Teach a person to fish — the role of Train the Trainer in knowledge translation

Train the Training in writing over an illustrated scene of a father son fishing trip.

What is Train the Trainer?

The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness defines Train the Trainer as “training a person or people who, in turn, train other people at their home agency [1].” It has also been called pyramidal training, triadic training, and helper model training [1].

How has Train the Trainer been used in healthcare?

Train the Trainer programs have been used in public health preparedness, occupational safety, nutrition education, health care issues, dissemination of evidence-based public health principles, and a host of clinical interventions including HIV prevention and education [2]. The model has been effective in contexts including residential centres, mental health hospitals, bench research and schools. Train the Trainer may prove to be especially useful in the translation of research to practice [1].

What are the benefits of Train the Trainer?

  • Train the Trainer allows you to spread knowledge efficiently among a group, organization or team. By building a collection of trainers, you no longer have to rely on one individual for instruction. As such, larger training initiatives are accomplished more quickly and cost-effectively.
  • Trainers embedded in a community may have more access to that community, more understanding of its context and more influence within the community [2].
  • The model builds teaching capacity at the local level (e.g. — within your organization or throughout a community). Not only do trainers learn the subject matter at hand, but they are equipped with tools for teaching that can extend beyond the project [2].
  • You can train multiple types of stakeholders including healthcare professionals, patients, researchers and policy makers.

Tips for creating a Train the Trainer program*

*Adapted from Knowledge Wave

  • Choose the right people to be trained — it’s not about filling seats, it’s about finding the right people to do the work. Select trainees who are passionate about the topic and will see the project through to the end. This could include local champions, knowledge brokers or opinion leaders.
  • Be adaptable — Train the Trainer is a learning process that can and should be adapted to local contexts and audiences.
  • Practice and preparation are essential. Every educator will tell you that the initial run of a course, session or class comes with wrinkles to iron out (see tip #2!). Your trainers need time to practice and prepare in order to become comfortable with the content and their presentation style.
  • Evaluate your Train the Trainer program — look at the effectiveness of your trainers as well as the effectiveness of your curriculum. Is your training moving research into practice or effecting health outcomes? Are your trainers well-prepared and knowledgeable?

Have you used the Train the Trainer approach to translate your research findings to a larger audience? What were the challenges you faced or the successes you had?


About the Author

Carly Leggett is the Knowledge Translation Practice Lead with the George and Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation and the Knowledge Broker for Translating Emergency Knowledge for Kids (TREKK), a national knowledge mobilization network for pediatric emergency medicine.