In order to achieve the constant support which the change-agents need, there is a need for more training for supervisors and project officers-training appropriate to their proper role of resource persons working alongside their development workers and instructors.
Those concerned with programmes of ‘staff development’ have identified two main models: a ‘developmental’ (bottom-up and problem-solving) model and a ‘deficit’ (top-down, input-based) model. The former is more concerned with the needs of the person, the latter with the needs of the organization he or she serves. Much the same is true of the training of supervisors. They may be molded to fit the needs of the programme and the agency, or they may be made innovative and free to exercise judgment in the fulfillment of their role of helper of change-agents.
Such training, if it is really to help the change agents, needs to be pragmatic and practical rather than textbook and academic. Supervisors exist to serve rather than control and instruct the change-agents. In this capacity, they need to have had some experience of development to be good practitioners rather than good theoreticians. Theory and development, as in adult education, grows out of practice more than practice out of theory. Supervisors and project officers thus need to be trained practically in development.
And this in turn creates demand for new patterns of training the trainers for development: training is best conducted by those who are themselves experienced in the problems of being supervisor and of being a change-agent rather than by experts in the theory of Development.
Unfortunately, this bottom-up approach to training is in many cases a long way off. What usually exists is a top-down model, in which academics tell the supervisors what they should know and these in turn pass it down to the change-agents. The trainers set the format, the timing and the content of the training rather than helping the change-agents to plan their own training.
Training During A Recession
Most training programs in Development (even those which call for participatory methods) seem to be designed to limit initiative, to discourage decision-making by the trainees, and to encourage conformity to an ideal. They set out to create a model extension worker or change-agent, to foster the adoption of approved methods of animation (demonstration, role play or simulation, etc.); they try to ‘give all the answers’. Rarely do training programs set out to encourage the change-agents to innovate, to solve problems, to identify for themselves resources which can help them.
But the demand for innovative change-agents on a mass scale is bringing about changes in the content and methods of these initial and in-service training programs. These latter training programs may be analyzed in terms of our Development model.
- They start with the existing state, the intentions and aspirations of the change-agents, with what they want to learn rather than with topics chosen by the supervisors, trainers and agencies.
- The articulation of these concerns by the change-agents will serve to heighten their awareness as they reflect critically on their role as change-agent, the resources available to them, and their own needs and aspirations.
- Such programs seek to develop the knowledge, skills and understandings necessary for an effective change-agent — not just a limited range of communication skills and extension techniques, but a deeper understanding of the process of changing society, including identifying barriers and resources in their environment. They pay attention to attitude formation as well as knowledge change-attitudes that the change-agents hold towards themselves, towards the task, and towards the participant groups.
- They practice decision-making by the trainees, building confidence in the change-agents to plan their own learning.
- And they build in programs of active learning (instead of merely listening and watching) during the training programs-activities which will help the trainees to become more effective change-agents.