When leaders and teachers provide training that addresses correct principles and fundamental skills, they better enable others to invite all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32; see also D&C 20:59).
Although teaching and training have much in common and the terms are often appropriately used synonymously, training generally refers to instruction that moves beyond acquiring knowledge to improving abilities. Training in the Church Educational System intends to improve an individual’s ability to apply correct principles and to use fundamental skills. Training frequently includes practice exercises that help to confirm the degree of mastery under a set of given conditions. Practice exercises also help individuals receive clarifying feedback and plan ways to apply the principles and to use the skills.
Training helps Church Educational System leaders and teachers promote professional growth and develop their divine potential. Training in CES helps leaders and teachers better understand and meet the objective of religious education and fulfill their commission to live the gospel, teach effectively, and administer appropriately (see p. 2). Training also provides renewal, motivation, and helps foster cooperative associations.1
As individuals, leaders, and councils prepare training, they must first decide what principles or skills should be addressed, based on assessment. Decisions about training are determined through such means as spiritual discernment, classroom observations, formal assessments, informal exchanges, reports on assignments, administrative direction, and expressed needs (see “Assess Teaching and Administering,” pp. 31–32).
One way to decide what training is needed is to analyze the three parts of the commission: live the gospel, teach effectively, and administer appropriately. A leader can identify areas for training by comparing expected performance with actual performance for each aspect of the commission.
Training in each of these areas is based upon what is emphasized in the standard works, by the Church Board of Education and other Church leaders (see “Priesthood Leaders,” p. 5), by CES administration, and in CES materials, such as handbooks, manuals, guides, and other correspondence.
Training in CES focuses on principles, doctrines, abilities, and skills associated with the objective, commission, and basic duties and responsibilities (see appendix, pp. 39–40). Training occasionally offers enrichment in other areas of interest.
After individuals, leaders, and councils decide what principles or skills to address in training, they must decide how to effectively provide the training. All training should be conducted in harmony with gospel principles under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Training should encourage individuals to make personal application and provide opportunity for accountability.
Effectively addressing principles or doctrines in training generally includes such elements as defining, illustrating, analyzing, applying, and reporting progress. Effectively addressing skills or practices in training often includes defining, modeling, practicing, providing feedback, incorporating into one’s assignment, and reporting progress.
Generally, training is more effective when a variety of illustrations or approaches are demonstrated so that individuals are free to apply the principle or skill according to their personalities and circumstances. When illustrating a principle or modeling a skill, a specific application or method is typically presented. When only a single illustration or model is provided, training may appear to endorse the approach as the only way to apply a principle or to use a skill.
Training should generally be principle-based. President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: “A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions. Generally principles are not spelled out in detail. That leaves you free to find your way with an enduring truth, a principle, as your anchor” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 22; or Ensign, May 1996, 17).
Training in principles and skills occurs at the individual, faculty, area, and systemwide levels. To work strategically, training plans should be regularly communicated between the various levels.
Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own professional growth and personal development. Leaders and teachers can assist individuals by providing training through inservice meetings and informal exchanges.
CES leaders are responsible to oversee the training of those they lead. They are often assisted by others within their realm of leadership to provide assessment, expertise, design, or delivery of the training.
The CES Administrator and assistant administrators oversee training in the Church Educational System. They are assisted by other central office personnel.
Area directors oversee training in their area. They assess needs, plan, and direct training with the assistance of training councils, seminary principals, institute directors, coordinators, and stake supervisors.
Under the direction of the area director, institute directors, seminary principals, and coordinators assess needs and oversee training for those they lead. They are assisted by inservice leaders, stake supervisors, committees, and mentors who plan and administer training at faculty, group, and individual levels.
For training to be complete, leaders and teachers should evaluate whether the training has fulfilled the intended objectives or goals. For instance, if training is planned to help teachers better direct class discussions, an evaluation of this intended outcome should be conducted following the training. Likewise, if training is planned to help teachers and leaders promote student enrollment in and completion of classes, this outcome should be evaluated. Depending upon the scope and formality of the training, such evaluation may be conducted in various ways. Evaluating the impact of training is a necessary step in the training cycle.
In some settings, prospective or newly hired teachers are assigned a mentor to assist with training.2 CES leaders select mentors who reflect the values of the organization and should assist mentors in their duties. These mentors should take initiative in assisting those they serve. Ultimately, a mentor influences not only the teacher but also the teacher’s current and future students.
Mentors meet with individuals regularly to review goals and progress. Where possible, they regularly observe one another’s classroom teaching. Where appropriate, the mentor may introduce the teacher and his or her spouse to local priesthood leaders. Mentors should seek opportunities to encourage, commend, question, and share perspectives. At times it is appropriate in mentoring to offer correction while showing loving concern for personal development. Appropriate mentoring is more likely to occur where relationships of love and trust have been established between colleagues.