If your training is to succeed you will need to know much more about the topic than you will ever be able to include in the course itself. It’s not enough to just ‘wing it’ and try to stay ‘one step ahead’ of your participants. Trainers who don’t understand their topic enough to answer the variety of questions that crop up will quickly lose credibility – the kiss of death for any training course. So you really do need to have an in depth understanding of the topic you’re delivering training around.

But this creates a problem of its own. Since you can’t include all that you know you’ll need to decide not only what to include in your course materials but also what to leave out. I would argue that this issue of what to leave out is more important than deciding what to include. Any fool can heap fact after fact into their course outline but this will only overload your ‘victims’ and cause them to switch off as they fail to grasp the flood of detail that overwhelms them.

I use the analogy of a jigsaw when preparing training. The idea is that the course is a jigsaw containing a number of jigsaw pieces (important, fundamental points to be made). In a full day training around 10-12 jigsaw pieces is enough. These should be arranged in a logical, sequential order, each one leading to the next and they should be arranged in themes so that participants can continue to build upon the information received throughout. We’ll look more at this in a later instalment on ‘themes’.

For today it’s enough to understand that the structure of training needs to hang around a relatively small number of fundamental points. Everything else, from exercises to anecdotes are there to support those fundamentals, to make them memorable or to help participants to understand how they fit together.

For example, in Mental Capacity Act training for Local Authority care workers or those who deliver services in voluntary sector care homes I won’t usually introduce the rules relating to research involving people who lack the capacity to consent to it. I need to know about it in case I’m asked but most care providers don’t need to understand that stuff. Nor will I go into great detail about the processes involved in taking cases to the court of Protection. It’s enough for carers to understand that this could happen. Should they ever be involved in court of Protection cases they’ll be briefed by specialist lawyers anyway so they don’t need me to overload them in training about care delivery.

The actual ‘jigsaw pieces’ for a Mental Capacity Act course (for example) would vary depending upon the needs of the client but they would be likely to include:

  1. Background and purpose of the act (including the Bournewood story)
  2. Five principles
  3. The meaning of liberty
  4. Who assesses capacity?
  5. Assessing capacity
  6. Best interests
  7. Advocacy and the IMCA service
  8. Advance Decisions (AD)
  9. Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
  10. Appeals and court processes
  11. Links with safeguarding

For the purposes of this series it doesn’t matter whether or not readers are familiar with the Mental Capacity Act. It’s just an illustration. All you really need to know is that there are probably around 25 different ‘jigsaw pieces’ I could have chosen but 11 will be quite enough to cover in a single day.

The arrangement above allows the participants to move through the ‘journey’ of training beginning with background and first principles which can then be included in all the subsequent activities, discussions, exercises and case studies as they develop an increasing awareness of their responsibilities under the Act.

The idea is that by the end of the training the jigsaw pieces we introduced come together to recreate the ‘picture on the box’, with each piece clearly linking to (and fitting with) all the rest to form a coherent ‘whole’. This takes a bit of thought but it is far more easily understood (and far more memorable) than an unplanned collection of seemingly random points. Even these same jigsaw pieces presented out of order would confuse the participants. For example, it would be extremely difficult for participants in Mental Capacity Act training to understand when to get into ‘best interests decisions’ on behalf of service users without first going through the principles of the Act, the fact that all care workers have a role to play in assessing capacity and the assessment process itself.

So know which points to include, which to leave out and the order in which to present the ‘jigsaw pieces’ to ensure understanding and retention.