Each member of job coaching staff at our supported employment agency partners ELITE and Agoriad is put through a thorough training programme prior to entering the workplace to support a young person. One crucial aspect of this training is Training in Systematic Instruction, or TSI Training. This training focuses on the strategies for supporting a young person through learning new tasks and monitoring their progress effectively and efficiently.
It all begins with constructing a task analysis. A key reason for constructing a task analysis is to ensure that the trainer/job coach is prepared to instruct the young person systematically in each task. By having a clear idea of:
a) What skills need to be taught
b) The sequence in which they will be taught
d) The stimulus that controls each response
The trainer will be in a much better position to effectively and systematically assist individuals as they learn the task.
There are two main reasons why the trainer must know the tasks involved in a job. Firstly, to enable the trainer to efficiently impart information to the individual during training, at a level which suits the individual’s needs. Secondly, to enable the trainer to record and collect data on the individual’s progress towards successfully completing the tasks of the job.
Ideally the person who will do the training should construct the task analysis, and to practice performing the task several times in exactly the way the trainee will be expected to perform and learn it.
The trainer will break down a task by using steps roughly equal in size that result in distinct observable changes. The aim is to avoid instruction which are too general or too detailed, while taking into account the individual’s capacity to absorb information.
- Written instructions
- Exploded view
Descriptive stimulus / Component response
Training involves not just teaching a worker ‘how’ to perform certain responses. It also involves teaching ‘when’ to perform those responses. A task analysis should indicate both the responses to be learned and the stimuli that will control each response when training is completed. When the trainer specifies the descriptive stimuli for each response they will also be specifying the step criterion for the preceding response.
Once the trainer has identified the steps in the task, including any non-linear branching, they are added to a data collection sheet that will be used to record the trainee’s performance on each of the steps and serve as a guide to the sequence in which the steps should be trained. The trainer will differentiate between correct and incorrect performance, and between topographically correct performance and functionally correct performance.
How does the trainer know when a step has been completed? For some steps this is quite clear cut but for others it can be open to interpretation. There are generally two types of steps in any given task analysis. These are:
- Discrete steps
- Judgement steps
Training the job
The next aim for the trainer is to consider how they can pass the information that must be learned on to the trainee. This includes the type, amount and timing of trainer prompts or assists during the training process and how to deal with difficulties.
The basic philosophy of Structured Training is to allow the trainee to learn tasks through experimentation and a system of internal feedback. The trainer only provides the minimum assistance needed by the trainee, and seeks to withdraw from the outset in order to allow the trainees the maximum opportunity to demonstrate competence. This assistance could take the form of demonstrations, physical prompts or assists, verbal prompts or assists, or gestural prompts or assists. The trainer will decide which prompt is most appropriate for each situation – an art rather than a science.
Fading / Withdrawing
The object of training is to move from powerful prompts to no prompts at all during the process, known as fading or withdrawing. Fading can be defined as an instructional strategy in which the power of correction or reinforcement provided by the trainer is diminished as the performance of the learner becomes more accurate. Fading involves purposefully diminishing the power of prompts as learners demonstrate their increasing ability to use the information presented to them. It is only when the trainee is performing the skill to task analysis criterion, without any dependency or prompts from the trainer, that the trainer can be said to have successfully faded or withdrawn.