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Change the Concept of Wood Badge--Universal Unit Leader Training

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I am a lifelong Scout and Scouter, and it is painful to see a movement that I so deeply love and believe in miss the mark as widely as it does with Wood Badge.  Wood Badge has the potential to drive a more consistently high-quality program for many more kids.  To do so requires a pretty radical re-imagination of what Wood Badge means.  

 

I would like to see a training approach markedly different from that taken by BSA for the current program.  I quickly sketch out a few problems I see with the current approach, then suggest a different approach for consideration and discussion.  

 

A few significant problems with the current approach:

  • Ungainly and labor-intensive:  A cumbersome structure with a large staff, a long preparation lead-up, and 18 months of follow-up.  I think other training suffers from the resource drain.
  • Programmatically unfocused:  It tries to cover so many things that many of them are covered poorly.  What do the kids need their leaders to know?  Boy Scout leaders pretend to be a Cub for a few hours? Cub leaders pretend for days to be Boy Scouts?  We have even less of an idea about how to incorporate Venturing, let alone Varsity. 
  • Emphasis Confusion:  Is it important to be outdoors?  Do we need to cook or is it ok for others to cook for us?  Is WB an industry-caliber leadership course that you would take in corporate America at the cost of thousands of dollars?  Does that apply to the Wolf curriculum, the core Eagle merit badges, etc?
  • Resource drain:  Large time and financial commitment for already-strapped volunteers.
  • Heavy-handed:  It puts a lot of energy into pitching and attempting to motivate students who are already motivated enough to be in the WB course  Two movies?  Sappy poetry?  Questionable myths presented as fact?  There can be a fine line between motivating people and alienating them through perceived attempted emotional manipulation.
  • Since the course is so complicated, it is hard to update or modify.
  • The ticket is not a training scheme, it is an add-on.  I understand the rhetoric of "now go out and put what you learned into practice," but isn't that what we should be doing in our Scouting positions? I also understand the position that tickets should be tailored to support one's position; anecdotally for many they are add-on make-work projects that many tolerate to get the beads.  
  • There is a counterproductive mysticism and mythology surrounding the course.  If it's really the "premier training," "mountaintop experience," etc., then why are so few people taking the course and why do staff have to arm twist so hard to get attendees?

 

What might it look like instead?  As far as I can discern, WB was designed by B-P to be Scoutmaster/unit leader training.  The present UK scheme builds on and extends this idea; it is nearly ideal in my estimation:  

  • Those people in key positions for which WB is required (hands-on leaders, commissioners, etc.) have three years after appointment to complete WB.  It is not some esoteric "mountaintop experience," rather it is simply required in-depth training for key Scouters.  No mysticism.  No question of whether to participate.
  • It is modular:  37 modules comprise the "adult training scheme."  Only those that apply to a Scouter's particular position are required.  
  • Modules may generally be completed by attending training or through online/recorded video presentation followed by validation.  
  • There is a method to validate prior learning rather than compelling completion of a module already mastered.
  • Scouters changing roles need only complete modules not previously credited as completed.
  • There is a tie-in with their equivalent of NYLT.
  • There is no mention of the word ticket in the scheme.

Ref:  https://members.scouts.org.uk/documents/Adult_Training/Adult%20Training%20Scheme.pdf

 

I think the BSA needs to step back and ask what training our Scouts need their leaders to have.  Then it needs to revamp WB to address those needs (that may mean that a six-day residential course is not required), and make WB mandatory for all hands-on unit leadership and commissioners.  A good start would be to copy the model used by the UK Scout Association.  As adapted to BSA, I suggest the following modifications/clarifications to a matrix, incorporating:

  • YPT and quick start modules.
  • Trained strip.  Add BALOO to Cub Scouter trained requirements.
  • Tie in with Journey to Excellence program.  
  • Scouter Training Award.
  • Create a system to validate prior training.

This approach addresses all of the shortcomings I perceive and ensures a consistent level of training for all front-line leaders, rather than having just a few participate in WB.

 

P.S.  If you want a ticket scheme, make that part of a new service award with square knot, not part of Wood Badge.

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Be careful what you wish for.

 

While the UK modular structure and recognition of prior learning is helpful the actual content leaves something to be desired. Very little on practical scouting skills (other than first aid, the first aid training is excellent!) and a bit heavy on the admin side of things.

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I am a lifelong Scout and Scouter, and it is painful to see a movement that I so deeply love and believe in miss the mark as widely as it does with Wood Badge.  Wood Badge has the potential to drive a more consistently high-quality program for many more kids.  To do so requires a pretty radical re-imagination of what Wood Badge means.  

 

I am with you so far. I've been involved with Scouting for a while. And   WELCOME TO DA FORUMS!

 

I would like to see a training approach markedly different from that taken by BSA for the current program.  I quickly sketch out a few problems I see with the current approach, then suggest a different approach for consideration and discussion.  

 

A few significant problems with the current approach:

  • Ungainly and labor-intensive:  A cumbersome structure with a large staff, a long preparation lead-up, and 18 months of follow-up.  I think other training suffers from the resource drain.

While not a WBer, I have staffed JLTC ( or as some called it WB Lite) and done my time as a trainer. Reason for the large staff is to demonstrate how the more people involved in a unit, the easier the work load is. Also emphasizes using the resources. Pre-WB21C, most WBers I knew had staffed district and council  level training events as a ticket item. When I did SM Fundamentals, about 1/2, maybe more, of the staff were working their ticket. When I staffed JLTC 75% of the adults were working their ticket.

  • Programmatically unfocused:  It tries to cover so many things that many of them are covered poorly.  What do the kids need their leaders to know?  Boy Scout leaders pretend to be a Cub for a few hours? Cub leaders pretend for days to be Boy Scouts?  We have even less of an idea about how to incorporate Venturing, let alone Varsity. 

Agree with you. Someone at national came up with the idea of "one size fits all" in regards to training. While some training can be combined IMHO, i.e OWL and IOLS, WB really needs to go back to separate CS and BS versions.  I know there was an Exploring version back in the day, but do not know how popular it was.

 

  • Emphasis Confusion:  Is it important to be outdoors?  Do we need to cook or is it ok for others to cook for us?  Is WB an industry-caliber leadership course that you would take in corporate America at the cost of thousands of dollars?  Does that apply to the Wolf curriculum, the core Eagle merit badges, etc?

"OUTING is three-fourths of ScOUTING,"  and I personally think it needs to be in the outdoors, utilizing the patrol method, and having the leaders master the skill. One reason why I didn't do WB at Gilwell park when I had the chance; you were living in dorms and in class at the time.

  • Resource drain:  Large time and financial commitment for already-strapped volunteers.

Agree, why I have not even considered taking it since getting out of college. That, and being told it would be a waste of time after staffing JLTC. I give up enough weekends and vacation to Scouts, my work is tired of me trying to get off for Scouts. And the cost of the courses around here is enough to do 10 monthly campouts.

  • Heavy-handed:  It puts a lot of energy into pitching and attempting to motivate students who are already motivated enough to be in the WB course  Two movies?  Sappy poetry?  Questionable myths presented as fact?  There can be a fine line between motivating people and alienating them through perceived attempted emotional manipulation.

Don't forget elitism as alienating. I've been in councils where if you don't have beads, you don't know $#!^. Heck at a major training, I got strange looks from some  other staffers, because I was teaching a class,  but didn't have have beads.

  • Since the course is so complicated, it is hard to update or modify.

IMHO, the leadership principles of pre-WB21C, which were used in BA22 and JLTC, are timeless and really do not need to be updated or modfied EXCEPT in the tools that can be used.

  • The ticket is not a training scheme, it is an add-on.  I understand the rhetoric of "now go out and put what you learned into practice," but isn't that what we should be doing in our Scouting positions? I also understand the position that tickets should be tailored to support one's position; anecdotally for many they are add-on make-work projects that many tolerate to get the beads.  

Mixed emotions on this one. One one hand, I agree we should already be what we are doing already. And back in the day, stuff I was doing already were being done by many as ticket items. How the heck am I going to come up with ticket items that would be challenging, but doable if I'm already doing stuff used at ticket items?

 

But how many leaders are actually doing Scouting correctly? How many are doing their own thing? How many need someone looking over their shoulder to make sure they are doing things correctly?

  • There is a counterproductive mysticism and mythology surrounding the course.  If it's really the "premier training," "mountaintop experience," etc., then why are so few people taking the course and why do staff have to arm twist so hard to get attendees?

I think, and folks correct me if I am wrong, National is pushing WB. I remember when I was a young leader, WB didn't happen every year or every other year. I remember being encouraged to attend because it might be 4-5 years before the next course, and told I could get a tenure waiver ( you had to be an leader for 3 years prior to attending back then. One of my JLTC troop guides did in fact get a waiver to go b/c he was 18 years, 1 month old when the course was offered). Now they did offer a course a year later, but only because there was so much interest in the first one, they actually had to turn away people. So interest was there, and they did fill the second course. But the third course was about 4 to 5 years after that.

 

Now national wants you either doing a course every year, or working with other councils to have the consortium put one on every year. Hence the pressure to do WB.

 

What might it look like instead?  As far as I can discern, WB was designed by B-P to be Scoutmaster/unit leader training.  The present UK scheme builds on and extends this idea; it is nearly ideal in my estimation:  

  • Those people in key positions for which WB is required (hands-on leaders, commissioners, etc.) have three years after appointment to complete WB.  It is not some esoteric "mountaintop experience," rather it is simply required in-depth training for key Scouters.  No mysticism.  No question of whether to participate.
  • It is modular:  37 modules comprise the "adult training scheme."  Only those that apply to a Scouter's particular position are required.  
  • Modules may generally be completed by attending training or through online/recorded video presentation followed by validation.  
  • There is a method to validate prior learning rather than compelling completion of a module already mastered.
  • Scouters changing roles need only complete modules not previously credited as completed.
  • There is a tie-in with their equivalent of NYLT.
  • There is no mention of the word ticket in the scheme.

Ref:  https://members.scouts.org.uk/documents/Adult_Training/Adult%20Training%20Scheme.pdf

 

I think the BSA needs to step back and ask what training our Scouts need their leaders to have.  Then it needs to revamp WB to address those needs (that may mean that a six-day residential course is not required), and make WB mandatory for all hands-on unit leadership and commissioners.  A good start would be to copy the model used by the UK Scout Association.  As adapted to BSA, I suggest the following modifications/clarifications to a matrix, incorporating:

  • YPT and quick start modules.
  • Trained strip.  Add BALOO to Cub Scouter trained requirements.
  • Tie in with Journey to Excellence program.  
  • Scouter Training Award.
  • Create a system to validate prior training.

In regards to making WB madatory for unit leaders and commissioners, until there is some way to make it more affordable AND more convenient, I AM OPPOSED TO IT (emphasis) .  Affordable is very doable IMHO. Convenience is going to be a challenge. There is a reason why it's either a weeklong, or two weekends. The best way for Boy Scout leaders to understand the Patrol Method, or Scouts from troop who do not use the Patrol Method properly or at all, is to thrust them into a Scouting environment for a a minimum of that time, and essentially use the PM.

 

And some folks are already so passionate and involved in Scouting, that adding this requirement would negatively both their personal and Scouting lives. I know one leader who had to tell his PLC to change dates or change activities because of WB. Same leader was also threatened with divorce because of his involvement at both the unit and council levels. WB was the straw that broke the camel's back with the wife, and once WB was completed, he actually had to step back from some of his duties.

 

I also know of 2 cases where attendance at WB eventually caused two divorces.

 

YPT is already to be rechartered, and see no problems there.

I agree with BALOO and trained strip, especially since Cubs are doing camping. HOWEVER I do see some push against this from LDS leaders since they do not camp.

 

If I'm not mistaken, Training and JTE are already tied in. BUT if you want WB trained leaders tied into JTE, then I am opposed for the reasons above.

 

Back in the day if memory serves, if you were eligible for WB without a tenure waiver, you met the requirements for Scouter Training Award.

 

As for training records, that is easier said than done. Up until SCOUTNET came about in 1998, training records were on paper. Unless your council kept great records in a great location AND you have a team of volunteers to go through them,  you gotta take the word of us old fogeys. And you can't even look for training cards. I didn't receive a standard "training completed" card fro several of my courses, but locally made certificates or "diplomas."

 

Then you got the programming and inputting problems with SCOUTNET. When the big push to get training records into SCOUTNET came out in the early to mid 2000s, only the most current training courses were listed. None of the older courses were listed. The workaround we were told to use was enter the current training code(s), but enter the dates of the we took the course(s). So my Scoutmaster Fundamentals in 1993 became New Leader Orientation, SM and ASM Specific Training, and Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills in 1993.  Eventually some of the older courses were put into the system, and the system started to discriminate dates. So all the leaders I used the fix above started being listed as "Untrained" again. Trusted me, I had a lot of ticked off leaders, especially the district commissioner who trained all UCs for the council and served on Philmont Training Center staff! So it was back to the beginning AGAIN.  And some of the courses were STILL missing. Some of those affected had served as training staff, so I used the courses and dates that they staffed.

 

THEN national had the crazy idea of only counting the most current courses for wearing the "Trained" strip and JTE. So everytime  the course changes, leaders would have to go through training again. Thankfully a compromise came about;  local training chairmen can approve of disapprove older training. this was after a lot of pushback. PLUS if this was policy, EVERY CS leader as of June 1st would have to go through training again.

 

BUT it is the reason why I suggest that every trainer includes their information as a student on training reports now.

 

This approach addresses all of the shortcomings I perceive and ensures a consistent level of training for all front-line leaders, rather than having just a few participate in WB.

 

P.S.  If you want a ticket scheme, make that part of a new service award with square knot, not part of Wood Badge.

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For reasons described elsewhere, I have not done Woodbadge, but I am also not afraid to recommend it to others.

 

For better or worse, my anacdotal experience is that we do not tend to lose Woodbadge trained leaders.

They may be drinking the coolaid, and some may look down on those without beads around their neck - but they do stay with the program longer and provide some much needed stability; they disproportionally fill in district volunteer positions.

 

So, as far as inspiring leaders to go out there and do a job (hopefully a good one actually based on their training), as a program it must be doing something right.

 

On-line leader training can impart some of the necessary knowledge; but not the experience - not the perspective of the Scouts they way Woodbadge does.  IOLS, if done properly, lets the leaders see some of that perspective, and gain valuable experience in how the scout learns and methods of teaching ... but ideally the Adult leader is not the one who should be doing that teaching.

 

Now I allow that correlation is not causation.  The leaders who take Woodbadge may already be more inclined to help Scouting is any way possible, and may be the ones who believe in the program enough to remain when their own kids age out.  None-the-less, the comraderie that program inspires is palpable.

 

Could the program be improved - of course, all things can be.  What we need to look at is what our our actual needs as a program, and is our training, Woodbadge or otherwise, serving that need; and if not, maybe Woodbadge could ammend their ticket program to look beyond the unit at how, as a Scouter, the candidate can improve the Scouting movement.

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I found the current Wood Badge somewhat useful. Now granted, I've been to NYLT. I've spent many years in Scouting and have done my best to learn about the program. Wood Badge didn't have a lot of new concepts to teach me.

 

In my mind CC Specifics and SM Specifics are your Unit leader training. Wood Badge is only useful if your Scouts go to NYLT and the unit is committed to doing things the right way. Otherwise, both courses as they are a waste of time. Wood Badge should teach us the skills our Scouts learn at NYLT so that we can coach them in their leadership.

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Disclaimer: I’m a beaded 21st century Wood Badger

 

Most of the material presented, though the staff did an excellent job presenting it, was concepts I had seen before in a good many “flavor of the month†management programs.  

 

If it were me, I start from scratch only using Baden Powell’s “Aids to Scoutmastership†,  Francis "Skipper" Gidney Gillwell materials, and  â€œGreen  Bar Bill†Hillcourt’s Wood Badge course, to develop a core outline. I then add just enough to bring it up to date.

 

As far as the tickets go, I believe one should have to work to achieve. IMHO I have little respect for a ticket that can be worked in a month or two.

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Not specific to outdoor training

but it was suggested over at scoutmastercg to look at the training program in Ireland.

They apparently have a much more thorough training period for leaders

In theory it sounds similar to us.... but in practice liley a lot better....

some basic intro stuff to gain a provisional leader status so you can get started with the unit....

to be followed by more advanced training

and mentorship

 

I think we fail with the training content, but where we really fall flat on our face is the mentoring.

Oh, I understand that some units likely have good mentorships form one leader to the next

and some have functioning Unit.... oh, now I can't remember the title.... I'll go with Unit Mentors for now...

 

I just feel like it's all to open and variable... huge variations form one unit or area to the next.  Lots of doing this way because that's the way we've always done it....often times even though it's wrong in some way or another....

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I found the current Wood Badge somewhat useful. Now granted, I've been to NYLT. I've spent many years in Scouting and have done my best to learn about the program. Wood Badge didn't have a lot of new concepts to teach me.

 

In my mind CC Specifics and SM Specifics are your Unit leader training. Wood Badge is only useful if your Scouts go to NYLT and the unit is committed to doing things the right way. Otherwise, both courses as they are a waste of time. Wood Badge should teach us the skills our Scouts learn at NYLT so that we can coach them in their leadership.

 

But what if one's boys think NYLT was a waste of time?  None of my boys have ever thought it was all that beneficial and none of them felt it was a cost effective training session.

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I'd offer two different WBs:

 

1.  The current method, for those that desire it.

2.  A high adventure WB, along the lines of what @@JoeBob outlined in another thread about another topic.  Wild and wooly.   Making shelters, catching fish for dinner, trekking thru the brush with map and compass, etc..   Leadership content is 90 percent field application, 10 percent group discussion at the end of the day.   No easels, no ppt, no movies, no games.   No showers, no plumbing, no civilization.   Very little gear.  Pull up a seat on the ground, on a rock, on a log.   Frank discussion and feedback.   Led by staff who enjoy this sort of outing.

 

Ticket?   People speak about it with hushed, respectful tones.   Might be time to scale it back to something less burdensome.

Edited by desertrat77

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I'd offer two different WBs:

 

1.  The current method, for those that desire it.

2.  A high adventure WB, along the lines of what @@JoeBob outlined in another thread about another topic.  Wild and wooly.   Making shelters, catching fish for dinner, trekking thru the brush with map and compass, etc..   Leadership content is 90 percent field application, 10 percent group discussion at the end of the day.   No easels, no ppt, no movies, no games.   No showers, no plumbing, no civilization.   Very little gear.  Pull up a seat on the ground, on a rock, on a log.   Frank discussion and feedback.   Led by staff who enjoy this sort of outing.

 

Ticket?   People speak about it with hushed, respectful tones.   Might be time to scale it back to something less burdensome.

 

 

Once upon a time, there was a backpacking WB; one of my good friends took it and loved it. It was at Philmont.  I believe there was also a canoeing done at N Tier or Land Between the Lakes, when it was a national HA base.

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But what if one's boys think NYLT was a waste of time?  None of my boys have ever thought it was all that beneficial and none of them felt it was a cost effective training session.

Then Wood Badge isn't very useful then is it? 

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Then Wood Badge isn't very useful then is it? 

 

Big conclusions based on tiny sample?  What percentage is "one's boys" out of those who took NYLT during the relevant period?

 

Is it possible that the quality of training courses varies from course to course?  If so, what is Corporate doing to insure that best practices are followed?  Certainly not requiring staff to be selected on the basis of ability.  

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Our scouts decided NYLT was a waste of time 5+ years ago. When the annual signup notice arrives, there are no takers. The old course notebook comes out and scouts see little they don't already know. Even though the last attendees have aged out, their summations remained "Learned some games and songs. Stayed in campsite and mess hall the whole week. Why am I here? Clueless teaching the more clueless." SM supports their decision and has his own criticisms of the course. He tends to view NYLT and WB as a remedial course for troops with weak programs.

 

Whether you are a scout or adult, a good start is read the Scout handbook and learn by doing with your buddies (fun). Fail, learn from it, read some more, ask for help, or watch youtube videos, and try again. Succeed and teach others (old JLT). Leadership skills develop naturally as you work as a group on common objectives - building a fire, cooking meals, planning a campout or hike.

 

My $0.02

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My guys like NYLT. It is usually well taught in my area. It *is* pricey for a week of camping and bad cafeteria food. Same cost as summer camp without any MBs or activities. I'd like to see a cost statement to see where the money is being spent.

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My guys like NYLT. It is usually well taught in my area. It *is* pricey for a week of camping and bad cafeteria food. Same cost as summer camp without any MBs or activities. I'd like to see a cost statement to see where the money is being spent.

 

Okay, you have a good program.  Boy like it.  We don't have a good program and the boys don't like it.  Where is the disconnecting occurring?  Why can't we have a good program, too?  Where's the program validation not happening?

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