‘If the trainees did not learn, the instructors did not teach’

Dear Editor

I read with great interest the report on the shocking news that only 23 of 179 nurses passed all segments of the State Final Nurses Examination. The results of the examination rocked the foundation of the training programme for nurses. This news hit me like a bolt from the blue. I believe that those who read the article are equally perturbed. Since then there have been numerous comments in the print and electronic media and elsewhere about this debacle. Diverse views have been posited for this sad state of affairs in the training and development of our nurses. The debate continues unabated.

I have very little idea about the contents, methodology and other aspects of the training of nurses. However, I benefit from training under the late world renowned adult educator Mr Samuel Augustus Small. He was bestowed with a national award for his contribution to adult education in Guyana. He received a Caribbean award for promoting adult education in the region and was an executive member of the world body that deals with adult education. He served as a resource person in training for the Guyana Police Force for over fifty years and was a member of the GPF Training Board. He was my mentor as it relates to training. My interactions with him as a mentee were invaluable.

When the results of our examination were not up to the required standard Mr Small, as we would call him, would say, back to basics, ask a number of searching questions and put forward some pertinent issues and concerns. Here are a few: How large was the class?  How long was the course? Were the physical and classroom environment conducive to good learning? Did the facilitators understand and appreciate the nature and principles of learning? Did the instructors promote and maintain the desire to learn? Was the training designed for rote learning and not for the participants to internalise and conceptualise? Did the presentors understand and appreciate the vast difference between pedagogy and andragogy? Were the three general categories of learning styles ‒ visual, auditory and kinesthetic taken into consideration during the training? Was the focus on knowledge, skills and or attitudes? What were the methods of instruction? Apart from lectures were there question and answer sessions; discussion; audio and video presentations; demonstration; hands-on learning; role playing; case studies; simulations; field training; remedial training; combination of some of the above.

Was there an eclectic approach towards training? Did the instructional materials include printed information; visuals; bulletin boards; audio and videocassettes; and/or computer programmes? Did the trainers succumb to training pitfalls, ie ignoring individual differences, expecting everyone to learn at the same time; lecturing without showing; being impatient; not setting expectations or setting them too high; giving too much at a time; assuming that because something was assigned or presented, it was learned; creating stress, often through competition; embarrassing participants in front of others; relying too heavily on ‘war stories.’

Writing on the training implications for law enforcement officers, Karen Hess and Christine Orthman (2012) explain, “Given the variables affecting learning, the bottom line is this: There is no one best way to instruct. The most effective instruction is adapted to the individual officers; the specific knowledge, skill or attitude being taught; and the setting in which the training occurs.” This is applicable to law enforcement officers and may be relevant to the training of nurses and others.

The words of my late mentor keep ringing in my ears,”If the trainees did not learn, the instructors did not teach.”


Yours faithfully

Clinton Conway

Assistant Commissioner of

Police (ret’d)

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