Human Services Resource and Training Blog

Training and performance blog for developmental disability and human service professionals

Steps to Conducting a Needs Assessment

Posted by Cathy Cousear on December 22, 2013

In order to successfully determine training needs for an organization, a needs assessment should be conducted. According to Gupta (2007), in the book, A Practical Gide to Need Assessments, All human learning, training and performance improvement should begin with a needs assessment. Gupta indicates there is a five phase approach to conducting the needs assessment:

  • Gather Preliminary Data. This may involve meeting with key personnel including the HR Director, Program Directors and other key administrators.


  • Develop a Plan. After discussing the issues with key people, determine a plan of action. You may look into the gap between the current and desired levels of training.


  • Conduct a Needs Assessment. Develop am instrument that will help you gather important data. During this phase, you may interview people from various departments by creating a survey or coordinating a focus group.


  • Analyze the Data. Look for recurring themes in your qualitative data.


  • Write the Report. Your report should summarize your findings, and provide specific recommendations.

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Human Performance Intervention Core Compentencies

Posted by Cathy Cousear on December 15, 2013

In order to become successful as a Human performance Improvement practitioner, there are several core competencies one must develop:

  1. Leadership. Know how to influence others and lead effectively.
  2. Interpersonal skills. The ability to work well with others in order to achieve a common goal.
  3. Industry awareness. Understand the mission, vision, and culture of human service organizations.
  4. Organization understanding. Being able to see the whole picture including organizations as a social system including economic, political, and social influences.
  5. Problem-solving skills. Once performance gaps are identified, determine how to close the gap.
  6. Knowledge of intervention. Knowing how to apply not only training, but also non-training interventions.


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Using Human performance Improvement in the Developmental Disability Field

Posted by Cathy Cousear on December 15, 2013


Historically in the developmental disability and human service field, training is often used to correct issues that arise among the workforce. Recent studies show that performance issues may not be due to skills and knowledge of the worker, rather problems that are developed at the organizational level.

Human Performance Improvement (HPI), is an effective way of closing performance gaps in the developmental disability field. Donald Tosi, an expert in human performance technology, explains through his work that human performance technology has four principles:

  1. Focusing on results
  2. Taking a systems view
  3. Creating value for the individual or organization
  4. Establishing partnerships with clients and other professionals.

There are six steps in the human performance improvement process:

  • Business Analysis. Before you can begin any training goal, you must be able to identify the business goals of your organization including the mission statement, goals and values.
  • Performance Analysis. The next step is identifying both desired and current performance levels. For instance, in reviewing trends in abuse, what is the current expectation in reducing the number and what is the gaps in the performance that you expect to close?
  • Cause Analysis. What might cause the performance gap? Reefing back to the abuse example, it is at this phase that you will determine if the gap is from lack of knowledge, short staff, etc.
  • Intervention. During this phase, you select an intervention that will close the performance gap. Examples of interventions may include, additional training, job aids, job rotation and coaching.
  • Evaluation. After an intervention is introduced, it is important to evaluate and measure the effectiveness in closing the performance gap.
  • Change Management. During the last phase, your role will be to help the organization adapt to the new changes by providing ongoing feedback and monitor the results.

By implementing the six steps in the human performance improvement process, you will more likely be able to accurately determine the performance gap.

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The ASTD Techknowledge 2014

Posted by Cathy Cousear on December 1, 2013

astd teck knowledgeThe ASTD Techknowledge 2014 will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Caesars Palace from January 22-24, 2014.

Conference tracks include:

  • E-Learning
  • Management and Implementation
  • Serious Games and Simulations
  • Social Mobile
  • Platforms and Tools
  • Virtual Classrooms
  • Emergency Technologies

Early registration rates expire 12/13/13

For More Information

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Training and Development Quotes

Posted by Cathy Cousear on December 1, 2013

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”- Mark Van Doren

“What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.”-Confucius

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him discover it within himself.”- Galileo Galilei

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”- Albert Einstein

“Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.”-Aristotle

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Five Personality Characteristics That Will Turn a Good Trainer into a Great Trainer.

Posted by Cathy Cousear on November 30, 2013

010In early 2013, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), revised the training competency model in order to, stay abreast of changes in new and emerging technologies, retooling the role of trainer from a deliverer of training to a builder of learning communities and advancing towards the changes in learning through both mobile and social technology.

The competency model is a way to ensure that trainers are competent in skills and knowledge in their area of expertise. While having the knowledge is extremely important, what turns a good trainer into a great trainer?

A great trainer should have certain personality characteristics which sets them aside from others. I listed 5  personality traits (in no particular order) which will turn a good trainer into a great trainer:

  1. Enjoys learning. Just as a writer must enjoy reading, a really great trainer is generally excited about learning. As trends and technology constantly change, a trainer should consistently stay current on new techniques not only in delivery training, but understanding how learner’s learn effectively. A great trainer enjoys the whole learning process and looks forward to attending seminars and conferences and also learning in general.
  1. Empathy.   A trainer understands the needs of others. Meaning, they understand the underlying reasons for a behavior and understand what people mean. Empathy also includes showing that you care about the participant and will  take the time to talk to people as individuals. A great trainer also has the ability to pick out the extroverts from the introverts and conduct the training accordingly.
  1. Passion. A great trainer is passionate not only in training, but also on the training topic. Passion excites the participants and evokes a great engaging style.
  1. Good Listener. While many people believe it is the role of the trainer to talk and facilitate, it is equally important to listen. What we do know about adult learners is that it is important for them to bring their own knowledge and experience to the table. A great trainer also has the ability to listen without judging including blocking out thinking while a participant is talking and uses active listening techniques such as displaying good eye contact and being attentive.
  1. Preparedness. A great trainer is always prepared. This means not only by ensuring the room is set up appropriately, but also anticipating questions, problems and ensuring the training runs smoothly.

So what do you think of the list? Are there other traits you feel should be included?

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AAIDD 2014 Call for Presentations

Posted by Cathy Cousear on November 19, 2013

2014 Call for Presentations

About the Conference

The 138th AAIDD Annual Meeting, Embracing Complexity: Inclusion, Participation, and Citizenship, to be held June 23-26, 2014 in Orlando, Florida, will provide researchers, clinicians, practitioners, educators, policymakers, local, state and federal agencies, and advocates with cutting edge research, effective practices, and valuable information on important policy initiatives in complex times. The conference will have thought-provoking plenary sessions concerning emerging issues and the complexities that these issues bring to people’s lives and the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. This conference will also identify ways in which professionals can prepare themselves and their organizations to embrace the complexities brought on by ever-changing contexts in research, policy, practices occur and in people’s lives. Additionally, the conference will feature panel presentations, poster presentations, taskforce and special interest group meetings, and multiple networking opportunities for attendees to learn from one another as well as the presenters. Select pre- and post-conference workshops will address relevant topics of interest in greater detail.

Proposals Sought

Proposals are sought that present high quality original research or synthesize research findings, report on innovative practices, and/or analyze public policies. We strongly encourage authors of proposals to consider the theme of the conference by indicating ways in which their proposal addresses a complex issue related to policy and practice in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities and strategies for researcher, policy makers and practitioners to embrace the complexity toward expanding   inclusion, participation, and citizenship for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Proposals will be competitively reviewed—not all proposals will be accepted. Due to the limited number of concurrent session slots, no individual author will be permitted to present more than two paper presentations on which s/he is first author. Also because of the limited number of paper presentation opportunities, the review panel may determine it necessary to offer a presentation format different from that initially proposed by the author(s) (e.g., poster presentation instead of paper presentation). A specific block of time will be dedicated solely to poster sessions to assure that poster presentations have a high level of visibility at the 2014 conference.

Proposal Formats

Paper Presentation: Individuals or small groups of authors are encouraged to submit proposals for paper presentation whose content could be conveyed in 30 minutes (including question period). Among the paper presentation proposals accepted for inclusion in the program, AAIDD will group 3 paper presentations that are on a common topic or theme into one 90-minute concurrent session. AAIDD will assign a moderator to the paper presentations that will be combined into a concurrent session.

Panel Presentation: Individuals or small groups of authors are encouraged to submit 3 distinct but thematically linked presentation proposals of 30 minutes each (including question period). We will not accept submitted panel presentations where there is only one presenter or the 1st presenter is an author on all three presentations in the panel presentation. Panel presentations will be reviewed as a group presentation. AAIDD will assign a moderator to each concurrent session.

Poster Presentations: Individuals or groups of authors are encouraged to submit proposals for interactive poster presentations in which they can to discuss their work with conference participants. Poster proposals will also be peer-reviewed but there is no limit on the number of poster presentations that may be accepted by the same author.

Pre and Post-Conference Sessions: These sessions are held either the day before (6/23) or the day after the conference (6/26). These sessions are a half or full-day session addressing an important issue and generally have a practical focus. Individuals wishing to offer this type of session should follow the same submission guidelines for proposals. AAIDD will be seeking CEUs for pre and post conference sessions, authors of sessions selected for pre and post conference presentation will be required to provide a copy of their CV and provide 4 learning objectives. All pre and post conference sessions will require an additional fee from the attendees.

Guidelines for Submitting a Proposal

All proposals will be peer-reviewed and authors will be notified of the decision on their submission in February 2014. The expectation is that the lead author will communicate to the co-presenters on their proposal all relevant conference information. At least the lead author of each accepted proposal is expected to attend and present at the conference.

Submit proposals online at

Submission Deadline is December 6, 2013


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The International Society Performance Improvement Conference- Upcoming

Posted by Cathy Cousear on November 19, 2013


The International Society for Performance Improvement will be holding their annual conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, from April 13 to April 16, 2014. This is a great opportunity to participate in new sessions, network with industry leaders, and enjoy the great city of Indianapolis.

Early registrations ends December 18, 2013

For More Information 

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The ASTD Competency Model

Posted by Cathy Cousear on October 29, 2013

Effective January 2013, the American Society for Training and Developed revised the ASTD Competency Model for training and development professionals. The new model serves as a way to provide a roadmap for trainers and also outline competencies needed in order to be successful.

The Competency Model includes the following areas of expertise:

  • Change Management
  • Performance Improvement
  • Instructional Design
  • Training Delivery
  • Learning Technologies
  • Evaluating Learning Impact
  • Managing Learning Programs
  • Integrated Talent Management
  • Coaching
  • Knowledge Management

Furthermore, ASTD included foundation competencies including:

  • Business Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Industry Knowledge
  • Global Mindset
  • Personal Skills
  • Technology Literacy

This blog will explore each area of competency and the impact on training employees in the area of developmental disabilities.

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Using Critical Thinking In Training

Posted by Cathy Cousear on September 3, 2013

2013-09-03 07.41.17

Part of being a successful trainer is the ability to not only teach a new skill, change attitudes, and increase knowledge, but also answer questions effectively and problem solve. This calls for a higher level of thinking often referred to as critical thinking.

Paul and Elder (2006), defines critical thinking as the art of thinking while thinking in order to make thinking better. Furthermore, it involves three interwoven phases: it analyzes, evaluates and improves thinking.

Paul and Elder further state there are six stages of development of critical thinking:

Stage 1- the unreflective thinker- we are unaware of significant problems in our thinking.

Stage 2- The challenged thinker- we become aware of problems in our thinking.

Stage 3- The beginning thinker- we try to improve but without regular practice.

Stage 4- The practicing thinker- we recognize the necessity of regular practice.

Stage 5- The advance thinker- we advance in accordance with our practice.

Stage 6- The master thinker- skilled and insightful thinking, becomes second nature to us.

In order to be successful, it is tantamount that trainers are skilled in critical thinking since we must have the ability during training to:

  • Raise questions and give scenarios.
  • Gather and assess relevant information.
  • Use ideas that are abstract and interpret the information to participants on diverse levels of comprehension and application.
  • Express a question in a variety of ways.

In an effort to develop your clarifying thinking, use the following format:

–          State one point at a time.

–          Elaborate what you mean.

–          Give examples that connect your thoughts to life experiences by using analogies which will help participants connect your ideas to a variety of things they already understand.


State-“Developmental Disability is attributable to a mental or physical impairment.”

Elaborate- a person can either have an intellectual impairment or physical impairment or both.”

Example- “Autism is an example of a developmental disability since it affects the person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.”

Here are ways to improve your critical thinking skills:

  • Become an active learner. This includes actively listening, writing, reading and speaking. Learn to focus on the participant and avoid distractions. Also, take notes when reading and make sure you write questions in the margin when reading new material. In addition, pay close attention to how you speak including your tone of voice.
  • Relate content whenever possible. Make sure you have a deeper understanding of the material you present by asking the right questions and writing out your thoughts.
  • Improve your ability to summarize. Make sure you understand the main points that you are covering by mastering the ability to separate the concepts that you are teaching. Ensure that it is understood by organizing principles and dissecting ideas so the participants can see the relationship in the subject matter.


Paul, R. & Elder L. (2006). Critical Thinking: Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life. Pearson Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle, New Jersey.

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