Posted Sunday, April 20, 2014 by Team Northwoods

Cookie Cutter Training Won’t Cut It for Protective Services Part 3: We Train on the Job, Not Just in the Classroom

We caught up with three Northwoodians with expertise in our mobility solution for protective services to find out why our training approach – Northwoods’ Coach Model – resonates so well with social workers. 

Coach-Model-Headshot-Rich-Bowlen Coach-Model-Headshot-Charles-Barber Coach-Model-Headshot-Matt-Leasure The result is this 7-part blog and video series featuring contributions by Rich Bowlen, Director, Protective Services; Charles Barber, Solution Analyst; and Matt Leasure, Project Manager. 

We Train on the Job, Not Just in the Classroom

Think back to when you learned to tie your shoes. Did you sit in a classroom for a few hours learning about the history of shoestrings, followed up by a detailed description of how to pull the lace through the hole using the aglet (the very technical term for that plastic piece at the end of the shoelace)?


A trusted expert with experience in tying shoes (probably a parent or sibling) sat down next to you, showed you the “loop, swoop, and pull,” put a shoe on your foot, and let you try it for yourself. That shoe-tying expert explained things in a language you speak and gave you hands-on training and encouragement until you were comfortable tying a shoe on your own. The next time the neighbor kids called you out to play, you didn’t waste valuable tree-climbing time fumbling with a shoelace you only ever heard about tying. You tapped into your training, tied that shoe and were out the door!

Tying shoes is a simplistic example, we realize, but it’s a magnificent analogy for the importance of hands-on technology training for social workers in protective services.

Take research by Susan Ayres, instructional designer with a not-for-profit law enforcement training organization, who has found that when students sit and listen passively in a lecture-style environment, they retain 20 percent of the information. When they are given the chance to practice what they have just learned, that percentage jumps to 75 percent.*

(In this video, Charles, Matt, and Rich explain how Coach Model training makes technology an invisible extension of the work social workers do every day.)

That’s how we approach training for our mobile solution for protective services at Northwoods. After a quick software overview (think loop, swoop and pull) that includes real-life examples of how the technology can be applied to those specific workers’ jobs, workers start using new software in the field right away with an expert alongside to offer immediate feedback and real-time tips for the social worker’s next visit.

Hands-on training reduces frustration and increases the likelihood that social workers will completely adopt new technology, so agencies can maximize their investment. (Which, in kid terms, means they climbed to the top of the tree, shoelaces firmly in place.)

Learn more about Northwoods’ Coach Model by downloading the business brief, Cookie Cutter Training Won't Cut it for Protective Services.

View the series:

Part 1: The Typical Approach
Part 2: Protective Services is Different, You Have to Train Different
Part 3: We Train on the Job, Not Just in the Classroom
Part 4: It’s Not About the Software, It’s About the Process Change
Part 5: Northwoods Coach Model
Part 6: What does it Mean to be a Coach?
Part 7: What to Expect After Northwoods Leaves

*Ayers, Susan. “What Are the Benefits of Hands-on Training?”,