Written by: David Johnston
It’s human nature that every IT wants their instructor candidates to succeed, but sometimes you do all you can and still he or she comes up short. Having to give that bad news is easily one of the hardest things for an instructor trainer to do.
Here are a couple of tips and random thoughts to help soften the blow of giving the bad news to your student(s):
Think of Possible Options
What options do you have to work with? For some levels the only option is to pass or fail the candidate while with other levels you will have the option of giving them a conditional pass. If available, conditional passes are an effective tool. They allow the student to walk away with part of the certification, giving them time to work on the one or two skills they still need, and then return for assessment at a later date.
While conditional passes work well for those who are close to success but not quite there yet, they do require extra responsibilities and a commitment on your part to work with the candidate after the course is completed. Heed this as a warning, conditional passes do create extra work for you the instructor trainer.
For some levels the option exists to grant a lower certification. This is an excellent option because the student receives a certification appropriate to their skills, and with a true picture of the level they originally attempted.
Another possible option for your candidate is to get some specific coaching from a different instructor. A different instructor may be able to explain the deficient skill in an alternative way leading to a breakthrough.
Why did they originally sign-up?
It is important to note the student’s goals and objectives at the start of the course. Sometimes they are just there to learn and have no interest in the certification aspect of the course. If they are not interested in the certification but instead have other goals they are focusing on, you can change how you approach the overall debrief at the end.
Prepare Your Student Early
If you have a feeling that a student isn’t going to meet the certification requirements for the course you owe it to them to let them know early that you are concerned. It would be really unfair if the student walked into a certification debrief thinking they were passing when in fact they were not. When you touch base with them to let them know your concerns, don’t tell them that they are going to fail but rather be clear that the demonstrated skill or assigned teaching assignment didn’t quite meet the standards. This does double duty in that it makes them aware that they need to keep working on the skill over the rest of the course and also keeps them from being surprised later.
As an instructor trainer, it is critical that you document specific instances in the course or specific skills which contribute to your final decision and be prepared to show that documentation to the student. Ensure that you document clear examples as it will give you a stronger foundation to stand on for those instructor candidates who try to argue or try to convince you to change your mind.
You Must Have a Tangible Reason
If you are unable to give a certification to an instructor candidate, your reason for doing so much be tangible. For example, an instructor candidate who can’t perform a specific required skill has very clearly not reached the benchmark but telling a candidate that you “feel” they were unsafe on the water is not a specific enough reason. You need to provide clear and irrefutable evidence of the course’s learning outcomes and benchmarks not being met.
It’s Not Over for Paddling
If the instructor candidate is disappointed with not achieving the certification, remind them that not getting the certification isn’t the end of paddling. Go over the skills that they did gain throughout the course and then outline for them the steps they need to take to continue to progress. Can the candidate come back and either take the course again or potentially challenge the testing a second time? If you work for a paddling school, talk to your boss and find out about options for retesting or discounts on costs for taking a course a second time. Do this before you run the program so you can offer these options right away.