While everyone is talking about DHHS’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), I thought I would discuss another topic on many people’s minds right now: the start of the school year.
Here at the University of Arizona, we are gearing up for the influx of students, faculty, and support staff returning from their summer vacations and ramping up their human research projects. This time of year is filled with orientations, the start of classes, and new funding cycles. Students and faculty (especially new ones) are inundated with training sessions crucial to their success. This makes it difficult as an educator to tell if your information is sticking. So what can we do to remind people about the important work being done to safeguard human subjects?
1. Make it interesting
People do not remember what they have heard if a presentation is boring. We’ve all been there—slides that have too much text or bad color schemes. Involve your audience. Include questions or case studies in your presentation. Use humor and interesting anecdotes. Engage the audience so that they retain the information. Use the history of the IRB to your advantage. Show them that we are here to provide an ethical framework in which to work, not to create more “red tape.
2. Make it relevant
Nobody wants to feel that they have just wasted an hour (or more) of their precious time on information they will never use. Tailor training to your audience. Don’t teach the basics to your seasoned researchers. Build off of what they already know. Conversely, don’t assume that first-year graduate students even know what an IRB is. Use the regulations that are appropriate for your crowd. Refer back to point number 1 above and ask questions to get more information about your audience. Better yet, do your homework ahead of time!
3. Don’t just reuse the same slides from last year
Building on points 1 and 2, recycling slides risks inaccuracies. Information may have been updated since you used the slides last. That information may be as simple as your phone number or email address, or as complex as a new FDA guidance or a revamp of federal regulations. When developing your presentation, ask yourself if your audience needs to know FDA regulations, VA regulations, or oral history guidance (among other topics).
4. Keep track of time
Even if it means letting go of some material, stop when your time is up. Staying within your time limit indicates professionalism and respect for your audience. Your audience will remember if you go over the allotted time, and the next time you come and talk, it will be all they remember.
“Hey, are you going to that training today?” “Yep, how about you?” “Sure am. I’m not looking forward to it though. It was so long last year. It better stay within the hour this time or I’m going to scream.”
If necessary, allow people to leave on time but offer to stay and talk more with those who are so inclined.
There are lots of great ways to run effective training programs. I have barely scratched the surface here. The most important thing is to get out there, get to know your researchers (seasoned and new), and share your love of human subject protections with them. Passion may be the most important training tool of all!