ACI Conference Recap - Charlotte

Mon, 2011-11-07 16:20

 The first Home Energy Trainer Conference from Affordable Comfort, Inc (ACI) went off without a hitch. The event took place in Charlotte, NC at the Hilton Charlotte Center City Hotel. Trainers from a multitude of organizations were present, visiting the booths and participating in workshop sessions. Everblue staff members were sprinkled throughout the conference, as conference presenters, volunteers, and booth participants.

The training sessions dominated the conference. Participants were asked to join a specific learning track. These tracks included Understanding Adult Learning, Teaching Building Science, Business Development for Trainers, and Building Successful Learning Organizations.

Here is a sampling of what we learned at some of these workshops:

Understanding Adult Learning with Dr. Bob Ash and Dr. Ann Atkinson

-Dr. Ash and Dr. Atkinson offered an unscripted forum for adult learning styles and teaching strategies. Among their suggestions, they emphasized the importance of story-telling as a means of relating technical information to an audience. Individuals, they said, are more likely to remember a funny or interesting story than they are to remember a handout full of bullet points. 

-Dr. Atkinson presented on different learning styles, which included Visual, Aural / Auditory, Read / Write, and Kinesthetic. She asked her audience to complete a brief questionnaire, determining which learning style each individual likely was. After a quick poll of hands, Dr. Atkinson determined that most individuals in the room had a kinesthetic learning style - that is, the act of learning through experience or hands-on interaction. The classroom sample, she said, was reflective of humans in general and that when we train students, we must not only cater to the kinesthetic students but to also engage students with visual, auditory, and read / write needs.

-Dr. Atkinson called upon the assistance of Carla Maxwell, the training manager for ACI, to present a short hands-on activity. Carla used a simple cardboard box and sealed the corners with tape. She explained that the box was equivalent to a perfectly sealed house. She asked the audience to recreate the box in their table groups, also requesting that they properly insulate the insides of the “house.” In a room full of home performance contractors and trainers, no one met Carla’s challenge. The lesson behind the activity was that Carla did not explain each step of the process to the audience, nor did she show them how she sealed the “house.” This lesson translates into the classroom with Dr. Atkinson’s fool-proof training process, which is: Show, Tell, Do, Review. A trainer must show students the perfect way of performing an activity. Then the trainer needs to explain why that process is correct. The next step is to make the student perform the activity (without assistance) until he or she absolutely cannot go further on his or her own. Lastly, the trainer must ask the class to provide feedback on the student’s attempt and ask the student how he or she would have done the activity differently another time. Dr. Atkinson says it works every time!

-This learning track concluded with a question-and-answer session about best practices in the industry. Dr. Ash and Dr. Atkinson asked the trainers to determine the biggest problems they run into in a classroom setting and out in the field. After agreeing upon the largest issues, the audience bounced solutions back and forth on how they would handle the situation.

Understanding Adult Learning was the only educational track that did not directly relate to home performance and energy efficiency. In fact, it was more a class on psychology and relationship skills. Many of the trainers in the room agreed that this workshop was exactly what they had been previously lacking. You can have all the technical information and experience in the world, but if you don’t understand how people learn, then you’ll never be able to effectively communicate or teach them.

Teaching Building Science with John Tooley, Doug Donovan, Anthony Cox, and David Keefe

-John Tooley taught on training excellence. He reviewed the most successful training practices that America developed and challenged all to incorporate those practices into their programs today. His challenge to bring excellence in training educators and workers was documented with the TWI (Training Within Industry) and JIB (Job Instruction Breakdown). John consistently challenged all to produce training that values the work being done correctly, quickly, consistently, and safely. 

-The second day was entirely devoted to effective delivery methods to teach building science  principles. The focus was on respecting the different learning styles of adults and successfully teaching with multi-sensory methods. Anthony Cox built the most amazing Play Acrylic House to demonstrate the building science of the whole house, but it is not cheap. The strategy was to demonstrate effective learning through teaching to the student and how to understand your class better. Questions and answers were constantly in dialog as the panel of four trainers fielded questions throughout the day. They provided fun for participants and amazement for viewers involving trumpets, hats, banners, and lively group interactive learning activities.  

-Blended Learning with Chris Compton and Frank Spevak gave the most interesting session for me because at Everblue, we understand the benefits and have identified blended learning strategies that we incorporate into our training. Also, I liked it because my undergraduate degree and interest is in Special Education. Doug Donovan with Efficiency First and Interplay Energy was amazing as he demonstrated game-based simulation training. This was presented to help train contractors and energy auditors simulate unlimited combustion safety scenarios with software using an ‘avatar lady.’ I love to see how this industry is really stepping up to address the different learning styles of adult learning with not only the multi-sensory approach but also how blended learning is proving to be successful. The session helped trainers recognize the learning environments that respond best to blended learning, like the working adults who study and learn in chunks of time, often needing an on-demand webinar at home in the evening after the kids are in bed to learn, review, and test for concepts.  

We learned a great deal about industry trends and enjoyed getting the opportunity to meet other passionate individuals who are striving for the same goals at the end of the day as we are. 

Now who’s ready for the ACI National Conference in Baltimore?! We’ll see you there!