Monday, August 15, 2011

Thoughts on TOT

Teacher vs Trainer - (courtesy of Marzin Omar)
The term Jurulatih Utama (Main Trainer) or JU for short is not an unfamiliar term among Malaysian teachers - it is a title supposedly given to teachers acting as trainers or coach for other teachers in a district or state.

     In some districts, teachers who are JUs are normally those who have years of experience in teaching, and in many aspects are considered more skillful and knowledgeable in many areas of the teaching field compared to other teachers. That's why they are appointed as trainers to train other teachers through courses, workshops and etc.

     Having said that, there are also' instant' JUs sprouting everywhere around the state. Teachers who went for a particular training at the state level are usually required to conduct an 'in-house training' for teachers in their respective districts, and as such, would automatically be appointed as JUs for their districts. While this in itself, in my humble opinion, isn't a bad thing, a recent training called 'Training of Trainers' (TOT) that I've attended recently had opened my eyes on some issues and aspects of being a JU that I have never really given much thought before.

     Initially, my idea (a very narrow idea, admittedly) of being a JU is similar to being a messenger. That includes attending a training that your PPD or JPN has asked you to attend, participating diligently in all the sessions, digesting the new information, copying everything in your pen drive or external hard disk, then conducting an 'in-house training' in your district or school where you will convey all the information that you've gained throughout the training to your colleagues, exactly or almost exactly in the way they have been presented to you. Whether the participants of the 'in-house training' that you conducted are impressed or amused or are able to digest whatever that you've conveyed is a totally different matter. As long as you've imparted the knowledge and information as accurately as you remember it, you're good. You've done your part as a messenger - or a JU.

    Though as a JU  I have always tried as best I could to do my homework before conducting a training for my colleagues in my district, the extra effort that I usually take is limited to providing some extra information and materials that I have required through extra reading and personal research. As far as making my training session a memorable and enjoyable experience through the participants perspectives - as far as I can remember - those rarely become my first priorities. My main concerns always focus around the 'whats', I rarely prepared the 'hows', - the 'how effective?' Almost never.

     I'm very grateful for the opportunity to attend the Training of Trainers (TOT) Course for Guru Cemerlang (Excellent Teachers) and Jurulatih Utama (Main Trainers) under the MBMMBI Policy conducted by the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) - the 'Harvard' for Malaysian TOT for teachers. The TOT was conducted at De Choice Hotel, Tawau from August 8 to August 12, 2011. It was a packed four-days training that had served as an eye-opener for me. During the introductory session, one of the speakers said that many JUs and GCs, though very experienced and reputable in their field of expertise, are not necessarily effective trainers. The reason for this is that JUs are normally teachers who are selected to attend a course for JUs and being appointed the responsibility of conducting 'in-house trainings'. Normally the criteria for such selection is based on the teacher's direct relation or connection to the subject of the training, i.e. if the course is an English KSSR Year 2 course, an English teacher who teaches Year 2 and who is willing to go for the training will be selected. Whether that particular teacher can shoulder the responsibility of training other teachers is almost always a secondary factor.

     What about the GCs? Well, according to the same speaker, GCs are normally teachers who are experts in their respective subjects, but the expertise is almost always restricted to classroom teaching - not many GCs, with the exceptions of a few outstanding ones of course, are experienced teacher trainers.

     A JU or a GC might be an excellent, popular and well-loved teacher in the school and particularly in the classroom, but he or she can also at the same time be a boring trainer who reads directly from the Powerpoint slides or conducts a 'lifeless' training session for other teachers. Through this training, the misconception I had about JUs being merely messengers was busted and shredded to pieces - a JU is actually highly responsible in making the training session that he or she conducts an effective one. After all, the effectiveness of the training sessions conducted play extremely important roles in ensuring the success of a nationwide policy for instance - if important curriculum contents are not properly disseminated through those 'in-house trainings' supposedly conducted by the district JUs, it would surely lead to confusions and misconceptions especially at the grass root levels, the most important level of all. And making a little extra effort to make the training as interesting and memorable as possible can go a long way in ensuring the information that is supposed to be conveyed be properly digested, comprehended and received by all.

     I've conducted dozens of trainings in my district, and as much as I like to pretend that my CPs (Course Participants - another term I learned from the TOT) had loved me (hehehe) and that they had  enjoyed my training sessions (*rolling eyes*), the truth is, I honestly believe that most of the trainings that I've conducted are rather bland, lack creativity, lack originality, in other words - simply boring. Looking back, I believe that I've relied too much on my oratory skill (which is rather mediocre), and my 'in-house' training sessions are more often than not copy-cats of the 'master' training that I've attended. I've been very lucky to have such nice and cooperative CPs in Kunak. In my 7 years of serving my district as a JU, I've never been thrown any rotten tomatoes yet (thank God!). I've learned from the ELTC speakers that in other places CPs can be quite scary. We actually had a particular session on 'Managing Difficult Clients' during the training - a very interesting and useful knowledge for me.

     If before this I have no interest in andragogy because I thought that it is only useful if I want to be a university lecturer, I have now changed my mind. Andragogy is a useful field to master if you're a JU or a GC. Knowledge in the principles of adult learning as well as developing confidence and interpersonal skills, management and leadership qualities, creativity, originality and a lot of other things are essential if one is to be an effective trainer.

Just a little thought on TOT! ;-)


  1. The quality of half the JUs show the selection process needs to be looked into. For example, those who are JUs in English language should have a good command of the language but sadly, it isn't so.

  2. I agree with you on the andragogy bit. That can really help a JU or JUs when conducting courses. It is not easy to impart knowledge successfully to CPs when their minds are not settled due to a million things what more making it an effective session. Attitude is also important because some CPs attended a course as replacements, some uninterested and still others think it's a waste of time. If the attitude matter can be address correctly and satisfactorily, in my humble opinion, the course will effective and successful.

  3. Hey do you still have the calling letter for the course.


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