Who do you train?


Who do you train?

Who do you train

Are you a dog trainer? If so do you train the dogs or the owners? Quite probably you are training both but do you treat the owner differently to the dog or have you tried applying the same principles of learning to both?

It is an interesting thought and one I came across recently when I had to compare two theories from scholarship. My two theories were Skinner's Operant Conditioning of pigeons and rats and a paper by Lefroy et al (2015) titled The Do's, Don'ts and Don't knows of feedback.

What was clear from the two was that feedback was essential to learning but Skinner had two principles, that being the timing and placement of reward and Lefroy et al had 32! This got me thinking. Why the difference? Is it just because one paper was about animals and the other people? Are people that much more complex to teach than animals? Let's face it we all know how well animals train us humans and they haven't read any research or manuals.

The conclusions I came to are that Skinner's findings under pin all the other 30 factors who ever you are training. With incorrect timing and placement of reward (feedback) no one will learn effectively however it is delivered.

Poor feedback demotivates both humans and animals and so it is important to know what is good quality teaching. A dog trainer has a slightly more complex classroom than a teacher who trains either humans or dogs alone. But most trainers have to be able to teach a person how to teach a dog. Understanding how dog's learn is therefore not the only knowledge or skill that is needed. They also need to understand how to teach a person to teach (in this case their dog).

One thing that I have discovered over the years of teaching MSc level students is that students that are able to reflect on their own work are much more successful than those that just listen to lectures and what they are being told and so reflecting on my own role I conclude that being passionate about my subject is not enough. I also need to be passionate about the art or skill of teaching.