Chapter two: Training philosophy and methodology
The overriding goal of any training program must be to provide the most effective preparation for the participants so they will be able to meet their future job responsibilities. When the conditions for job performance are rigorous, appropriate training must be comparably demanding, otherwise progress toward attaining project goals will be compromised or retarded. If Peace Corps Volunteers are to be expected to foster self reliance among project beneficiaries, then their training should foster self-reliance. Since Peace Corps' goals are based on meeting basic human needs, the human component is at the focal point. Therefore, Volunteers should be prepared to perform their technical duties within a social context.
Peace Corps' training philosophy states that training is:
Therefore, the training methods and techniques used must show respect for each trainee, build on their experiences and skills, and involve them in the learning process.
The training program described in this manual prescribes to this philosophy. The basic philosophy of the training program includes the beliefs that adults learn based on the experiential learning cycle, and that development of diverse skills, both technical and nontechnical, is more essential than the simple transfer of technical information in preparing people for successful and fulfilling Peace Corps Volunteer service. Peace Corps has the responsibility to the countries in which it serves to provide Volunteers who have the technical expertise and personal qualities necessary to make a full two-year commitment and to be effective during their service. The role of pre-service training is to prepare prospective Volunteers for service.
This training model is a departure from the kind of learning to which people are accustomed in most academic settings. Several methods and techniques are combined in the program, but the basic premise is that training should occur within the framework of the experiential learning cycle. The basic cycle is sometimes depicted as having four main components:
The ten-week aquaculture training program described in this manual can be broken down into four distinct phases, each of which has different objectives and uses somewhat different training techniques:
Phase One: Weeks One through five - Adjustment and Skill Development
Trainees adjust to the living conditions and the site, to their peers and the staff, and to the training method. They develop observation skills, problem-solving abilities through several techniques, analytical thinking, interviewing skills and information gathering techniques. They practice selfreliance, learn to have confidence in their knowledge and thought processes, and get accustomed to taking risks. They learn many biological concepts and technical skills;
Phase Two: Weeks Six and Seven - Information Accumulation
Now that trainees have developed specific questions and a good understanding of what they want and need to know, they spend this period building their stores of knowledge through preparation and presentation of seminars (which includes access to a diversity of written and human resources);
Phase Three: Week Eight - Exposure to the United States Aquaculture Industry
Trainees test their new knowledge and skills as they explore the successes and constraints of the aquaculture industry in the United States;
Phase Four: Weeks Nine and Ten - Reinforcement of Skills and Knowledge and Application to Approaching Work Overseas
Trainees apply what they have learned to tangible field work that helps them fine tune their skills and observe their level of competence, thus building confidence in their abilities to be effective volunteers. They have the opportunity to learn about country-specific conditions and practices, and to see how they will apply their training to their work as volunteers.
In many respects, these four phases correspond to the four basic steps of the experiential learning cycle. Phase One is the basic experience upon which the rest of the program is built. Phase Two involves processing the experience, in part through pooling of data and sharing insights. The major field trip (Phase Three) permits generalization of the learning during training to the real life situation of the industry in the United States. Phase Four is the start of an application phase that will continue throughout each trainee's tour of service with Peace Corps.
In this program, the steps of the cycle are very trainee-centered. Trainers facilitate the process, but trainees must draw their own conclusions. Trainees have responsibility for their own learning. They learn through a combination of practical problem-solving and experimentation.
Throughout the first half of the program, trainees are expected to work independently of one another. The purpose of this is to build independence in problem-solving, self-confidence, and to assure that every trainee has a solid understanding of the concepts behind warmwater aquaculture. At specified times (more frequent later in the program), trainees also learn through sharing their ideas, knowledge and experience through working in pairs, small and large groups. In this manner they not only learn technical skills and material, but also practice many of the non-technical skills necessary for Volunteer effectiveness such as leadership, organization, communication, and group dynamics. Trainees learn most material through hands-on experience. They must make their own decisions and plans, and are responsible for carrying out their plans. For example, pond management is learned by doing it. Each trainee has their own pond to manage over the course of the program. The trainee makes all decisions and has complete control over what they do with the pond. Trainees must work independently in most cases, but also work in pairs and groups when specified. At first, trainees are given no technical information, no access to books, and very little direction is provided. Information is learned/gathered by experience, field trips, visiting experts, and research and presentation of seminars. Until later in the program, staff do not serve as technical resources, only as facilitators and resource providers. Over the course of training, more information becomes available as trainees develop a better sense of what they need to know.
The week-long field trip provides trainees with an overview of the aquaculture industry in the United States. Trainees learn about levels of intensity, alternative management strategies, application of the many concepts and techniques about which they have learned, concerns within the industry, etc. Typically during stateside training, the field trip has involved travel through three to four states, with approximately ten stops. Stops have included research centers, extension activities, large and small farm operations, feed mills, processors, and fish-out operations.
A key to the success of the training process is the clarification of the staff roles. Staff must provide the environment and the opportunities for learning, as well as logistical support (transportation, meals, medical care, personal needs, all equipment, materials, supplies, resources). Trainers facilitate the learning process through provision of guidance, encouragement, support, and feedback during specific technical activities. Trainees are instructed in the use of several approaches to problem-solving such as brainstorming, analogies, and trial and error. Equally important, the staff provides feedback and serves as sounding boards for concerns of the trainees regarding their performance in both technical and non-technical training activities. Finally the training staff serves as role models of professionalism and competence, and demonstrates the characteristics of good extensionists in their conduct and work.
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