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Learning to teach
  1. Chris Lehrbach

Abstract

As part of an ongoing development programme by XLEquine for its member practices, Chris Lehrbach recently completed a two-day ‘train the trainer’ course with LANTRA. Here, he talks about the course and how he believes it will benefit him, his clients and his practice

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I GREW up with horses, along with a menagerie of other animals, and wanted to be vet from the age of eight. When I was 15 years old, my family moved from South Wales to a farm on the Orkney Islands.

When I qualified from Glasgow in 1994 I wanted to be zoo vet; however, I began in mixed practice in Lancashire where my interest in equine work developed. My Masters thesis involved research into equine racing injuries, tendon injuries in thoroughbreds and developmental orthopaedic disease in foals. In 2002, my wife and I were planning to move to Australia, but during the application process we relocated to Norfolk to Chapelfield Veterinary Partnership, a rural mixed practice where my remit was to develop the equine side of the business.

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During the week that we had arranged to have chest x-rays for the migration process, my wife (who was then an equine vet in the same practice) was offered a partnership. So we decided to stay in Norfolk and I became an equine partner in 2008. In 2011, Chapelfield purchased land in Brooke, South Norfolk and designed and built its purpose-built equine clinic, which was completed in 2012. Chapelfield was a founding member practice of XLVets at its inception in 2005. As a director, my role includes responsibility for running and developing the equine services offered by the practice.

In spring this year, XLEquine launched its EquineSkills workshops. Based on the established FarmSkills template developed by XLVets and the successful ‘train the trainer’ programme, the workshops are structured, practical and interactive training courses for clients, with accurate information on the subject matter relayed in a consistent manner by the trainers. All trainers must have completed the train the trainer programme to be able to run the workshops.

The train the trainer programme teaches techniques and methods to vets to aid the delivery of practical instruction and course leadership. The course had been recommended to me by farm colleagues from within the practice, and two farm directors have been running successful training programmes for farmers for a couple of years. Having never had any formal training on how to teach, I decided this was too good an opportunity to miss. I was also made aware that I was the 300th member of XLVets to attend the course, which I think speaks for itself.

Train the trainer courses

Train the trainer courses are run by LANTRA at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. I attended a two-day programme, although there are also five-day programmes available. The course was extremely interactive, involving lots of talking, team work and action. The aim was to involve everyone and encourage participation – no-one was able to hide at the back!

The content included understanding how people learn in different ways, and how to set up and run a training course with components that encourage participation. These include, for example, the use of icebreakers to start, mixing up capabilities and personalities within the groups, stimulating individual as well as group thinking, problem-solving, and making people feel at ease and included (by using their names, for example, and mixing open and closed questioning).

The course used a ‘see one, do one, teach one’ method as a means of reinforcing a message. Each member had to prepare a simple practical task, which they would then demonstrate to their group, explaining how to do it, such that a member of the group then demonstrates how it is done back to the trainer, then they teach someone else how to complete the task.

I discovered that simple tasks can be difficult to explain. My task was to teach someone step-by-step how to boil an egg; other examples included wiring a plug and unravelling paragliding lines. Constant reinforcement of techniques was encouraged, such as questioning the demonstrator, giving consideration to health and safety issues, and thinking about the process from the learner's perspective.

To be honest, I was surprised that I got so much out of a course which, despite the enthusiasm of my colleagues, I was still quite sceptical about. I learned a great deal about how to convey information to someone using common sense and practical techniques. The first hour of the programme did feel rather cheesy and slightly uncomfortable, but, by the end of the two days, everyone attending had clearly embraced the ideas of the learning techniques conveyed and thoroughly enjoyed the process.

Benefits

The tangible improvement in my communication and knowledge transfer skills means that I now feel equipped and able to provide training programmes to clients, as well as vets and other staff within the practice.

I now have a greater understanding of how people learn and an increased awareness of different learning styles and how to relay information, to communicate and teach. It has also helped improve my professional conversational skills with clients and work colleagues, resulting in more effective transfer of information.

Client workshops

As well as providing an additional income stream, client workshops are an excellent means of bonding clients to the practice, as well as enhancing the reputation of the practice within the local equestrian population.

An initial series of 36 EquineSkills workshops are being delivered by XLEquine member practices across the UK from May to December 2014, covering two topics: equine first aid and equine foot care. Further topics are planned for 2015 and beyond, as it evolves.

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