Well, that’s always my aspiration, as another ‘student’ comes to me looking for a unique and totally customised course to suit their exact requirements. The best learners are often the busiest, working under immense pressure to earn a living, and cannot find great training which fits in with their hectic schedule. Here’s where I step in! In this new and probably exclusive service, I am putting the learner first (shouldn’t we always?) and doing this on a not for profit basis. Follow my blog as we go again on a journey of learning! If you want to explore this route too, just email me email@example.com and I will happily put together a personalised plan.
Before I start my series of posts on other ways of checking understanding beyond MCQs, I though I would share some basic principles of these tests themselves if you do need to use them, in hope of helping trainers being able to spot good and bad ones, and to be confident to provide their own feedback to question writers!
Principle 1 – Avoid using trick/catch questions, or overly obvious or lazy answers
All of the above
None of the above
These answers which are nearly always the correct answer, are either too easy, or confusing because they seem too easy, and in the case of the first one they are unlikely to be technically the only correct option, as all the others are often true too!
Usually with questions that have one of these two options, they are almost always the correct answer, and therefore don’t require any knowledge or skill in the subject being tested.
Whenever you see these options, please provide feedback to the tester that they are unacceptable, poor questions.
More coming soon.
The terms good or best practice seem to pervade conversations about food safety at the moment. They seem to be used mainly as a qualifying term for justifying a procedure or standard, which may well be a higher standard than is really necessary! (discuss?)
Sometimes it may be necessary to provide for clarity extra detail beyond the legal minimum standard, which is mainly goal based rather than prescriptive. And many legal standards are further qualified by words such as reasonable, reasonably practicable, etc. or protected by a defence that all reasonable precautions and due diligence were taken.
Much of the FSA’s practical guidance is helpful to a point, and the industry guides offer practical systems that can be expected to demonstrate legal compliance if maintained. But the disclaimer is always hovering around, saying only the courts can decide on contravention or compliance. Even then the legal judgement is qualified either by reasonable doubt, or on balance of probabilities.
The purpose of good practice guidance should be to provide a safety margin above the legal minimum and ensure that if followed the potential for contravention is low, or that if it a contravention is alleged, a realistic defence could be constructed. And that good practice should be realistic, practical and workable in a real food business, without undue expense or resource.
As far as best practice is concerned, it is a term I try to avoid, for two reasons:
- Best practice isn’t necessary
- Best practice probably is different in every business to a greater or lesser degree
So, for example, headcoverings – what is generally regarded as good practice is for all food handlers (define them as you wish!) to wear something on the head which stops hairs falling into food. But best practice very much depends on the individual, their job, and the area they work in. Unless we want to specify that best practice is always wearing a hairnet and a full headcovering covering all the hair and ears and neck? And if we do that, some businesses will choose not to follow best practice for good reasons, but somehow feel they are failing and at risk of criticism.
As I said, at the beginning, discuss……
For years we have all subscribed, maybe reluctantly, to the ‘quick and dirty’ test questions that pervade the accredited course providers and awarding bodies as “the most efficient and effective way to test knowledge and understanding” as proof that food workers have been trained.
Of course such tests have their place – a quickly performed and administered test leading to almost instant results is very useful be able to impose focus, claim success, and generate a worthy and recognised certificate of achievement. And additionally, it enables confident issue of an invoice!
But…(I hate using that word as an introduction, but needs must, for emphasis) do such tests actually prove anything?
Test results, down to the detail of which answer an individual worker gave in a test, can be used and misused in all sorts of ways, so we need to be sure our testing regimes stand scrutiny, legal and otherwise.
Many MCQ tests (multi-choice question tests) are prone to poor construction, limited to tests of memory and recall, and often surprisingly non-accessible or prejudicial to those with learning challenges of all types. Awarding bodies are often the most disappointing in their construction of test questions and papers, ignoring well understood principles of question design and test paper compilation. Sadly, this can sometimes lead to the hard-to-resist temptation for the trainer to subtly coach learners in the art of answering such questions. (and sometimes not so subtle!)
I will shortly be posting some ideas on how to construct your own formative and summative assessments which can be far more useful and effective, as a compliment to the external tests that you still may need to use to be able to offer a credible certificate. Combining these will give you as a trainer the added confidence and proof that you did actually teach to a real purpose, and not just coach to someone else’s exam to get the certificate!
Yesterday I attended a great session on behaviour change at the FSA’s virtual food safety conference (well done FSA by the way!)
The speaker was a Professor of Health Psychology, Susan Michie, from University College London, who gave some great content on both the theory and practice of behaviour change. Most trainers address this by helping their participants to understand the reasons behind hygiene ‘rules’ and their responsibilities to follow them.
It seems to be that we might also discuss behaviour change more directly with them, such as looking at three areas that Susan suggested might have a direct relevance:
Capability, Opportunity, Motivation
So, when discussing handwashing (yep, that old chestnut!) and telling all the times when you should wash your hands (long list), maybe we should discuss the barriers to effective handwashing, a different kind of long list, and then categorise them as:
lack of knowledge or training (capability),
not being able to wash hands through lack of time, not enough basins etc (opportunity)
not giving it priority or not being led by example (motivation)
I am going to sit down after the conference (second day today) and map out a couple of powerpoint slides on this which trainers might find useful.
This conference is already proving value for money! (Ok I know its free!)
Keep training in these difficult times.
If this year has taught traditional face to face trainers (like me) anything at all, it’s that there are always new approaches to consider. As a physical ‘same space’ trainer I always believed you couldn’t beat putting learners in a room with a great trainer, for the most effective results to deliver a learning need to a group at the same time. In fact my business for the last 26 years has been built on it! So I was very reluctant to give it up just because of a short term interruption like the COVID pandemic. But the various lockdown intervals have enabled me to rethink, and I now believe that virtual training is not so different from being in the same physical space that it can’t be just as effective and probably more efficient and flexible in many cases. It does need some re-engineering of training programmes, but that’s no bad thing. So watch this space as I develop a whole new portfolio for virtual training delivery for clients old and new. It should be an exciting journey. Stay safe, trainers!
Virtual training (not the same as e-learning) is fast becoming a norm for training delivery, at least for the foreseeable future for many of us. When delivered well it can be as suitable as any other form of delivery, including physical face-to face, and certainly at the moment it has the expected benefits of accessibility, time and cost savings, plus keeping all those favourite aspects of interaction, discussion and connection.
Those trainers who have ‘bravely’ dipped their toes into the water have discovered a positive and rewarding new experience, and are also wishing they had tried it out long ago under less stressful societal circumstances, and not just of absolute necessity.
It certainly demands a rethink on training delivery, time management, keeping engagement levels up, handling technology, and managing personal energy levels. So, no difference there with physical face to face training? But virtual learning does involve replacing your natural physical presence (standing up, moving around the room, voice projection, using props etc.) with other ways to captivate and enthuse the learners.
If you have already discovered and embraced all of this – congratulations. As for me, I am finding it an exciting journey and hope to get even more creative course by course. So I am pleased to offer virtual learning courses for groups as small as 1! Oh yes, it can work very well for one candidate, who otherwise might have to wait a while to find a course that suits them in terms of timing, group make-up and learning preference. And costs can be adjusted to fit in with most budgets by shifting some of the programme to directed self-learning using appropriate learning materials.
Finally, I am happy to support any trainer who wants to do this by offering a no-obligation (free) coaching session to support your business offer.
In the meantime good luck with keeping your training offer alive and successful.
Keep safe too!
So many businesses have suffered financially during COVID 19, that they may have little spare cash to spend on good quality training, which is a real dilemma – good businesses know that good training in health and safety and food safety is vital to protect their business, staff and customers. Resorting to the cheapest, usually online, learning maybe all that they can afford. So, I am putting something back to select businesses in my local area again, by offering free high quality training to the businesses I trust and would like to work with. It is not entirely selfless mind you, it keeps my training business active and creative, and helps me do what I do best, whether virtual or face to face (COVID Safe) – which is help people learn what they need to learn, and apply it to maintain standards and comply with or exceed legal requirements. Limited capacity as you would expect, but contact me if you are interested.
Having successfully trialled virtual learning versions of my popular and long established face to face courses, I am pleased to open up this ‘new normal’ programme to individuals who are committed to a new way of learning 1 to 1.
This programme is initially only open to those who already have a level 3 or Intermediate Food Safety qualification from a reputable provider (including me!!!). I only have capacity for one or two participants each month so there may be a waiting list.
It takes the form of an update and refresh, using the current CIEH course book, with a set of online conversations and discussions one to one, and concluding with a live exam online.
It is suitable for those who are committed to independent self study and have reasonable confidence and facilities for online conversations through Zoom etc. Its also great fun!
Anyone who wants to contact me for a free consultation about suitability can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Costs depend on consultation and how many sessions each individual needs, but they are always highly competitive and great value.
Any trainers who want ideas for how to do this themselves can also contact me for a free one hour 1:1 discussion session on the pros and cons as I see them.
Exciting times, although coming out of a terrible time – but food safety must prevail.
Our highly popular ebook giving you 107 great ideas for livening up your courses has now been reduced to just £1.99 + VAT. We will be reviewing this book and updating it very soon to include virtual learning ideas too, as many of us will be blending our learning offer for the foreseeable future. But for now the original book is still ideal inspiration for all your food safety training as we all try to head back to some form of ‘new’ normal.
You can still get a copy of our original book now, for just £1.99 +VAT if you copy and paste the link below: