Do Your DSPs Have the Skills and Motivation They Need?

Broadly speaking, staff training is about changing patterns of behavior from an over-reliance on habit and personal experience to the consistent implementation of best practices.  From my years of experience as an administrator, however, I know that staff training often falls short of this goal. Why? Direct Support Professionals, like most adult learners, want to be engaged in their job training and learn best by building on their life experiences.  Yet many complain that the training they are provided with is too far removed from their situation, or that their own way of providing support is better than what the “experts” say.

Give your Direct Support Professionals the tools they need to provide the best quality of support to people with disabilities

Training for DSPs2008 report commissioned by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) on the direct service workforce concluded that the decentralization of home settings for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities had led to a more dispersed DSP workforce. In turn, this has led to direct service roles that demand “greater skill, judgment, and accountability,” as well as more “autonomy, responsibility, and independent problem solving.” The same report cited an expected demand for 900,000 new full-time DSPs by the year 2020. Today’s Direct Support Professionals must receive training that prepares them for the complex jobs ahead of them.  Compliance training alone does not provide an adequate foundation for staff to develop the skills they need to succeed, thrive, and remain long-term in our field.

These changes are why I am so excited about our new DSP focused learning courses that are launching this quarter. We have designed 14 new courses specifically for DSPs, with the goal of getting them to implement best practices. How are we doing this?

Behavioral change-focused content

Each focused learning course is the product of an intensive design process. We assembled a multidisciplinary team comprised of IDD experts, Self-Advocates,  PhD writers, university-level adult learning specialists, and eLearning developers certified by the Association of Talent Development to determine the best learning strategies for each individual course. Our goal: A measurable impact on staff behavior.

Each course is designed on the basis of a needs analysis (“Why do learners take this course?”) and targets desired behavioral/performance objectives (“What should learners do as a result of taking the course?”). The team then implements selected learning strategies within each course to help learners reach those specific objectives.

Story-based learning

Our focused learning courses employ short vignettes and scenarios that let the learner make real-time decisions in situations they’re likely to face in their day-to-day jobs.  Simple strategies put the learner “at risk” or use game thinking to engage learners more fully in the core content.

Feedback delivers instructive content

The feedback to learners within the focused learning course goes beyond “Correct” or “Try again.” Learner responses create a springboard to additional information, or how their choices play out in realistic terms.

Engaging content

Emotionally engaging courses reinforce the connection between the learner and the content, making the content relevant and meaningful – a powerful motivator for adult learners.

Visually engaging designs use visual cues and infographics to make content easy to understand, while purposeful image selection reflects real-world subjects and situations.

Enhanced interactions/gaming elements means that courses use learner engagement techniques and simple game mechanics to motivate and encourage learning.

We are very proud of all the great courses we have developed over the years at Relias Learning, but our focused learning series is the first suite of courses specifically developed for DSPs. The best piece of advice I can give to any administrators reading this is to incorporate this new training into your curricula!

Have you taken the necessary steps to build on the competency and skill development of your direct support professionals?  Do you have a training curriculum that is specifically built around what motivates your DSPs and ensures the right behavior change?

Learn more about these new online training courses for DSPs on our site.

Natasha Fisher

Director of Strategic Marketing, Relias

Natasha has more than 15 years of experience working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, serving in a variety of roles including direct care, service coordination, quality assurance and administration. She has worked in a self-advocate committee start-up and also has direct experience with CARF and CQL accreditation processes. Natasha currently serves as a board member for ANCOR Foundation.

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