Enhancing Communication Skills Training
- University of Nottingham
- Date first submitted:
- 14 Nov 2005
- Date last modified:
- 25 Mar 2011
- Personal effectiveness
- Postgraduate researchers
Rationale, aims and outcomes
What is the rationale for doing this?
How does it fit with institutional strategy?
What are the main features of the provision?
What are the aims and expected outcomes?
For many years the Graduate School has offered a popular and well-received communication skills courses which includes participants giving a 10 minute presentation to a small group of participants on the course. The course review process had consistently shown the presentation to be a very valued part of the course, but had also revealed that students would benefit from further support with that part of the course (with only one trainer and 20 students, the trainer is unable to watch and give feedback in three smaller groups simultaneously). The availability of Roberts funding has enabled us to train a group of 20 research students to act as facilitators (2 per course) on that part of the course, to provide feedback, encourage group feedback and to capture the feedback for the participant. Evaluation of this initiative has showed significant improvement in the course itself. The initiative has provided an excellent and appreciated development opportunity for the facilitators, and the trainer has also benefited from professional development during this process. Each year 2 or 3 of the researcher students who have facilitated for at least 12 months are offered the opportunity to become Graduate School teaching assistants on the advanced communications training courses. Students who are selected for this role receive mentoring from a Graduate School manager
This development fits with our overall vision of providing a cohesive range of opportunities for research students and research staff across the University. It also helps with getting Schools, via their research students, directly involved in the training delivery on our research training programme.
The provision included the design and delivery of a training course, ‘The skills of small group facilitation’, to support research students in becoming effective facilitators. The provision was has been in operation since the 04/05 year and now includes customised delivery for Medical, Science & Engineering and the Arts & Humanities faculties.
The practice aims to improve the existing provision, giving individual feedback to participants practising giving a presentation. The practice also however, develops a group of research students' facilitation skills (which include communication, personal effectiveness and networking and teamworking skills) which is an innovation in itself.
Are there any pre-requisites for engagement, e.g. levels of skill, years of experience, essential pre-activities?
How many participate in each 'activity'?
The new facilitators must have been on the course themselves as a participant, they must show a willingness and energy to become facilitators, they must participate in a training course designed specfically for this purpose, and take part in the evaluation (and therefore their own reflection) of the pilot. All student facilitators are very good presenters, but more importantly they are capable of providing appropriate feedback.
Student faciliators work in pairs, with an experienced faciliator working with a more recent recruit on each course.
Evaluation: benefits, challenges and next steps
How do you monitor effectiveness?
Who do you seek feedback from?
Do you have benchmarks?
There are three groups who have benefited from this initiative. Firstly the participants on the courses who are getting more individual feedback on their presentations. Secondly, the research students who have been trained as facilitators have gained skills and experience through this process. Thirdly, the presenation skills trainers have benefited from the professional development offered as part of the process (particularly from being closely involved with the experienced facilitation skills trainer in designing and then delivering the training to the research students).
The challenges are of keeping a "pool" of trained research student facilitators, and keeping their skills fresh during periods when they are not involved in facilitating a course. New facilitators are identified and recruited by the facilitators and the course tutors.
The success of this initiative has encouraged us to recruit more research student facilitators and building this provision in to be a standard part of our training courses. Facilitators are now contributing to course material development for both class based and online courses.