DGSA Training Course – Day One Basics

The human mind is a wonderful thing: a pattern-forming, dot-joining, super-computer. Sometimes when faced with a new situation though, the absence of information can create a bit of anxiety.

This week’s blog post will identify and allay some of those fears. It will also explain what we should expect from each other when you attend our Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) course…

What You Might Feel

Some people take everything in their stride; nothing phases them. Others, us mere mortals, probably have a series of thoughts, which go something like this:

Will I understand the content? What if I don’t? How will that make me look? What if work find out I’m not as masterly as I make out? Will it be like school? (I hated school). How am I going to keep up with my actual job? I could do without this. When’s lunch? (often the first question on any course). What time can I go home? (the second question).

Anyone who’s ever been on, or delivered, a training course knows that Day One can have an unusual dynamic. If the course prepares a learner for a qualification that has consequences to their employment, it can magnify the effect.

Let’s me get straight to the heart of the matter: it is our job to ensure everyone navigates these choppy waters. But we do need your help to ensure everything goes swimmingly, for everyone.

The Start

Few people seem to want to spend an awkward hour with the trainer while they’re setting up (though you’re welcome to). What’s worse than being too early? Rocking-up late.

Sh-tuff happens, but it’s only fair to the other learners that we start on time.

Advice here is to get to the venue in plenty of time and take advantage of the refreshments, or just do your own thing.

If it’s a Virtual Classroom course, test your connection and access the event in the hour before the start. You can come back nearer the official start time.

This section is on you (we should already be there!)

The Environment

There’s several interesting studies into the environment and how it impacts learning – I’ll save you the details, as it might only be me that finds it ‘interesting’.

Regardless of the science, a range of  20-23oC suits most people and is conducive for learning. Cooler than this, some learners feel the chill and can’t concentrate. Warmer than this, some learners feel drowsy and can’t focus. Similar parameters go for lighting (natural light is best) and ventilation.

Pretty basic, but anyone who knows their Maslow from a Maserati knows that you need that you need to attend to things like shelter, food and water before learners can even begin to think about learning.

This bit is definitely on us.

Getting To Know Yoooouu

Normally, at the start of any course, there’s some form of introduction. The way we do it is to have an informal chat – you share as much, or as little, as you feel comfortable with.

Introductions are vitally important, though, for several reasons. For one thing, it’s nice to know who your fellow learners are. By explaining what your role is we can establish commonality and build rapport with each other.

It’s also important for your trainer to establish the relevant experience in the room – even if that’s very little.

The reason for this is that adult learners filter any new learning through their past experiences. And, if there’s a fellow learner who’s expert in a particular aspect of dangerous goods (which sometimes happens), it’s often beneficial for the whole group to tap into that expertise, later in the course.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of ‘Icebreakers’. I’ve tried numerous ones over the years. At best they seem contrived; at worst like an episode from The Office.

I’m sure they have their place (USA) but it’s the outcome that matters, not the activity – and the outcome can be achieved much more informally. So, no ice-breakers – though we can make an assault course out of tables and chairs, at break, if that floats your boat

This is a shared responsibility – we’ll guide it, you just tell us whatever you’re comfortable sharing.

Phones

It’s a mad world in which we currently reside. You’ve probably got a lot going on at home and work. If you desperately need to take a call, just step out and do that.

The general rule is, we request that you don’t look at your phones, answer emails etc. during lesson time. The breaks are your own, to do whatever you wish.

Multi-tasking is proven to be a myth. What some people can do better than others is task-switch. However, it’s not just the time it takes to do the other task, there’s also a time-cost in bringing your attention fully back to learning.

It’s also hugely distracting for other learners.

So, for all these reasons, no using your phone during a lesson, please.

The Day Job

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just come out with it.

You can’t split your attention between studying for this qualification and your day job. No matter how pivotal your role is, you need to ensure that your employer understands this and provides adequate cover for you, whilst your on the course.

If your employer’s paid for your attendance and your exams, they’ll understand that to get a return on their investment, you need to be left alone, as much as possible.

Ideally, they’ll also provide revision time when back in the workplace (the best ones do).

Questions and Answers

I’ll share a personal example which explains the role of questions in learning. Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into my life story.

When I started out as a trainer, I used to see questions as an indicator that I hadn’t explained something properly (which can sometimes be the case). I would get asked versions of the same questions at particular points in a course. ‘Right’, I thought, ‘I’ll just explain it before the learners have a chance to ask’ – beat ’em to the punch if you like. What you end up with, if you take that approach, is a lecture.

Experience is the name we give our mistakes, so that’s not our approach at DGSA Academy – Teaching adults should be a dialogue; a conversation between equals.

The Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) course is perfect for this approach, as learners have to be self-sufficient in ‘finding‘ the answers to questions posed in the exams. Notice, I didn’t say ‘know’ the answers.

The DGSA exam is not a knowledge check. Facts do not have to be memorised by rote. Instead, it’s a process, and that process can be learned, by virtually anyone.

We work from the premise, that if you don’t understand, it’s because we haven’t explained it in a way that suits your learning style. So, if you don’t ‘get’ something, put it down to that. Your only responsibility is to let us know when we’ve been unclear, and ask us to clarify.

Learning Complex Stuff

Every qualification has easy elements and difficult elements. The majority of the learning sits in between. In statistics, this is referred to as a ‘normal distribution’, or the ‘bell-curve’.

What’s this got to do with DGSA?

Well, the way exams are set, so that ‘everyone’ doesn’t pass, is to test a proportion of skills and knowledge at the ‘difficult’ end. This means if you want to be assured a pass, you’ll need to to become proficient at the more advanced skills. Or more precisely, we’ll need to show you how to become proficient.

The issue with a lot of training, particularly ‘technical’ subjects, is they go too deep, too soon. The problem this creates for learners, is that they get lost, and can easily become demotivated.

Our approach is to to apply an instructional design technique called ‘scaffolding’. All it really means, is we aim to move you, progressively, from easy to more complex activities. As you progress, and you can demonstrate proficiency, we can remove the support. Most of this process is taken care of in the design stage, with our trainer checking your understanding as you proceed through the course.

Cameras – Virtual Classroom Course Only

Some employers have a rule that cameras don’t have to be on during meetings. However, as part of our T&C’s we insist that all learners on our online courses attend with their cameras on.

I’ll stick my neck out and say, that the format of online (live) training is only viable if engagement can be assured.

We understand you might feel just as strongly, but with an opposing view (and we’re not spoiling for a fight), we may just not be the provider for you, if that’s a non-negotiable.

Homework (eh?! What am I, 12?)

Yes, we do set a small amount of homework each night. It’s always optional but completion definitely embeds what’s been covered in that day. You get a chance to test your own understanding, away from the input and possible distraction of others.

Every morning (after day one) we start with a recap of the previous day’s content.

The First and Second Questions – Answered

When’s lunch? Normally around 1230. Lunch is provided (unless it’s a Virtual Classroom course, then it’s whatever you’ve got in)

What time do we finish? Usually between 4 and 4.30. DGSA is quite an intensive course and it’s a case of diminishing returns when we go much past 4 pm.

Your trainer will always stay for at least an hour after the session ends, and will be on site by 8am the next day.

Some learners use this period to have some 1:1 time with the trainer, going over things specific to them. Others use the time to do the homework that’s been set. Others scarper…It’s up to you.

Wrap Up

I can’t promise that this post will eliminate every feeling of uncertainty and self-doubt that we experience as adult learners, but it should address those that are a result of missing information.

If you’re undecided which DGSA training provider is best for you, you may also want to check out what makes DGSA Academy different. We hope this post goes some way to demonstrating how much time we spend thinking about your success. Please check out which training option would best suit your style of learning.

If you’ve signed up for one of our DGSA training courses already – Thank You! We look forward to seeing you soon.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at support@dgsaacademy.co.uk