As CPSTs, we know all too well what few students in a CPS certification training understand on Day 1: It takes far more than a few days to learn all that is important to know about child passenger safety. This is certainly a field in which the more you know, the more you realize there is more to learn.
Longtime CPSTs and instructors will tell you-they continue to learn every day. And so, with the roll out of the new curriculum this March, we again contemplate the time it takes to teach CPSTs, especially since this version allows the completion of the coursework portion of learning in just three days. How, we wonder, can we provide all that a CPST needs to know in just three days? But remember, the success of the pilot course last summer shows that it can be done, and a major message from those instructors is that the difference between three and four days really doesn't matter.
Truer words couldn't be spoken! Whether we are using the new or the former version, or completing either in three or four (or five) days, was it ever truly possible to fully train a technician in that period of time? I think we'd all agree that the completion of the certification course is more accurately considered the launch pad for technician development.
Any student who really wants to be a technician in the true sense must understand that learning is a process that continues after the course.
But not every student leaves the course fully grasping this, and many lack the drive needed to follow through. And, let's face it, while the course can be very intense, it can quickly become a distant memory when students return to the many demands of their regular lives. The briefness of a three-day course only underscores this. So the role of CPST-Instructors-and also experienced CPSTs-as mentors will be more important than ever. Although it is unrealistic for instructors to take every student under their wing after class, it is crucial that an effort be made to connect new technicians with more-experienced techs or instructors in their home community.
But there's a limit to what even the most dedicated and charismatic mentor can do. We can't force people to show up at checkup events and update sessions or to review recommended resources. And with fewer days to bond with class attendees, this problem may worsen. Since much of a CPST's education comes after course completion, some sort of "carrot" might be warranted as motivation after class. For instance, perhaps it's time to implement a system in which completion of the course conveys only a conditional certification status. Then full status could be granted if the CPST enters certain activity information on his or her online profile within a set time frame after class (for instance, stating participation at a required number of car seat checkup events and/or completing a quiz that shows that online resources have been reviewed).
Of course, an argument against this is that it might ultimately shrink the overall number of CPSTs. But, really, aren't those CPSTs who cannot state that they've participated in some level of additional experience by, say, six months or a year after the course essentially lost to us already, in most cases? I believe this is a situation in which quality must trump quantity.
Denise Donaldson, Publisher & Editor
This article was originally published in Safe Ride News newsletter, Jan-Feb issue 2014.
Reprinted with permission from Safe Ride News Publications
PO Box 38, Edmonds, WA 98020 800-403-1424 * 425-640-5710,