A necessity with any training organization is the continual evaluation of its training program. This type of appraisal has many facets: whether the students are meeting the goals set by the organization; whether the students feel the program is meeting their needs; and whether the individual instructors are effectively teaching the exercises to the students.
When evaluating the program as a whole, the results of several different sessions should be considered. If, in general, the dogs were weak on a particular exercise, then the chances are that the approach to that exercise needs to be changed. If big dogs seem to perform better than small dogs, perhaps the methods used favor the larger size dogs.
Questionnaires filled out by the students at the end of the session can be used to gain insight to their impression of the classes. Questions regarding the ability of the student to keep up with the lessons, the amount of individual attention received, enjoyment of the classes and the clarity of the material presented can be asked. These answers, along with comments and suggestions by the students, can provide information for an evaluation of the overall program as well as individual instructors.
If the students of a particular instructor show the same weaknesses, although most other students in the program do not, then there is the possibility that the instructor is having difficulty teaching one or more of the exercises. It is important that discussions about and among staff members be kept objective. At all times, the staff should keep in mind that the purpose of any evaluation is to improve everyone’s performance and the impact of the program as a whole. Keep in mind also, especially where new instructors are concerned, that teaching skills take time to fully develop and there are not many substitutes for experience.
New approaches to teaching an exercise should be allowed a session or two for evaluation before a decision is made regarding it’s effectiveness. It will take a little time for the instructors to feel comfortable with something new and to gain confidence that the change is for the better. Initially, there will be some uncertainty about how quickly results will be seen or what the middle stages of training will be like. Too often a new approach or technique will be discarded because immediate and wondrous results are expected overnight and the staff is not given an opportunity to fully develop their presentation of the material.
Evaluations are necessary to keep a training program fresh and to take maximum advantage of the new techniques and approaches that are encountered in training publications, seminars and clinics. It is too easy to become so involved in just getting through a session that the time is not taken to determine how effectively the program is working or where individual instructors might need improvement. It is also possible to become so set in a routine that the presentations become hum-drum to the disadvantage of the students.
Persons who would like to test a new method before trying it in a class should consider getting a dog from a humane society shelter or a pound. Try the new approach over an eight to ten week session as if you were a student yourself. Besides providing an experimental subject, it will be a return to reality if it has been a while since working with a totally untrained dog or one whose early environment was not geared to preparing the dog for training. The experience should renew appreciation for the task ahead of many of the training class students. It will also help the humane society to place an older dog if it has been trained.
The perfect training program or instructor, like the perfect breed specimen, does not exist. However, with continual evaluation and continued education, constant improvement can be achieved to offer the community the best training program possible.
©1972 W.H. Morrison, III