Have you ever wondered just how good you really are as a trainer? In the multi-faceted world of technical training, are you an expert who knows the field in both depth and breadth, or are you somewhere in the middle of the pack?

Many of us got into technical training through the side door—we had some interest in computers or technology, and we enjoyed the classroom. Formal training in education? Forget about it. Methodology classes? Too busy going to MCSE classes. Instructional design principles? No clue.

Setting the bar
After a few years doing this work, we’ve figured out how to get through a class successfully, but we may not know how good we really are, or how much we might still need to learn. Sure, we all get evaluations back at the end of a class. But even though evaluations are important, they aren’t from other trainers, and they don’t measure against a known standard. What we need is a clear set of standards for instructors, along with evaluation guidelines against those standards.

Guess what? A set of standards already exists. They were first developed almost 20 years ago, and have been regularly updated ever since. In fact, there isn’t just one set of standards, there are three: one for instructors, one for training managers, and one for instructional designers. And they are all developed and maintained by one organization.

What in the heck is the IBSTPI?
IBSTPI stands for the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction. The Board is a group of 15 training professionals whose mission is “to improve individual and organizational performance by articulating and promoting the integrity of professional practice through research, development, definition of competencies, and education.”

It was founded as a not-for-profit corporation in 1984, and grew out of the work of the Joint Certification Task Force. The Task Force developed the initial set of competencies for the instructional design professional.

Basically, ibstpi (they prefer lower-case) develops and maintains best-practice standards for managers, designers, or trainers. Their goal is to have these standards adopted by a wide range of professional organizations and corporations, in order to ensure a base level of competency across the training industry. Also, they hope that by promoting these standards, they will give persons coming into the industry a clear picture of what a competent instructor, manager, or designer looks like.

You can read more about the ibstpi on theirWeb site , although the site isn’t especially large. There is a brief overview and history, and each of the competencies has its own page. Also, each of the board members is listed, along with a brief bio.

If you visit their site, you might be somewhat underwhelmed at first. Remember, though, that ibstpi is the work of 15 individuals, each with his or her own full-time career, who give their time to encourage a higher level of professionalism in our industry. Furthermore, the “Competencies” they develop and promulgate form a solid foundation of best practices and remain a set of standards against which we can all measure ourselves.

Coming up: Competencies for instructors
Over the next few weeks, I am going to take a closer look at all the Competencies, especially the ones for Instructors. We’ll explore some of the performance criteria for the Competencies, especially the ones I think are often missing in technical trainers and managers.

I’ll say more about this later, but if you look over the Competencies and decide you want to know more, you should order the CTT volumes from the Chauncey Group . These books provide performance-based criteria for each competency and are used as the study guides for the Certified Technical Trainer (CTT) certification. They are excellent resources and should be in your company’s library. Note that Volume I covers the Competencies for instructors, while Volume II covers evaluation of instructors, and is thus aimed more at training managers.

Bruce Maples is an author, trainer, speaker, and consultant living in Louisville, KY.

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