Effective and Meaningful Infrared Thermography Training - Short Term and Long Term... today and tomorrow.

I have been involved with the the training of individuals in many different trades for some time now.   Most trainers and mentors will agree that adult education, quite obviously, has its positives and its negatives.  Beyond that, developing and executing effective training can be quite complex.   It becomes very apparent that everyone learns differently, and everyone teaches differently to a certain extent. In addition, training technology can be a double-edged sword.  Time and cost are also always considerations.


Two two primary areas where I have trained individuals are in the electrical trades arena, and in thermography (for use in various trades).   For individuals who focus upon, or utilize this information, I have personally found that a "hands on" approach is considerably more effective than "book learning" in a classroom (Carnegie Unit) setting or "online only".


There is definitely a place for books and articles and whitepapers... and now that communication technology has become more pervasive worldwide, online training, blogs, forums, and live webcasts and webinars also have a place and a role to play.


There is probably no single correct answer or fully-effective method.  In my opinion, however, based upon my experience as both a student and an educator, nothing beats the good, old-fashioned, "hands on" training methods as a primary mode of delivery!  (Obviously, I also would not be online writing about thermography if I did not also believe in the utility of online communication toward this goal, however.  I never discount any method for education... but I have my favorites.)


When you learn something in a "hands on" way, you are able to reinforce what you may have learned in a book or presentation in such a way that it is committed to a different part of the brain than mere reading and watching can afford.  This leads to more confidence, more experience, and more learning further.


This is the way that I prefer to learn and to teach.


I would love to hear feedback from others on this subject.  What do you find is most effective?  What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks?  Where do you think we go from here?

Tags: best, education, hands, infrared, on, practices, thermal, thermography, training

Views: 140

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks, Michael. Having been involved in training for building energy efficiency since 1978 and for thermographers since 1983, I agree that the vast majority of folks I've worked with learn primarily by "doing." But doing alone is usually a poor way to learn because we have to make so many "mistakes" (really these are learning opportunities) in the process to get headed in the right direction. I remember a recent class where an otherwise very knowledgeable building scientist realized, with some embarrassment, that he'd been using his imager only in AUTO ADJUST mode for the three years he had it; he never realized you could adjust the image level and span manually nor did he think that was necessary!

But, of course, there is so much JUNK on the web these days, much of it poorly written or presented and even more of it just plain incorrect. The learner's job is to be able to sort through material quickly and effectively to find the gems! One of the best ways to find these is to ask folks you know and trust. If they learned from a source, it is probably a good bet you can too.

When hands-on learning is backed up by good, clear reading reference materials and verbal instruction, the time to learn is shortened because we learn from the mistakes of others and don't have to re-make them for ourselves. I often joke that the subtitle to our Level I thermography course is "John Snell's greatest 100 mistakes!" I can help people quickly jump over the mistakes I've made in 27 years, including the dumb, painful and dangerous ones, so they can get right at the process of using thermography intelligently.

John Snell
The Snell Group

Thanks for chiming in. I think that we are looking at this very much the same way overall.

I have to agree with you that there is a considerable amount of bad or poor information out there as well... some of which is actually being put into practice! This is quite unfortunate, as the results can be questionable at best... and sometimes just plain wrong. I have even seen some of these questionable, or aniquated practices being put into purportedly new "standards" by people who have never actually even picked up a thermal imager outside of a lab environment. I would love to get some of these individuals into an enviroment where they can really link what they have learned (right or wrong) with actual best practices and true results in the field. I have to admit that I have righted some of my own preconceptions and misconceptions by doing this myself. (I guess that we all add to our list of mistakes even though others have sometimes made them before us.) It is nice to know that individuals such as yourself are willing to share your experience with the rest of us who have also been "infected" by the infrared bug. "Less mistakes" is a good thing. The industry appreciates it greatly.
'Book learnin' and 'on the job' training each have their own role in the construction trades. BPI and RESNET are ,after all, in the construction trade management of energy use and efficiency. An electrical task helper can certainly learn the proper spacing of boxes and where to nail them in. How to compute actual amperage and wattage usage of a circuit is more than simply the old 3 bedrooms or 1 kitchen per breaker. Do you trust a 'hands on' helper to layout electrial plans or would you prefer an educated licensed electrical person who can read blue prints!
An IR thermographer also needs to learn heat transfer, utilization of intricate settings on complicated imagers, solar loading, limits of interpretations. If you want to just 'shoot the air leakage' then you will be open to problems that are going to cost you in time, efficiency and reputation if you only 'learn on the job' or 'through trial and error'. If a person can not learn from formal class room training; then we have to decide if that person will only be a task laborer. We also need to know if it is a personal problem, learning disability or just not interested in a career but a pay check. Motivation plays a major role in learning.
When you get into the employer role and hire other thermographers or staff; then you will understand why we are anal about advanced training. Our staff is the extension of our business and represents our name.
In short; I like the best of both worlds where we offer advanced education and experience to our customers. Our competitors have to work hard to compete with that.

Thanks for the viewpoint. I agree that in the end... training, motivation, and committment make all of the difference in the world... and can separate the "professional" from the "task laborer". If Darwin's theories can be applied to business, then natural selection will win out and the businesses that pay attention to these things will thrive.
Also consider: the Trainer and the Trainee. Trainee's are there because of a technical interest. They hunger to get their hands on the equipment and try it themselves.

And there is the Trainer - not an "educator." The most effective trainers are those who can say, "Been there, done that." Nothing beats practical, real-world, hands-on experience. And that experience is directly transferred to the trainee through hands-on exercises.


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