A Guide to Co-training

Trainings that include engaging activities and thoughtful discussion put a lot of responsibility on the trainer to facilitate and stimulate learning. Co-training merges the skills and expertise and divides the responsibility among trainers, and can result in a better experience for participants.

In this article we define, point out advantages of, and offer guidance to effective co-training (also known as experiential training). While some of the guidance in this article may apply to virtual settings, it is aimed primarily at optimizing learning in face-to-face training sessions.

What is Co-training?

Co-training is when trainers merge skills, expertise, and experience to jointly design, plan, and conduct a training session or program. This collaborative approach generally results in a product better than either person would have produced alone.

When to Use Co-training

Co-training works best when:

  • Co-trainers work collaboratively to design the session, combining their thoughts on what they want to accomplish, and which training methods meet their desired goals.
  • Co-trainers discuss and agree on who takes the lead in delivering various parts of a session or program.
  • Co-trainers debrief, review progress, and capture lessons learned.
  • Skill level, not seniority, determines which trainer does what.

Advantages of Co-training

Co-training lessens the burden placed on each trainer. 

  • One trainer is responsible for leading the group through a part of the session while the other trainer supports.
  • The supporting trainer can gauge how well the session is meeting the learning goals, add relevant or clarifying points to augment discussion, monitor small group tasks, respond to participant needs, and ask questions that might have been overlooked.
  • Sharing the work, reduces fatigue and burnout for the trainers.

Co-training provides stimulating variety for participants.

  • Shifting lead session trainer responsibility establishes equal status and provides variety for participants as they get exposed to different voices, perspectives, and styles.

Co-training improves the quality of interaction between trainers and participants.

  • A co-trainer can make an intervention if the lead trainer misses an opportune point, a probing question, or fails to notice a quieter participant who has been trying to enter the discussion. 

Co-training increases the ratio of trainer to trainee. 

  • Co-training allows facilitators more time to work closely with participants to stimulate learning by bringing out and building on contributions of training participants.

Co-training provides a quicker way to improve a training session. 

  • Both trainers are analyzing, evaluating, and thinking of ways to improve. It allows trainers to debrief sessions together and make changes for the next day if it is a multi-day program.
  • Trainers can let off steam together caused by design problems or troublesome participants.

Co-training generates a synergistic team approach to design.

  • Experiential training sessions are complicated. Two (or more) heads are better than one when developing sessions or programs to change participant behavior and enhance skills.

Authored by: James A. McCaffery and Wilma J. Gormley