Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Training Practitioners in Interactive Skills

Today, I was corresponding with a colleague about how to train people to take a consultative approach to home visiting and our need to spell out how a person should interact.

Our need to categorize human behavior comes from wanting to understand it and wanting to break it down so we can train others. The problem is that the categorization is retroactive. We look at what people do right and wrong and then categorize the chunks of behavior. The problem is that in interactions the categories run together, categories switch in response to the other person, and you can’t plan for a particular way of using the categories. So the retrospectively derived categories don’t necessarily help with training others, which is the prospective use of the categories. This gets to the two nonmutually exclusive types of checklists—read-do and do-read. The former is like recipes; the latter is like looking over your list just before you check out at the grocery store or you close your suitcase. I’m afraid that checklists for interactions are better as do-read tools, because they came from a retrospective categorization of behavior. This then begs the question of what we should use to prompt use of desired interactional behaviors and avoidance of undesired interactional behaviors. I am currently focusing on very simple rules that the learner can remember going into the interactions—rules that should prompt the desired behaviors, especially when paired with some observation-based feedback on details of the interactions, such as those on a checklist. Examples are incidental teaching of children (engage-follow-elicit-reinforce) and family consultation (pass the ball four times before you shoot/ask four questions before you make a suggestion). By themselves, these are simplistic (which doesn’t mean the same as simple, of course, which they also are). But they are paired with advance knowledge (workshops, readings) and training (observation-based performance feedback). The point is the simple “rules”—not the more complicated tools—are the prompts. These two that I’ve mentioned are supposed to be memorized but that can be assisted with visual reminders of some kind.