Just under 2 years ago, I decided to embark on acquiring the Advanced Certification of Training and Assessment (ACTA), which is accredited by Workforce Development Agency (WDA). The certification was a natural progression for me, as I was already working as a Staff Development Officer in Training and Development function in the prisons. As the first professional certification that I had acquired, it was indeed an eye-opener for me in this field. Since then, I had stepped onto a new journey towards widening my knowledge in this field.
Many had treated ACTA with belittlement; There were many occasions, while interacting with other training coordinators during symposiums and conferences, where I heard comments like “ACTA is just for show” or “my methods through years of experience is much more effective than this child’s play”.
Much of our knowledge of training had been through our experience in schools, so when many of us were tasked to be trainers before any prior training, our instinct was to emulate our teachers, start designing our powerpoint slides and fill them up with information. The slides would not be as comprehensive as that found in textbooks, but they should prompt us on how to verbalise what could be found in the textbooks. We would then pepper the session with anecdotes of learning or application, and a fun-filled lesson was completed.
I intend to share my experience and understanding of ACTA in my next few posts; this post is meant to be an overview of ACTA, a light, bite-size knowledge of the professional skill.
Structured Approach Towards Training
ACTA as a framework (or part of a bigger framework for training, known as Training and Adult Education framework) provide a structure for trainers to conduct training.
As mentioned earlier, many of us think of training as what our teachers in schools had demonstrated to us. However, the realm of training involves more than that.
When I was in secondary school as an NCC cadet, I was taught a form of Method of Instruction, more specifically meant for training recruits for drills and to carry out specific actions to fulfil a task. Other than the usual tools for communication like CLAP, we were told to carry out our training in the following steps:
- Demonstration without explanation
- Demonstration with explanation
- Step by step guidance
- Full demonstration by trainees
My aunt, as a teaching chef (though she prefers to be addressed as a gourmet), carries out training much like that in the military. The only difference is that she has bottomline to take care of, and therefore her training is very streamlined: to introduce the ingredients needed and ask everyone to follow what she do, step by step.
Then in Prisons, I underwent Methods of Instruction course, so as to be a qualified trainer for the Ministry. The course was designed with ACTA in mind, and many of the trainers were also trainers for ACTA itself. The course roughly went through what I learned earlier in life, but with a more professional twist. For example, slides had to follow a certain format for clarity and good understanding. Delivery of content is not a haphazard process, but a structured presentation with sign-postings and framing, so as to assist learners retain their knowledge.
Each type of training I received to be a trainer had its merits, but they are not necessary applicable for all situations. What I learned in NCC could not be used in a lecture-style training, and we cannot ask trainees to follow steps in a recipe without providing guidance on control of fire or speed of mixing condiments.
ACTA, in this perspective, consolidates all wealth of knowledge, extracts the essence of them all, and provides acquisition of competencies that will help trainers carry out training in all types of environment. True enough, the structured learning activities (Group Discussions, Case Studies and Role Plays) are more suited for the classroom, but knowledge like the Learning Pyramid, Learning Styles and Learner Profiles help trainers understand the motivation behind each type of learning, so that they can deliver training that best helps learners retain their learning.
Training Becomes Effective
ACTA provides more than the skills to deliver training there and then. Preparation in terms of understanding learning profile and preparing for logistics contributes to a conducive learning environment. Post-learning evaluation helps trainers improve on their training. Trainers who have to put on an assessor’s hat will also better appreciate the outcome of their training in terms of knowledge retention and transfer of learning by the learners.
In the classroom, a well-designed powerpoint presentation and a well-crafted delivery cuts down time wasted on clarification by individuals. Successful implementation of structured learning activities or Gagne’s learning events caters to learners with diverse learning needs and helps them retain knowledge that can be built on for further learning.
When all of these factors are actualised in tandem and in full potential, learning becomes effective; learners save time in terms of refreshing of knowledge or seeking clarification, and trainers save resources that will otherwise be spent on repeating concepts or practices.
One of the main themes for carrying out structured learning activities or debrief for a training session is Transfer of Learning. Learners are either directly (through debrief sessions) or indirectly (through learning activities) guided to ensure they find relevance of the training in their workplace.
How many times have we returned to the workplace a few days after training, only to find that knowledge of the training has become fuzzy and that it had become difficult to apply the learning? Transfer of Learning takes place there and then, so that the knowledge-practice link is reinforced; commitment to apply learning in the workplace also helps learners follow through the application process. This meant that the effect of training is brought to the fullest potential and benefits the workplace as intended.
Training, in essence, is a guidance process. Lessons / classes / courses are official training events that directly tap on the value of ACTA. At a more personal / informal setting, ACTA has its own use too.
Team leaders can use the knowledge of adult learning principles to understand their subordinates and find appropriate approaches to mentor them. Similarly, the mentoring process can leverage on structured learning activities to produce the desired effect. The verbal delivery process as well as feedback process enables mentors to provide guidance towards for their subordinates, so that they can achieve their KPIs better, faster.
Along the same line of reasoning, parents will find the knowledge useful. Caretakers will find it easier to manage the emotions of their charges (this, I speak from the experience of a prison officer). SMEs can utilise advertising methods in a more structured and meaningful way. The value of ACTA is limited only by the person who yields the knowledge.
To find out more about WSQ ACTA, click on this LINK.