I saw a post the other day that focused on how training in the emergency services never stops – even on weekends people are out there training. I was also recently speaking to a member of a fire brigade who was less than enthusiastic about attending the next training day at the station… because they have training booked every week, yet they felt they didn’t really gain anything from it.
So let’s raise the issue of what is more important: quality or quantity?
OK, so I have to steal a line here from a fitness training article… the brain is a muscle after all! 😉
You will be more successful if you focus on performing very few quality focused repetitions, rather than dozens of reps, where you may fatigue and perform poor reps.
Can this same accepted truth be applied to learning and training?
- Is it better to have less frequent training sessions with more effort put into the organisation and learning activities, rather than running lots of shorter, poorly planned, boring, or repetitive sessions?
- Would running training less frequently impact the retention or development of knowledge and skills in the required time frame?
There is also a lot of research as to how participants interact and engage with learning. Is it better to have frequent, quick but shallow engagement? Or is more gained from considered thought, longer and deeper engagement?
The way people interact on social media is a good analogy here. What is of more value: The person who hits the like button on every post written in the group, or the person who contributes a thoughtful answer to an idea that has struck a note with them?
Is this like the person who attends each training session but hangs around talking or just watching on the edge of the activity, compared to the person who makes it every few weeks but is actively involved, asking questions and looking for feedback on their performance?
- Would members (especially volunteers) be more motivated if they knew they just had to complete once a fortnight or once a month training rather than weekly training, and if they knew it would be of higher quality?
- If training was designed to require deeper engagement from everyone involved would it improve the participation and motivation levels?
Some of the most experienced operators in our emergency services will also be quick to highlight the importance of muscle memory and drilled skills. I totally agree with this too!
When you look at the research for when quantity is more important than quality, it often relates to people trying to master practical skills or knowledge facts. This is where practice makes perfect.
The shorter path to maximized quality is in maximized quantity, and executing on the feedback after each finished product.
So how do we incorporate this idea, while holding true to the other thinking on quality over quantity? By keeping it short and sweet. The nature of these facts, skills and drills that require repetition to build muscle memory means that it should only take a few minutes at most. The key thing is it must be kept high pace and brief!
- Could short skills and drills be included at the start or end of training sessions? (Think the first 5-10 minutes max).
- Can videos and other support materials be developed that support individuals revising and practicing these elsewhere?
- Could multiple skills stations and mini competitions be used as a training session periodically to support members in practicing these skills and tasks?
I’m sure this could be a polarising issue, so what are your thoughts?