Unraveling the ToT Model: Insights and Best Practices for Effective Training of Trainers

By Caren Holzman, Enabling Outcomes and Matthew Davidson, Primark

Delving into the Training of Trainers (ToT) model, this article evaluates its effectiveness and best practices. Drawing from Primark’s Ethical Trade Team’s experience and research, it offers insights into optimising ToT for large-scale knowledge dissemination and behaviour change.

Training of Trainers (ToT) is a frequently used model of delivering training content that reaches large numbers of individuals. The model relies upon a cascade of knowledge: where a Master Trainer trains Lead Trainers who then train others. Conventional wisdom is that ToTs work in practice and are a cost-effective way to reach large numbers of individuals to instil knowledge and stimulate behaviour change.

This general acceptance is why it is a model often used by NGOs and companies to disseminate learning as part of their engagement programming.

Primark’s Ethical Trade Team has used the ToT model in collaboration with partners—many of whom are experts in delivering training— to deliver training across their supply chain. Primark wanted to further explore and evaluate the model. Using desk-based research and semi-structured interviews with training experts and ToT practitioners, we explored the effectiveness of ToTs and what good practice looks like in using ToTs to stimulate behaviour change.

The research revealed that the ToT model has not been well-evaluated, interrogated or analysed in academic literature or technical evaluations, especially within the business and human rights and international development spheres. Through the insight of interviewees and the scant research that was available, we wanted to share what we’ve learnt about ToTs and good practice in their implementation:

  • ToT is often confused with knowledge campaigns and/or direct training. ToT is a model that should not only pass on knowledge, but also instil behaviour change. ToT differs from direct training in that Lead Trainers should be equipped with knowledge and skills to then train others by presenting information effectively, responding to participant questions, and leading activities that reinforce learning and foster behaviour change.
  • ToT programmes often focus on the content, but it is just as important (if not more important) to build up the interpersonal skills, communication capabilities, and facilitation skills of trainers. The selection of Master and Lead Trainers is paramount to the success of the programme: the quality of the ToT depends on the quality of the trainers.
  • Understanding the enabling environment is critical. This includes understanding time constraints, local context, gender, hierarchical relationships, and formal and informal processes and communication channels.
  • A ToT might not be the cost-effective “quick fix” to reaching large numbers. A good ToT requires investment in terms of time, money, and human resources. This includes time for curriculum and facilitation design, training the trainers, refinement, scheduling training, follow-up support, refresher activities, reviews, and evaluation. A good ToT is a multi-year programme with significant investment in time, capital, human resources and oversight.
  • ToTs should be embedded into learning and development programmes within organisations and these organisations ideally should be financially supporting ToTs; however, to do so requires creating buy-in and often a business case supplemented with evidence as to why the ToT is important and the difference it makes.

This may seem like a daunting list, but we believe it will serve not only Primark, but also other corporates, NGOs and charities in designing approaches, evaluating programmes and managing training effectiveness. The learning and good practice will help Primark and others to critically evaluate where, when, and how to effectively deploy ToT models, to better serve and refine strategy and implementation plans for ToT programmes. We hope to remind everyone of the importance of identifying trainer potential and investing in the development of their skills. And finally, and potentially most importantly, we hope that it will catalyse the vision and investment needed for ToTs to provide access to knowledge and promote positive change for large numbers of individuals.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can download the research here

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