Warning this post is longer that I would like and could be violating my own guide lines #3&4 below.
The following quote has been attributed to many individuals, with some slight changes, but is very relevant when directing a course: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”.
Here are my suggestions for running any course and I wish they were followed at the Wood Badge Course I took.
1) Have a dedicated time keeper and empower them to enforce the clock. BSA syllabi are notorious for poor time management planning, someone at nationals will look at the number of topics that need to be covered and say they take x time to cover because that is what we have without thought to material needed to be delivered. For instance the 2017 printing gives 25 minutes to cover Gear Selection(12 Pages of Material) and Camp Fire Planning(3 Pages). Another example is IO have heard from nationals that the new YPT course with its ~23 minutes of mandatory video should be scheduled for an hour and a half, the face to face course is a good 2.5 hours. The materials need to be evaluated beforehand and the schedule modified accordingly. When you have a full schedule it is important to not allow one presenter to throw the next off as like dominos you will soon have a train wreck. We were chronically behind schedule and no one seemed to be giving the presenter the 10 minutes left, 5 minutes, 3 minutes, wrap it up, your done signals. It is also important to know that if the schedule has very little free form time, the earlier sections need to be pushed to stay under time for the inevitable hiccups.
2) Allow instructors the leeway to teach. We had multiple people, who I know understand the material, that as it was a Pilot course were reading Q cards point for point and not connecting with the audience.
3) Stay flexible and understand what might need to be cut to get back on schedule. If you need to run over be clear to the participants and cut breaks as a last resort , down/alone time is very important for keeping introverts engaged.
4) Attention spans drop 10-20 minutes into a lecture without interactive stimulation, after about an hour and a half they are completely shot. Small group break outs and physical activity need to be interspersed to keep the average person engaged. This point was covered on the third day of the course about three hours into straight lecture, the irony was not lost on me.
5) Expecting people who have never met before to perform as a cohesive group is stress full enough, artificially ramping up that stress in hopes of forming group cohesion can/will backfire on occasion, especially with participants trained to spot said “tricks”.
A few things specific to the WBC I was in that are more structural/nationals responsibility to fix:
a) Though I did not find the Ticket process unnecessarily stressful, it was definitely a theme. Some sort of pre-course packet should go out so people can come with ideas.
b) Every person in that room was a “trained leader”, as there is more information that needs to be covered review items should be cut. Examples would be to cycle every one through the model campsite it took at least an hour and if the leader is taking scouts camping those items are covered in BALOO/IOLS but that is an item for Nationals.
c) Personality classifications are flawed, ones that use black and white 4-5 groupings, though easy to proctor/administer, are fundamentally flawed and cause more problems than help. Un/Self Proctored Myers Briggs tests can limit peoples thinking, but at least it fundamentally understands that its groupings age a range and metricized those groups. We used something that had 4 groupings and allowed no flexibility, everyone is one and only one motivational type and if “A” then “B, C & D” are immaterial to them.
If you have read this far I hope it makes sense and you found the comments constructive.