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Remedial actions

April 14, 2008

In previous posts, I often referred to actions or activities that the student could take to improve on identified deficiencies. These are known as remedial actions. We measure performance and evaluate overall progress but this doesn’t fix the problem, which is the essentially the primary reason we are involved in the training in the first place.

Remedial actions differ from feed back in that they are not an actual solution to the identified problem, but a path to finding resolution. In some cases there is no simple fix and the student must transfer existing skills, problem solve or use repetition to hone the targeted area. However, remedial activities can extend beyond simple practice activities.

To overcome a problem the student can;

  • learn how to avoid the problem or employ defences against it reoccurring (avoidance),
  • reduce the severity of the problem to a level able to be overcome (mitigation), or
  • increase their knowledge or skill to be able to overcome the problem (improvement)

Remedial activities for your students

  • Study/Training: This is the most common choice of activities and involves the student either hitting the books, practising an action or a combination of the two until they essentially get it right. Setting goals will improve the effectiveness because it gives the student a target (eg make sure you can recites this list or complete this sequence without errors) and at the very least, specific competencies must be targeted. It is most often used ineffectively by lacking clarity (telling the student to “study more” or “more practice required”).
  • Use organisational process: This asks the student to think about the big picture or role that the weakness falls within the overall process. Ask the student to identify where and how it fits into the larger organisation or surrounding environment. Follow on with cause and effect scenarios to identify what the impact of poor decision making or errors will be. Establish measures that can be used to assess the impact that they are having on the environment or increase their overall situational awareness.
  • Discussion: Explain the processes or procedures using your perspective or the perspective of other agencies. If different parties are involved, paraphrasing or jargon free descriptions become necessary. As an alternative have the student describe the process in a discussion or presentation format. This incurs preparation and additional study to complete and is an excellent way to really test whether or not the student understands.
  • Planning: Have the student continually look ahead or prepare for the next set of actions. This may be part of their responsibilities any way but having the student look at things differently or further ahead may help them learn valuable planning or problem identification skills.  A technique I employed was the three way approach – list the possible outcomes and Identify the worst that can happen, the best that can happen and most likely to happen. In about 90% of cases the outcome will be one of these (anecdotally speaking). Formulate responses for these in advance – this may not solve identifying a solution but there will be rapid improvement in analysis and implementation.
  • Control and Monitoring: A natural response by the trainer is to tighten the leash by asking the student to verbalise responses and actions prior to initiating them. This forces the student to think things through and can give valuable insight into why they act or behave the way they do.
  • Identify Failures: Have the student identify critical points in their process or thoughts and establish measures or means of assessing when a failure is imminent. This will assist the student recognising when action is required early (when there is usually less correction necessary).
  • Add defences: This can be physical such a guide or barrier to the process such as a template (eg before cutting, line up the edge with ….) or measuring device (make it about two fingers wide). It can also be a non-physical barrier such as an additional check (just to make sure, check ….) or a rule of thumb (eg stay three seconds behind the car in front). Quite often these will be in excess of a standard and only used until the student has the appropriate level of skill or knowledge.
  • Use Materials: Handouts, tables and diagrams to assist the process. These provide ready reference to procedures and usually summarise the content for a quick review and application. In a lot of cases, these are useless without the background knowledge and like defences, may only be used until the student’s knowledge improves.
  • Procedures: Encourage the student to suggest their own procedures or flowchart for dealing with a situation. This can then become a guide or check list (see materials) for the student. Even if it isn’t suitable, it can be a great starting point by Identifying inherent weaknesses and how to overcome them. This technique is more suited to situations where a a robust process is not promulgated or easily understood.
  • Regulation: Formalise the procedures for them (eg. when this happens, you do this …). It is essentially taking the decision making away from the student and it usually involves a ‘one size fits all’ solution. This procedure is best suited to when there are no promulgated methods or there are multiple solutions available to a problem.

This isn’t comprehensive list of remedial advice or actions that you can prescribe to address a student problem. The purpose is to highlight that ‘try harder’ isn’t your only option. In some cases these may not suffice but thinking beyond the way you were probably taught (If you were like me, you heard a lot of “don’t worry – keep at it and you’ll get it eventually”) may present with better more effective solutions. Of course, not every solution will work with every student, however, having additional options to try is never a bad thing.

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