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Education/Training

12 Steps to Creating Impactful Instructors

A course coordinator plays a vital role, handling the administrative functions of a class. Often it is a program which represents a larger organization, such as the AHA or NAEMT. Frequently this includes handling the logistical details.

The role does not stop there otherwise it might just be called the course concierge. The course coordinator is also the facilitator who orchestrates the delivery of information in a program. Depending on the topic or discipline being taught, the coordinator is responsible for making sure the class objectives are met, the students attend, the schedule is adhered to and the instructors are capable presenters.

If this were the theater, they would be the stage manager and director of the play. Part of that job is to decide who the performers in the show will be. It is a responsibility that should be taken seriously. Your instructors will have the single greatest impact on your students. In many instances, they also represent the weakest link. Instructors may get used in programs simply to meet requirements or to fill vacancies on a schedule.

At some point along the way, we made the acquisition of an instructor’s card the functional equivalent of being able to teach. These two points are not interchangeable.

“Instructor” has far less weight now than it did a decade or so ago. It is not a reflection of the profession so much as the process. Along with the movement from “certification” to “course completion” came the softening of requirements in order to qualify as an instructor. For the AHA and NAEMT programs, the process is probably about a quarter of what I went through back when I initially certified, and the requirements are not as strict to obtain or maintain.

Professional experience, speaking ability, group teaching skills, ability to interact with people or even your core knowledge no longer matter. So long as you get the minimum required score on the test, which depending on the class may be as low as a C level, and you follow the rules you will get a provisional card. The disciplines in general leave it up to the course coordinators to ensure continued relevance and competency. Just meeting the organizational minimums to get the card does the opposite and in no way promise competency.

That leaves a big gap to be addressed by the course coordinators during the monitoring process, and it’s an especially necessary one if you are looking to put out a consistent, high-quality program.

Take your instructors seriously and invest time into them. Cultivate a strong group of educators and they will be the backbone of your programs. They will be one of the keys to your agency having a solid reputation of providing excellent education. Here are some suggestions on ways to build your corps.

Know your limits

Instructorships require continued teaching in order to maintain. Do not have more instructors than you will having teaching opportunities for. This also keeps the group size manageable from an administrative standpoint.

Raise the bar

Make certain the requirements to become a candidate are clearly defined and understood. Apply those requirements equally to all candidates. Make it the first step in the process.

Hold auditions

Have an actual selection process. Interview candidates, ask to see resumes or bring recommendations. If you are unsure, have them teach for you. I will generally ask for a 3 minute mini-topic plus one skill demonstration in a group scenario if I am going to audition someone.

Have a dress code

Have one. No job shirts and no uniforms from the night before. Looking professional boosts confidence and improves reception from students. We have a logo uploaded to Land’s End Business Outfitters. They will put your logo on anything, but they also allow you to build a mini-store for free. You can decide what shirt styles you prefer, and it makes it easy for your staff to order them for themselves. If that’s not available, our default is polo and khakis—business casual. Whatever you decide, stick to it.

Have an attendance policy

Have an established process for instructors who cannot make a class. They should know who to contact and what the preferred window of opportunity is. Make it clear that unreliable instructors may not get future teaching assignments, and stick to that.

Prepare

Give your instructors enough time to be well prepared. Get your assignments out as early in the process as you can.

Know your plan B

As your group builds, know who can handle what and what their strengths are. If an instructor is unable to attend last minute, do you have someone readily able to step in and cover the material? Be prepared to do it yourself.

Let them work up to center stage

Take monitoring seriously and give feedback. Look at your program, and decide on a difficulty level for the topics. Start new instructors out with less complicated lectures and ensure that they have a mentor with them when they facilitate group stations. Give them the same couple topics at first, with comfort in the material will come confidence.

Feedback, feedback, feedback

Encourage instructor reviews from the students. Make sure each instructor gets to see their individual reviews and the overall course reviews. Debrief with them about it. It will help reinforce improvements and mitigate ones that may be overly harsh. Tell them immediately if they are not doing what you need them to do. Let them know that you were paying attention to their technique and be able to commend or correct as they gain experience.

Include them in the process

Once they are established, and you are comfortable with their abilities, ask them what they’d prefer to teach. Work with them on topics they enjoy, encourage them to create supplemental materials, generate discussion and challenge themselves with new material.  

Talk them up

These are the stars of your show, so let everyone know it. Advertise them as features, and praise them in the marketing. Give them the credit they’ve worked for.

Be able to say no

This is probably one of the hardest things to do, and in all likelihood is the biggest reason there are a lot of substandard instructors out there. You must be willing to say no to your instructors.

Some people simply are not good instructors. If they are unable—or worse, unwilling—to meet your expectations then do not use them. Do not say it is “OK” or allow negative behavior simply because they’ve been around awhile or were teaching before you came on board. Candidates can and should fail. Make sure you have given them their best chance for success and document everything. This is your show, your product and it is your name tied to this class. Do not be afraid to take the steps necessary to develop a quality program.

The course coordinator is there to provide an educational experience, one that represents the discipline that is being taught and enhance the profession by expanding the students’ knowledge base. It is so much more than reserving a room or filing paperwork. By adequately supporting and improving the content delivery the coordinator provides a dynamic platform from which the instructors can put forth excellent education opportunities. If they are enjoying their time on stage then the students will too.

Tracey A. Loscar, NRP, FP-C, is a battalion chief for Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough EMS in Wasilla, Alaska. She can be reached via email attaloscar@gmail.com or through her website www.taloscar.com.  She is also a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board.

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