Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Planning Staff Training: Task Analysis

 (Note: This is the third in a series of posts that will be published in the coming weeks to provide an overview of a systematic approach to developing summer camp staff training.)

Once you’ve identified the tasks staff members need to be trained in (see Job Analysis post) the next step in developing staff training is to determine what they’ll need to learn in order to accomplish those tasks. Performing any task can be broken down into three elements; skills, knowledge and attitudes. By identifying the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to perform a task you can create a list of very specific topics to be taught. 

A skill is the physical and/or mental ability to perform some set of activities or steps. When done together, and usually in a specified sequence, these activities accomplish an outcome. As an example, diving into the water is a skill lifeguards must have in order to accomplish the task of rescuing a struggling swimmer. Diving into the water requires a set of steps, taken in a required sequence, which must be learned. The steps in the skill can be identified, documented and standardized. Training can be developed to teach the step-by-step sequence of the skill.

When you develop training to accomplish physical tasks, identifying and teaching skills is easy. When you teach a counselor how to lead a game it is logical to teach a step-by-step process. It is important however to remember that skills are also required in accomplishing tasks that are less physical and more interpersonal such as responding to a camper’s homesickness. While tougher to do, there are specific step-by-step actions that need to identified and taught even when training staff in these types of tasks.  

Along with skills, almost all tasks also require some knowledge. Knowledge is the facts, concepts and ideas we know about a particular topic. It is the cognitive piece of performing a task. In the example of the lifeguard for instance, there are concepts they must know or knowledge they must possess in order to accomplish the task of rescuing a struggling swimmer. The warning signs that a swimmer is in trouble and in danger of drowning is an example of a piece of knowledge that a lifeguard must possess.

The challenge as you develop training is to find the right level of depth of knowledge. On one hand you don’t want staff performing a skill without knowing some background about how and why they’re doing it. At the same time it’s easy to overwhelm them with too much theoretical knowledge. As you analyze a task it is critical that you identify the knowledge that is key to understanding a task and also recognize the nice to know knowledge that perhaps can be left out.

A third component to accomplishing tasks are attitudes. In addition to knowing and doing, successfully accomplishing a task also requires certain feelings. Looking again at the example of a lifeguard and the task of rescuing a struggling swimmer, there are certain feelings or attitudes that are essential. A sense of urgency in responding in such situations is an example of an attitude or feeling you’d want a lifeguard to have.

Too often when training people to perform tasks, organizations focus on the skills and knowledge but not on attitudes. Think of the robotic treatment you often experience from employees at fast food restaurants. The person taking your order usually knows how to place your order (skill) and can answer basic questions about the product (knowledge). They however often lack enthusiasm, interest and caring. These are all attitudes that make difference in how that task is accomplished. The best organizations help employees not only develop the skills and knowledge they need but also the supporting attitudes.  

Analyzing Tasks
To identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that you’ll need to teach, each task needs to be analyzed. For each task ask the following questions:

1. What does the staff member need to know to accomplish this task effectively? (the knowledge question)

2. What does the staff member need to be able to do to accomplish this task effectively?  ( the skills question)

3. What does the staff member need to feel to accomplish this task effectively? (the attitudes question)

The answers to these questions will provide you with a comprehensive list of items to include in your staff training. An easy way to organize this information is to use a simple chart for each task with a column for knowledge, skills and attitudes such as the one as shown below.   

Knowledge (Know)
Skills (Do)
Attitudes (Feel)
What is homesickness

Risk factors for homesickness

Prevention strategies the camp uses

Common signs of homesickness

Individual strategies for coping with homesickness

Recognize potential homesickness in a camper

Discuss homesickness with a camper

Coach a camper to select and use effective coping 

Homesickness is normal reaction to separation 

Homesickness is painful and interferes with enjoying camp

Severe homesickness is preventable

Discussing homesickness with a camper will not increase it

Campers can be coached to use strategies to decrease homesickness