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Intervention (Part 2)

February 28, 2008

To understand how to intervene effectively, we need to know what affect it will have on the training. There are pros and cons with every action that we take and intervention is not without its problems. Simply put:

Intervening = interfering

This is the most important consideration when faced with the question of whether or not to intervene. This will have to following flow-on affects on the student:

  • Disrupted work flow: The student will be planning several moves ahead (at least in the latter stages of training), A disruption may cause the ‘links’ in the planning chain to break leaving the student reacting instead of being proactive.
  • Diversion from current task: Intervention will divert some of the student’s ‘processing power’ and leave less available resources to deal with the current task. If the task is complex or the student has only achieved recent mastery, this may be completed incorrectly, abandoned or overlooked.
  • Incomplete application of suggested solution: If the trainer suggests an alternative course of action, the student may not be able to think it through to completion. Additionally, it may have been a solution that was abandoned because of challenges that the student believed they were incapable of overcoming.
  • Confidence: If the trainer believes that intervention was necessary, the student is aware that there was doubt to their ability or knowledge. This can lead to further self doubt (well if I was wrong about this, what else am I wrong about?)
  • Training value: The student has now lost complete ownership of the solution. Additionally, it is an alternative solution, the student will not be able to observe the affects of their choice and lose one of the learning multipliers.

How to intervene

Intervention is a five step process, although not all will be necessarily completed straight away.

  1. Ask: Is intervention necessary and if so, to what level? Does this need to be done right now or can it wait until the debrief? If it cannot wait, what is the lowest level necessary to achieve my objectives (higher level – more disruption to training)?
  2. Intervene: Do or do not. A half hearted attempt to intervene is worse than intervening in the affect it will have on the training value. If you are taking over, say so – “Taking over”. Brief the student how to respond – “Handing over”. If there is any doubt you will either be bumping into each other ‘Three Stooges’ style or be staring at each other expecting the other to act whilst the world comes tumbling down.
  3. Explain: This may not be immediately possible but at the soonest opportunity tell the student why (eg you made an error I have to fix or just trying to keep your work rate down etc). The objective is to continue the learning and not just pause training while you sort a few things out.
  4. Resume: As soon as conditions allow, give the reins back to the student. It wasting training time otherwise. If it was a critical mistake that necessitates suspending training, have someone else take over so that you and the student can go fix the problem.
  5. Debrief ASAP: It may not have been a big deal to you but rest assured, it is always a big deal to a student when someone has to step in and take over. I you can do it in the workplace, do so. If not, make it a very high priority in the debrief or the student will be distracted until it is discussed.

Intervention is a necessary evil in OJT that our classroom counterparts don’t usually have to face. If handled poorly, it will affect the relationship you have with your student and degrade your future efforts. You will make mistakes in how you handle this because every student has different needs. Some are also a ‘thicker skinned’ and more forgiving.

My best advice however is to invite feed back. You have as much to learn about your student as they have about their training.

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