Staff Qualifications and Staffing Pattern:
• The staff should consist of a Program Director, Master Trainer, Site Administrator and several Technical Trainers;
• All technical training staff members must be RPCV's who served in aquaculture programs and are recommended by their Peace Corps supervisors (usually APCD's);
• It is preferred that staff members be RPCV's from the countries to which the trainees are assigned and/or have served in countries with strong fisheries programs;
• It is also recommended that staff participated in a training program which used methods similar to those used in this program so that they will have a better understanding of the program, as well as a sense of confidence in the method;
• Staff members should be screened for certain personal qualities including but not limited to technical competence. Other important qualities include maturity, sensitivity, integrity, honesty, good communication and interpersonal skills, selfmotivation, open-mindedness, ability to work effectively under pressure, stamina, initiative, organization skills and creativity;
• Although each staff member will have particular strengths and weaknesses, the staff as a team should complement one another in terms of their skills and personalities and be able to work effectively as a team;
• A real question has always been whether or not staff should be permitted to work several consecutive cycles. There are obvious advantages of having experienced staff, and of having staff members who have worked together and understand each other. Training is as much a learning experience for staff as it is for trainees and it takes experience to develop good techniques and gain confidence. Staff members who have been at the site for a while establish relationships with local resource people and members of the community, and are familiar with the area. The disadvantages of having repeat staff are "burnout", the possibility of falling into routines that exclude the kinds of creativity and new ideas that can come with "new blood", and personality conflicts as staff members become too used to each other, begin to have ego battles, etc. Rather than attempt to make a rule or quantify how much is too much for a trainer, this should be dealt with on an individual basis. If and when new staff is brought in, it is definitely preferable to maintain some experienced staff as well. A truly ideal situation would be to have a permanent training staff, but this could only work for an extended period if staff could have ample personal time, rest and privacy to maintain their energy level and enthusiasm.
• It is difficult to place an exact correct figure on trainer to trainee ratio. Quite simply, the more trainers the better, if they work well together. One trainer per five trainees is a good ratio for most situations. One trainer per seven trainees is the minimum for sufficient individual attention. These ratios do not include the Program Director, Master Trainer or Site Administrator. In making the decision on staff to trainee ratio, take into consideration the additional duties and stresses with which the trainers will be dealing. Factors to consider include the quality and quantity of administrative and clerical support (how many of the administrative tasks will fall on the trainers?), the logistics of the site (if housing, meal facilities and work-site are not walking distance from one another, trainers must spend much more time driving; there may be peculiarities that demand more of the trainers' time, such as equipment that can only be operated by staff or restrictions on facility use that prohibit certain responsibilities from being turned over to trainees; a lot of travelling and time may be necessary to obtain resource materials for pond management or to provide for trainees' personal needs) and the training experience of the staff;
Staff training is critical! The quality of the staff and their level of expertise as trainers (not just as aquaculture Volunteers) have a major impact on the training. Without effective preparation, the staff is only a collection of individuals. Staff training orients the group toward a uniformity of purpose and approach. The staff training described here consists of only one week which should be considered a minimum. Realistically, this is not sufficient, especially with an inexperienced staff.
Sample Stag Training Schedule:
• Meet for staff orientation. Begin with informal introductions. Topics included in staff orientation are:
• Formal introductions;
• Staff training schedule;
• Staff logistics (housing, meals, vehicle use, mail);
• Program history;
• Training philosophy
• Training methodology/goals;
• Experiential learning cycle and Peace Corps and the role of the trainer in experientially-based training.
• Share and discuss Trainers' expectations of training. This is a structured session in which Trainers are asked to write down their expectations, then share them with the group. The Project Director and Master Trainer address some of the expectations Trainers express, indicating whether or not they are likely to be met during the program.
• Discussion of trainer/trainee interactions (a list of topics to be addressed in this discussion is included later in this chapter);
• Project Director discusses rules and accountability of staff;
• The Project Director and Master Trainer discuss staff duties, including general staff duties as well as supplemental staff duties. Trainers are encouraged to think about which supplemental duties they would prefer, and to inform the Master Trainer of any of those duties to which they feel they would be especially well suited;
• Assign plans to be written by Trainers for Wednesday morning meeting. Each Trainer is assigned one plan, so that at least one stocking plan, feeding plan, and fertilization plan is included.
4:00 - 6:00
• Trainers tour area around training site, take care of personal errands, meet members of community (doctor, vendors, restaurants, laundry etc.).
• Team Building. This involves a social event such as meeting for dinner or at a staff member's home.
8:00 - 12:00
• Staff meet to discuss, make a list and assign site preparation tasks which need to be completed before the arrival of the trainees. (Repeat Trainers are can provide helpful input);
• Work on site preparation, vehicles, sheds, etc.;
• Get familiarized with maintenance and operation of pumps, ponds, etc.
1:00 - 3:00
• Trainers meet individually with Master Trainer to discuss concerns, preferences for supplemental duties, etc.;
• Continue site preparation.
3:00 - 6:00
• The Master Trainer presents a brief overview of the training schedule;
• Discussion of training methods;
• The Master Trainer assigns supplemental staff duties and explains how these are divided among the staff members. Each Trainer, as well as the Site Administrator, should receive a copy of the supplemental staff duties and should be informed of which Trainer is responsible for each set of duties;
• Planning for Wednesday.
8:00 - 10:00
• Discussion of the assessment component of training;
• The Master Trainer gives each Trainer a copy of behavioral indicators for the assessment dimensions used in the program. The staff goes through the indicators as a group to familiarize the Trainers with them and clarify points as necessary. The Master Trainer and repeat Trainers, if any, provide examples when possible based on past experiences;
• Case studies are presented to illustrate how assessment works and the administrative procedures that are followed. Role plays are used to help demonstrate these topics;
• Collecting behavioral data. The Project Director and Master Trainer define behavioral data, describe how it is collected and what can be done to maximize its usefulness;
• The purpose, format and contents of personal interviews are presented to the staff. Role plays are used to help illustrate the points that are raised.
• The Orientation schedule is discussed, and individual Trainer roles for Orientation are defined;
• The Master Trainer presents an overview of the schedule for the first week of training;
• The purposes and designs of the Expectations and Individual Focusing sessions are discussed.
• Pond Observations. Staff members are given similar instructions to those which will be given to the trainees, and they do this exercise essentially the same as the trainees will be required to do it;
• Discuss the Pond Observation exercise as it will be implemented with the trainees.
• Trainers meet with the Site Administrator regarding office, purchasing and medical procedures.
2:00 - 4:00
• Discuss the set of Management Plans that trainees will be required to write. Practice (role play), using plans the Trainers have written, the one-on-one training techniques that will be used to guide trainees through the plans;
• Discuss the approach and goals for the management plans;
• Discuss the content of the individual components of the plans (i.e., pond preparation, stocking, feeding, fertilization, etc.);
• A list of the technical concepts to be covered in the management plans is distributed and the concepts are discussed to ensure that all staff members have a clear and consistent understanding and interpretation of each point;
• Discuss the techniques used and the Trainer role during the development of management plans.
4:00 - 6:00
• Individual work on set-up of site;
• Individual meetings with Master Trainer as needed to discuss details of supplemental duties or other issues.
• Continue to practice training techniques used for management plans using role plays, critiques of techniques used in role plays, sharing of ideas;
• Staff members read trainees' Pre-Training Questionnaires.
8:00 - 10:00
• Discuss first week of training in detail;
• Discuss trainer role assignments during training and Orientation;
• Further discussion of trainer/trainee interactions;
• Discuss staff interactions and communication.
• Practice training techniques for management plans.
• Trainers take a tour of the ponds and other facilities with experienced staff or others familiar with the site.
3:30 - 6:00
• Staff uses role plays to practice for Individual Focusing session. Evening
• Review Peace Corps policies in preparation for Orientation.
• Detailed review of all procedures and individual roles for the day trainees arrive. This includes airport procedures, lodging arrangements, meals, etc.;
• Detailed review of logistics, design, staff roles and special considerations for the first week of training;
• Practice techniques for management plans;
• Discussion of any remaining "burning issues".
• Final preparations of site;
• Preparation of housing facility;
• Prepare newsprint and posters for Orientation and airport;
• Collect all materials necessary for Orientation.
• All day - trainees arrive.
Staff/Trainee Interaction Topics:
• Relationships (sexual relationships or otherwise inappropriate relationships);
• Macho/hazing mentality;
• Vulnerability of trainees;
• Respect, basic good manners;
• Objectivity, consistency with trainees; Acknowledgement that staff has to adhere to program guidelines;
• Within program policies, be yourself when interacting with trainees;
• Not taking things personally (when trainees are under stress, the staff often bears the brunt of their frustration);
• Trainees expect trainers to be super-human (do not show irritation, moodiness, etc.);
• Setting example/role models (staff are under constant scrutiny to practice what we preach;
• Use of humor (what is and is not appropriate);
• Fallibility of staff, integrity with trainees
• Parent mentality, patronizing attitude;
• Promote cooperative atmosphere between staff and trainees.
Staff Interaction Topics:
• Staff members support each other; Demonstrate respect for trainees when speaking with other staff members;
• Sensitivity to moods, fatigue, vulnerability;
• Watch timing of feedback, jokes, questions, etc.;
• Feedback among staff;
• Open communication; Do not interpret for each other;
• Consistency with trainees;
• Let each person do his/her job without interference;
• Do your own job without being reminded;
• Take time off when you can, when you need it;
• Any interaction that involves possible negative feelings, changes to facilities, or precedent-setting decisions needs to be brought up to the senior staff, and the final decision lies with the Training Director/Master Trainer or Project Director;
• In general, staff meetings are not optional;
• Do not make a mountain out of a mole hill, keep a balanced perspective;
• Be aware of how staff moods affect overall tone of the program and trainees;
• Set clear priorities that are consistent with those of other staff members.
Supplemental staff duties:
In addition to their work as trainers and facilitators, staff members have many other responsibilities including logistical support and making sure all systems are in place for training to proceed smoothly and trainees' needs to be met. The tasks and duties that are foreseeable should be listed and then broken down into a set of duties for each staff member. The actual duties and how they are broken down depends on the specific site situation and logistics, staffing patterns, experience of the staff members and personal preference. The following lists provide a sample of how duties could be broken-down based on a staff of four technical trainers. Additional duties are listed at the end. These duties can be assigned once training is in progress and based upon the work loads each Trainer at particular points in the program when those activities need to be implemented:
Vehicles and Pumps:
• Keep inspections/registrations updated;
• Implement weekly maintenance schedule (gas, oil, water, air,fluids, belts, etc.);
• Special maintenance based on weekly checks (i.e. lights, blinders, general running condition, etc.). Set up system with rest of staff so that any vehicle problems are reported to you;
• Repairs (if we cannot do them ourselves, locate best place to have work done, get prices, get vehicle repaired. Work with Site Administrator on this.);
• Responsible for meeting administrative requirements regarding vehicle use (i.e. reporting of mileage, use of logs, turning in and picking up vehicles, etc.);
• Keep vehicles clean. Get trainees to help with this;
• Keep staff informed of any vehicle problems;
• Keep staff informed of procedures for filling out logs, gas receipts, etc.;
• Coordinate use of vehicles. Tell other staff which vehicle to use for which activities. Know where all vehicles are at any given time. You may want to post something on schedule board if vehicle use could get complicated at some points. This gets especially complicated when trainees want to come early or stay late;
• Be sure there is a duplicate key in the office for each vehicle;
• Make sure each vehicle has a first aid kit, flashlight and anything else you think is important (basic tools, tire gauge, etc.);
• Report any new dents, broken mirrors, scratches, etc. to Site Administrator immediately;
• Set up system for early/late pond management activities by trainees:
• Set up policy for trainees to sign up for early or late runs;
• Keep list of who comes early/stays late;
• Coordinate staff and vehicles for these runs;
• Be sure meal staff is informed;
• Take charge of all pumping into ponds. Teach trainees to use the pumps properly and to fill out the log, etc.;
• If using portable pumps, make sure gas and oil are on-hand as needed. Teach trainees to use any of this sort of equipment properly.
• The main function of the reports is to get information on each trainee's pond work and level of understanding. The secondary function is to have them improve their report writing skills;
• Develop a form for the trainee files in which information from the reports is synthesized (e.g. number of water quality samples taken). Inform staff of weaknesses in any trainee's performance or understanding of concepts;
• Keep track of all assignments handed in. Be sure to know who handed them in, who handed them in on time or late, who is missing assignments. Use checklists. Have all assignments come through your hands so you can do this in an organized and accurate fashion;
• Know exactly what assignments are given, and know the exact wording of every assignment and quiz. Check schedule and be sure to be at sessions where assignments are given;
• Set up files in filing cabinet for the corrected reports and other assignments and quizzes. These will be kept in the office until the end of training.
• Work with Master Trainer to determine exactly what criteria and standards are to be used for each assignment. Make sure that the rest of the staff is made aware of these in order to ensure consistency in the way the work is reviewed and the kinds of comments that are made;
• Make sure that all work is read and commented on. You do not have to do it all, but devise a system for splitting this work up among the Trainers. You are responsible for that and for making sure comments are consistent. You should look at all of the work before it is returned to the trainees;
• Meet with trainees to introduce reports and facilitate a discussion in which the criteria are clearly set out. After the first report, have the trainee group set the format. Make it clear that the training staff is the audience;
• Let Master Trainer know when a meeting with the trainees is needed to discuss particular reports or other assignments. For example, if the majority of trainees missed the point of a particular assignment, if everyone did poorly on a certain quiz, if everyone did a great job on a homework assignment, etc.;
• Make sure trainees' notebooks are checked periodically;
• "The Big Board". This is a very large sketch of the ponds to be posted in the office. This is to be used for keeping track of what's going on in the ponds at all times. All staff members should participate in keeping this updated, but you oversee the system. Information on this chart should include what fish are in each pond, weight/number, feed, fertilizer, "contraptions" built by trainees, compost heaps, etc. Much of this can be gleaned from weekly reports;
• During the first week or two, help with requisitions and equipment distribution at sheds.
Assessment Files, Logistics:
• Set up behavioral data files in office;.
• Control quality of assessment data that is put in files. This includes being sure data is objective, has a date, and is in an understandable context;
• Notify staff of trainees for whom data is not being collected, critical or potentially dangerous problems, etc.;
• Devise useable, simple, realistic systems for collecting and organizing behavioral data;
• Keep files organized, in chronological order and divided into topics;
• Set up file such that data used for an interview is set apart from other data;
• Be sure files contain contents and dates of interviews;
• Be prepared to present assessment data that pinpoints problem areas and act as a catalyst for collection of assessment data by all staff members whenever appropriate, especially for staff meetings;
• Set up, post and notify Trainers of rotation system for seeing trainees at ponds;
• When changes in schedule are made or special events come up, be responsible for making sure trainees are informed as well as staff;
• Make sure all necessary materials are brought to class sessions (i.e. projector, screen, newsprint, markers, tape, handouts, etc.);
• Remind Master Trainer regarding upcoming activities and anticipate needs for those activities (coordinate with inventory person). For example, if you know we are going to teach net repair next week, make sure we have twine and shuttles in the office in time;
• Point out when tasks need to be assigned to be sure everything is covered;
• Help set up local field trips, resource people. Again, this will involve helping anticipate the needs in advance;
• When setting up these trips or resource people, be sure to set up very clear appointments, get exact directions, and try to talk with the actual person with whom we will be dealing;
• Make sure thank you notes are written and sent after all trips and visits to or by resource people;
• Set up schedule to distribute trainees' money (walk-around and weekend):
• Distribute checks, be sure trainees sign for them and be sure they know what each check is for;
• Get checks back, signed and with appropriate identification so they can be cashed, or make whatever arrangements are necessary for getting them cashed;
• Set up system to collect trainees' outgoing mail and be sure it gets to office in the morning. Set up system for trainees to be able to purchase stamps;
• Be sure incoming trainee mail is taken at end of day and distributed;
• Coordinate all fish movements:
• Tell trainees where to get their fish for stocking or for special needs such as seminar demonstrations, marketing, fish fry, etc.;
• Tell them where to put fish when they need to move any;
• Keep records of all fish movements so that we know the origin of fish in any pond;
• Work with trainee crews for stocking and harvesting crew at end of cycle;
• Keep records of all fish storage, fish inventory. Know where all fish are at all times, as well as the quantity of fish in any pond at any time.
Feed Room and Equipment Shed Inventory/Pond Area Maintenance:
• Sit down with Site Administrator and review the details on purchasing procedures, ordering, receiving, etc.;
• Keep inventory records for equipment sheds and check condition of all tools. Make sure inventory is done before trainees come. Early in the program, you will be the key person in charge of the requisition system. Other Trainers will assist you, but you set the rules and procedures. When the trainees get access to the sheds, have them work out a rotating system of responsibility. They will then need to do weekly inventories and inspections and report to you in writing;
• Note: if we need more tools or equipment and make sure broken equipment is repaired or replaced;
• Maintain stock of "consumables" such as fish feed, fertilizer, grass seed, rotenone, lime and manure;
• As training progresses, anticipate needs for upcoming projects and make sure all necessary items are on hand when needed. For example, if we are going to begin masonry in two weeks, make sure we've ordered our cement, sand and gravel;
• Set up efficient system to be used among staff members for keeping track of purchases that need to be made and those that have already been made so that necessary items are purchased as soon as possible but duplicates are not bought, and extra trips to town do not have to be made. One suggestion is to put a blackboard or other recording system in the office that can serve as a quick reference and is easy to update;
• Be sure the bathroom at the ponds is clean and in working order, and keep it supplied with light bulbs, toilet paper, paper towels and soap;
• Supervise trainees responsible for keeping feed room and coop clean and organized;
• Check up on general condition and appearance around pond area (includes holding tanks and buildings);
• Work as needed with appropriate Trainer regarding use, maintenance and repair of pumps;
• Do occasional checks on water quality in water supply system for staff information.
Office Storeroom Inventory, Classroom Area, Feed Shed, Storage and Pond Area:
• Work very closely with equipment inventory person to coordinate all inventory and purchases, and also to organize distribution of tools and materials to trainees. This will be especially important during the early weeks when the requisition system is in effect. You two will need to split up duties at the tool and feed sheds during that time;
• Be completely familiar with all pumps (main supply pump,holding tanks, portable pump) and with their use and maintenance. Work with appropriate Trainer on this; Keep inventory of office storage room and pantry area. Make sure inventory is done before trainees come. Distribute materials from these rooms as needed;
• Distribute appropriate materials to trainees at specified time and keep track of what they receive. You are responsible for having them sign a sheet saying they have received the equipment. Be sure these are filed properly. Again, make sure we have what we need ahead of time. This is in reference to things they take overseas with them: pH kits, netting materials, hand levels, spring scales, books, etc. Work with Master Trainer regarding when to give things out;
• Set up a system so that notebook paper, pens, stapler, etc. are always available to trainees. Also, supplies for seminars and special assignments should be made available;
• Keep tabs on up-keep and condition of classrooms;
• Set up coffee pot in classroom. Once it's there, it's the trainees' responsibility. Keep up supply of coffee and filters;
• Be sure the bathroom at the classroom is clean and in working order, and keep supplied with light bulbs, toilet paper, paper towels and soap;
• During seminar preparation week, be responsible for set-up and upkeep of library. Includes doing an inventory of all library materials before and after training. Supervise trainees responsible for care of library during seminar preparation week;
• Contact person with meal staff. Notify appropriate coordinator of changes in meal times or numbers. Be sure coolers ready for lunch people and work with trainees to keep coolers clean. Supply drinks for trainees;
• Contact person with housing staff. Be sure trainees are responsible for conditions and behavior at lodging. Notify management of any damage or problems, and encourage them to notify you of any problems from their perspective. Also, check rooms prior to arrival of trainees and make note of any damage or excessive wear. Put trainees' names on doors. Hand out keys and discuss any ground rules regarding lodging facility with trainees;
• Take charge of fish fry events. Work closely with designated trainee group coordinators to provide necessary support, supplies and transportation. Also, oversee care of cooking facilities and any other areas used for fish fry.
Additional special duties to be assigned:
• Coordinate surveying exercises;
• Coordinate site selection/site development, pond design exercises;
• Coordinate masonry project;
• Coordinate wheelbarrow project;
• Coordinate fish marketing project;
• Teach certain skills during seminars such as net hanging and repair and PVC pipe bending;
• Set up and coordinate long field trip.
Since training is both dynamic and logistically complicated, and requires that the progress of a large number of trainees be very closely tracked, staff communication is critical to ensure a smoothly running and effective program. Trainers are so busy that one of the most important ways to ensure communication is through frequent, mandatory staff meetings. Staff meetings can be difficult to arrange because the schedule in training is so tight and often staff members have made plans to meet with trainees even during unstructured hours. Staff meetings impose another burden on Trainers' time, and sometimes there is some feeling of resentment when evenings, lunch breaks and any other available blocks of time have to be used for staff meetings. There is no real solution to this problem, yet staff meetings must be made a priority and presence by all staff members should be mandatory in most cases. This must be made clear during staff training. While it is impossible to avoid having to have frequent staff meetings, a tremendous amount of time can be saved and stress minimized by structuring staff meetings so that the time is used efficiently. This is more difficult than it may sound, so serious consideration should be given to setting a precedent for staff meetings right from the beginning of the program.
Some suggestions and guidelines for efficient staff meetings include:
• The Master Trainer (or other staff member who is going to run the meeting) should come with a prepared agenda. The agenda and estimated length of the meeting should be announced at beginning. Ask if there are items that others would like to add to the agenda;
• The meeting should follow the agenda. After each item, the lead person should ask for comments or questions, and ask whether that item has been covered to everyone's satisfaction. Do not interrupt the meeting to discuss a subject out of order of the agenda;
• The person who is responsible for a particular duty should be allowed to do the assigned job. Suggestions should be offered only after hearing out that person completely. If there are suggestions regarding someone else's job, they should be offered politely, sensitively and with consideration for timing (i.e. it is not helpful to offer a suggestion for a radical change five minutes before a carefully planned activity is to be implemented, for this only causes stress for the person in charge of that activity. In a case like this, hold the suggestion and incorporate it next time a similar activity is planned or in a future training cycle);
• When going over an upcoming activity or session, listen carefully, and allow the person responsible to go over the entire plan without interruption. Jot ideas down, and then, when finished, the speaker should open up the floor for discussion, suggestions, comments and questions;
• The importance of listening attentively and carefully, and of not interrupting, cannot be overstated. It is extremely disruptive and unproductive to have to repeat things or have someone continually jump ahead in the agenda. While good suggestions are appreciated, the manner and timing of their delivery will affect how they are received.
Staff members are under stress and are as concerned about how they are doing their jobs as are the trainees. Feedback among staff members is important and usually appreciated. With so many other things to be concerned about, staff evaluation and feedback tend to be one of the first things to be overlooked or put off. The Master Trainer should take the responsibility of making sure that occasional interviews are scheduled with each staff member to provide and receive feedback, and to address any questions or concerns each Trainer may wish to discuss. Feedback between staff members should be handled similarly to the way it is with trainees, and the same rules apply. Any rules or specific grounds for which a Trainer could be dismissed should be clearly stated during the early part of staff training. A few suggestions for grounds for dismissal include inappropriate relationships with trainees, unsafe driving or failure to uphold professional standards that are required of the trainees.
Recommendations regarding issues that should be addressed in staff evaluation include:
• The level of professionalism a Trainer demonstrates, and how well that staff member models the qualities trainees are being urged to develop;
• Specific training skills and techniques effectiveness, attitude, style and creativity;
• Degree to which the Trainer is up-holding all responsibilities for both training and for supplemental duties;
• Ability to work effectively with other staff members and be a cooperative member of a team.
Note on Staff Hiring:
The job of a trainer is an extremely difficult one. Lack of privacy, extraordinarily long hours and heavy work loads, constant responsibility for trainees progress and personal needs, and the stress of training itself demand an unusually high level of commitment. Before accepting a position as a trainer, potential staff members should be well informed of the realities of the job. In addition to being fair to the trainers, advance warning will also minimize problems that could arise during the program if trainers do not have a clear understanding of what they can expect.
General Trainer Notes for Staff Training:
• Emphasize that trainers are facilitators rather than instructors. They help trainees not only to arrive at solutions but also to develop their problem-solving skills and abilities;
• Trainers themselves must understand different approaches to problem-solving and must be skilled in the use of a variety of tools and techniques. Do some practice problem solving during staff training just to ensure that all trainers have these skills. This is not role playing and should be geared towards developing the specific techniques that staff will then teach to trainees. In addition, teaching techniques for working with trainees should also be developed;
• Staff members should do as much role-playing as possible to practice the individual, one-onone, questioning technique that is used in training. Once training is underway, staff should continue to compare experiences, problems and suggestions for new or improved techniques;
• There are numerous problem-solving techniques. Some of the techniques we use the most include:
• Brainstorming: All ideas, possibilities, solutions and explanations are considered without judgement. Once every idea has been written down (or verbalized), each one can be more closely examined and a process of elimination can occur. Example: What are all of the characteristics that would be desirable in a fish to be raised in a pond? A fish that grows to exactly the size people want to buy in very little time, a fish that tastes good, a fish that has no bones to worry about when you eat it, a fish that never gets sick or dies, a fish that is easy to catch in a net, a fish that does not need much oxygen to live, a fish that can grow in very crowded conditions, a fish that can grow well on almost no food, a fish that eats food that is free, a fish that people always want to buy, a fish that can grow in any weather and conditions, a fish that has no scales to remove, a fish that reproduces so easily that you always have enough to start again, a fish that will not eat its own offspring, a fish that is attractive, a fish that has no sharp teeth or spines to hurt you when you pick it up;
• Analogies: This involves relating an unknown to a known, or putting a problem into a more familiar context; this may be to help clarify the exact question, define the problem, or find some foothold, reference point or strategy from which to work towards a solution. Example: If one is trying to determine the proper stocking rate for a fish pond but has never worked with fish at all, choose something more familiar to start that may involve some similar principles. If one were planning to grow cows in a field or plant a garden of pumpkins, what would one have to take into account in determining how many calves to put out in the field or how many pumpkin seeds to plant. How do farmers determine this? What stocking or planting rates would they use for these other crops in an area the size of this pond? This leads to thinking about what factors must be considered, what the constraints are, what a living thing needs to grow in a particular amount of space, what happens if too many or too few are planted or stocked. All of these concepts relate directly to stocking a fish pond, and use of an analogy can even help find a starting point in terms of actual numbers in the absence of any other information. Once a starting point has been found, comparisons can be made between the analogous situation and the real situation at hand so that modifications or adjustments can be made as deemed appropriate (e.g. what are the differences between pumpkins and fish that might affect their requirements for growth?);
• Determining personal biases/changing perspectives: Example: When observing a new area, what do you look at first and what kinds of things do you see? If you were a botanist instead of a zoologist, or if you were a plumber instead of a biologist, what would you be seeing?;
• Listing questions instead of answers: This serves as a starting point and helps define the problem. It can be followed by brainstorming answers to each question. Example: To begin work on a feeding plan, start with questions that will need to be addressed. What do fish need from their food? What foodstuffs might provide those nutrients? What foods are available? What do fish consider to be "food" and what do they like to eat? How much do fish need to eat? What happens to the food after the fish eat it? How does food make fish grow? How much can or should the fish grow? What happens to the food the fish don't eat? When do fish eat the most? How many times per day do they eat? Where do they like to eat in the pond? How should the food be given to them? What form should the food be in?;
• Simplification of a problem: This can mean listing questions as described above in order to break a problem down into smaller parts, or it can involve eliminating interfering details and side issues in order to focus on one we]]defined problem at a time. Simplifying a problem can break the inertia that can come with the fear attached to dealing with many complicated factors at once. Example: If feeling overwhelmed and confused when laying out a pond to be constructed, temporarily eliminate all confusing, detailed information that has been learned and get back to the simple, basic, bottom line characteristics of a functional fish pond. It must be able to fill with water, it must be able to hold water, and it must be able to drain completely. Thus, the water source must be higher than the pond, the soil must be able to hold water, the pond bottom must have some slope, the drain must be in the lowest point in the pond, and there must be a drainage area that is at a lower elevation than the pond bottom. That is a clear set of ground rules from which a plan of action can be developed, and once action begins, the other details will probably fall into place as the need for them arises;
• Use of exaggerated solutions to define important factors: Example: What would happen if I stocked one fish in the pond? What would happen if I stocked a billion fish in the pond?;
• Visualization, putting something into a form that can be visualized: Example: On stocking plans, break down a carrying capacity that is being considered to something that can be visualized. If it is impossible to determine what a figure like 3000 pounds per acre really says, break it down to its equivalent on a per square foot basis, i.e. approximately one ounce per square foot. Draw a one square foot area in the dirt and put in something that approximates a one ounce fish. Does this look feasible?;
• "Zooming in and out" or "narrowing and broadening perspective": Alternate between looking at something in terms of a big interrelated system and the details or individual components that comprise it. Example: In trying to figure out how a water supply system works, look at the arrangement of all the ponds, the general topography of the land, and the location of the water source. Then look at exactly how and where the water enters each pond, what the inlet structure is and how it functions, what it is attached to, etc. Switch back and forth between the broad and detailed views to help make the connections and find the relationships;
• Some other problem-solving approaches include: Careful observation, deductive reasoning, educated guessing, trial and error, experimentation and use of physical models. There are many more. Approaches to solving problems are as numerous and diverse as the experiences and imaginations of the people involved;
• When working with trainees, trainers must listen carefully and pay very close attention to the trainee's own approach to a problem. Often the first thing a trainer can do is to simply help the trainee define the problem clearly;
• It takes sensitivity and good judgement on the part of the trainer to help the trainee choose the most appropriate approach to solving a problem. Encourage the trainee to tackle one problem at a time, and do not cause confusion by trying to introduce more than one approach at a time;
• The trainer should try to understand the trainee's own thought process so that guidance or input can be offered that is consistent with the way the trainee is thinking. Do not force a trainee to reason the way you do, try to understand the way he/she thinks;
• Trainers should remember that trainees are very vulnerable, especially early in training, during the one-on-one interactions with the trainers. Sometimes they feel that they are "missing the point" or can't figure out the "right" answer or that the trainer is going to lose patience with them. The trainer's job is to help them develop and recognize their abilities, not to tear down their confidence. Be careful not to devalue ideas trainees offer, no matter how unreasonable, illogical or incorrect they may seem to you. Remember that there is an element of risk taking in learning to brainstorm or to use other problem-solving techniques, especially in an unfamiliar subject area. Thus, trainers should be supportive and sensitive, and should be very aware of their own gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice to be sure they are not inadvertently demonstrating frustration, impatience or exasperation;
• If a trainer is becoming impatient or irritated, that individual should take a break. Excuse yourself temporarily, or give the trainee something to work on, and arrange to get back together after a specified amount of time;
• Avoid appearing smug. Remember that training is about developing the skills and processes for solving problems just as much as, if not more than, it is about knowing the best side slopes to put on a given dike. In many cases, there will not even be an actual "right answer". The process is more important than the content, and trainers should remember this. This is the basic premise of experiential skill training;
• Along similar lines, trainers sometimes get frustrated if trainees do not arrive at what the staff believe to be the best decision or solution. Here again, remember training is a learning process, and making mistakes or trying different practices is more valuable than doing everything right the first time. Forcing a trainee to do something the way you want it done would have the same effect on the learning process as giving out technical information or advice: it would rob the trainee of a learning experience, of opportunities to develop his/her analytical and problem-solving skills, and finally, of the sense of accomplishment and confidence that comes with doing something on one's own; There are cases when a trainer simply cannot "connect" with a particular trainee. If, after trying a few different approaches, you feel that you just cannot communicate effectively with a certain trainee, discuss it with the master trainer so arrangements can be made to have that trainee work with a different trainer;
• Sometimes, while trying to solve a particularly challenging problem or when covering complicated concepts, even the Trainer can become temporarily confused. You owe it to the trainee, in this case, not to drag him or her along with you into a state of confusion. Again, excuse yourself in order to clear your thoughts. It is often best to admit to the trainee that you need to think about a point further before continuing;
• Be extremely cautious regarding honesty and clear messages. It is easy to say something without thinking that might be taken literally by the trainee. For example, do not say "I don't know, what do you think?" if you do know. Also, do not send the wrong message by unconsciously responding in a way that implies an affirmation of some idea or explanation that has been offered by a trainee when what you really mean is "Okay, that's one possibility, what's another?" (In other words, if a trainee, trying to determine how fish can live in the water at night when plants are not producing oxygen says, "Well, maybe fish don't need oxygen at all", and the Trainer absently says, "Uh huh", the trainee may interpret that to mean that fish don't need oxygen).
This is critical! The thoroughness of the pre-training research can have major effects on the quality of training activities, efficiency, the credibility of the staff with trainees, and stress on the staff during the program.
• Staff must become very familiar with the training site. All staff members should have a thorough knowledge of the layout of the ponds, how they function, any peculiarities in any of the ponds, and any special inlet or drainage structures. They should be thoroughly familiar with any pumps, canal systems, dams or other features of the water supply system The same applies to holding tanks, equipment sheds and other facilities;
• If there are pumps, the staff should be well versed in their use, care and maintenance, basic repair, and where to get parts or get repair work done;
• Staff should do a thorough inventory and know exactly what they have on-site. This includes: Fish, technical equipment, tools, replacement supplies for chemical kits, spare parts for equipment and pumps, feeds, fertilizers, grass seeds, compost materials, construction materials, office and classroom supplies, etc. Regarding the fish, staff must know exactly what species, what size, what age and how many are in each pond;
• Staff should become familiar with surrounding areas on and near site. This includes areas that may be used for site selection exercises. Seek these out if they are not immediately obvious. Familiarity with topography, soil and vegetation is important;
• Staff should make a point of getting around the area and meeting as many people as possible, both on the site and in the surrounding areas. This includes support staff on the site (even if not involved in the training program, like grounds keepers, etc.), law enforcement people, local government officials and extensionists (especially in related areas such as department of agriculture, fisheries, natural resources, soil conservation, forestry, etc.), all staff at housing and meal facilities, local medical and health care workers, vendors in community (especially those with whom business will probably be conducted), vehicle maintenance service people, librarians, etc.;
• Staff should seek out and meet as many potential resource people as possible, i.e. farmers, researchers, experts in various fields (soils, construction, nutrition, fish disease, animal feeds, etc.) and identify potential sources of information or field trip destinations such as libraries, aquaculture facilities, feed mills, processing plants, net factories, vendors of aquaculture equipment, fish markets, etc.;
• Staff should familiarize themselves with all on-site resources, including books, reprints, journals, newsletters, etc. available in the training library. They should learn as much as possible about aquaculture practices in the area where the training is being conducted;
• Staff should learn about the concerns of local fish farmers, special problems or considerations, marketing conditions (demand, outlets, prices), species being raised, local water quality conditions, and so forth. In other words, be very well in touch with the status of the industry in the area, current events, and the kinds of activities going on that may be relevant;
• Staff must know their way around. They should know locations of the airport, hospital and other medical facilities, the Peace Corps office (if appropriate), the post office, stores, libraries, fisheries facilities, etc.;
• Staff should know as much as possible about the aquaculture programs in the countries to which trainees will be assigned.