsaw pieces follow a logical pattern and the use of themes allows participants to see how it all hangs together. This is important if the participants are to create a ‘schema’ which will be the focus of the next instalment.

This also demonstrates why we need to be careful about what to include and what to leave out. We can’t do everything in a time-limited training session so plan with your client to include things that are useful and that hang together coherently. Otherwise you’ll leave your participants confused and unable to relate the various elements of training to each other or to their work.

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