Saturday, November 28, 2015

Data-Driven Health and Safety Training

The mining industry is different than other sectors under the purview of the Department of Labor. Among many other reasons, it has its own regulatory agency. Consequently, registered mines have more data for site-specific safety programs to use as a guide for training.

For me, this year's rounds of annual refresher training will be different for our clients. It will be the first year since I started making data-driven training materials that I will actually participate in the training session. What's more, I get a slot to discuss the data collected by our company and MSHA and the analysis I've done behind the scenes for the past five years.

I'm writing this post to articulate my analysis process and explain how it becomes the framework for the in-depth topics on the training agenda.

Here's what I do.

1. Collect the MSHA Data

The Mine Data Retrieval System provides a violation history for all registered mines. This data can be sorted in a variety of ways. I usually sort by violations and a specific date range.

2. Look for Patterns

Once you have the data you're looking for, count how many of each particular violation. Then, compare the violations based on the type. For example, are there several different 56.12000 violations? This may indicate that further task training is required in the area of electrical safety.

3. Compare Patterns 

I usually look at three years of violations so I can compare patterns from year to year. The year-to-year issues are then compare to the annual refresher training agenda.

4. Target Hazards 

For many of our clients, we can look at three to five years of training agendas, MSHA data, and the third-party inspections we do two to three times per year. This allows us to focus the annual refresher training on topics that are clearly weaknesses. 

5. Make Training Materials

This analysis process helps us reevaluate the training materials we've used in the past. We have to ask whether or not the training is working, which is a hard question for some professionals to ask. 

I think it's the most human question to ask. Is this working? Not only do our clients deserve better training every year, we ask honest questions of our work because it could save a life.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Supporting English Language Learners on License Exams

As immigrants flood into the United States, we have a responsibility to provide them with opportunities. It's what we do in the Land of Milk and Honey.

One of the problems I'm seeing in the mining industry has more to do with the language barrier than knowledge and skills. That's why I was recently hired to spend some time working with one of my client's most talented hoisting engineers.

Here's what we did.

We started off with some pre-assessment and reading activities. It was through identification of trouble words that we found Google Translate and Images to be helpful tools. 

Google Translate

Finding the right word can be tough. Although bilingual dictionaries are very useful, using Google Translate and thinking critically about the results can increase the benefit of translation. But these are skills that students still need to learn under the guidance of a good teacher because, as we know, literal translations can be problematic.

The student was preparing for his fourth attempt at an engineering license exam. When we went through some of the content, he understood the concepts very well. Reading for understanding was his struggle.

Here's our process that ultimately helped him to move beyond his affective filter – the point at which a language learner is no longer comfortable taking risks.

  1. Select a chunk of content for the learner to analyze for troubling or unfamiliar words (any words, not just content-related), and underline or otherwise mark them for study.
  2. The learner then writes a prediction for what he thinks each word means.
  3. Use Google Translate to look up the words and discuss the different possibilities in the primary language. This is an opportunity for the student to teach the teacher, which is critical for building a healthy atmosphere for learning. This conversation should be misty English, of course.
  4. Prompt the learner to use context clues from the selected chunk to determine the meaning of the English word.
Most discussions will lead to an understanding of the word. For the words that are really tough or unfamiliar, incorporate Google Images.

Google Images
Maybe the learner is close to understanding the context of a word and is still unsure. Teach them to routinely look up the word on google Images to make a visual connection with the context they may already understand. 

Using Google Images like this is a great way to move toward not needing to translate for understanding.

More Tools
Consider other tools that support ELLs. Perhaps it's an extension or a tool within an app that makes learning content in English more accessible.

Chrome extension Speak It!

Quizlet reads it to you and allows teachers to record their voice for each card. Students like hearing their teacher's voice.

Google Docs and the ability for live commenting.