[TheThinkTank] Test for (volunteer) mechanics?

Paul Nagel paul at thebicycletree.org
Mon Jun 3 21:44:21 PDT 2013


I like the quick test idea... using some key litmus test questions. Thank you, Josh.

Another possibility could be the Bike Mechanic Gauntlet. Ten volunteers or so line up, and each asks a question. If the new volunteer answers incorrectly, they are paddled, then on to the next question. If correct, they may proceed unpaddled. And so on. Any paddling would induce the proportionate amount of shame in the inductee, which would guide them toward self-improvement.


Date: Tue, 4 Jun 2013 00:25:41 -0400
From: veganboyjosh at gmail.com
To: thethinktank at lists.bikecollectives.org
Subject: Re: [TheThinkTank] Test for (volunteer) mechanics?

What about a less formal "test" or threshold, like having new volunteers strip bikes/supervise the stripping of bikes, which should give experienced/supervisory  mechanics a good sense if how the new person uses tools, approaches the bike, knows the systems, etc. things like taking cranks off is a pretty basic skill, but without the specific knowledge that one pedal is reverse threaded, or how to use a crank puller, it probably won't happen. 

I used to give a quick test to volunteers/earn a bike participants to assess their skill. I'd pick up a crank puller and ask what it was called and/or used for.
To lighten the mood of putting them on the spot/testing them, I'd joke about giving them the "super advanced bike mechanic speed test" or something, and then just casually ask what the crank puller is called. 


 I was shocked at the number of "very experienced" folks who knew neither what it was for or called. I'd then tailor the second question based on their first. Ask what a third hand brake tool is for, or a chain tool. You can get more advanced or more basic depending on how they answer, and generally speaking , determine a stranger's bike-specific experience within a few minutes or less, without exposing them to a single bike. 

Of course, plenty of experienced mechanics in our shops (I'm including myself in this category) are self taught without specialized bike tools, so this "test" may skew towards the shop-experienced mechanic's favor. 



On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, Paul Nagel  wrote:



Thank you, Keren.

Our process has been fairly similar. To clarify, a test (if brought into play) would not be used to exclude anyone, only as an assessment tool to be used alongside others, and that information would just be used to guide people's integration into the group. Talking with people can work well, as does seeing them in action. We still anticipate doing a lot of "on the job" training, shadowing, etc.


You make a good point that some people have an easier time with written tests than others. Perhaps a new volunteer could be asked if they would prefer a verbal assessment or perhaps another option I'm not thinking of. I do, however, want our intake process to be a little more thorough than it currently is.


I acknowledge that I was never been given such a test before working a bit at a couple bike shops. I don't, however, feel that it would have been a bad idea. Bad bike repair can be dangerous, if not merely troublesome.


Perhaps some explanation of our context would help. We're entirely mobile, working in different areas miles apart, working with volunteers coming from several cities several miles apart. Our first volunteer-only night ever will be at someone's house next week, and us volunteers don't hang out much together outside our workshops and events. So our opportunities for getting to know new volunteers are somewhat less than I believe is the case for more established co-ops. We'll be getting ourselves into a space this winter, which should really help with developing our group, which may reduce the apparent benefit of a written test.


This was also just a thought, to be honest there was about one minute between me thinking about a test and writing the question to this list. I apologize if it is really just a bad idea.

Thanks,

Paul

The Bicycle Tree
P.O. Box 11293
Santa Ana, CA 92711
http://www.thebicycletree.org
info at thebicycletree.org



Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2013 20:29:16 -0700
From: keren_gottfried at yahoo.ca
To: thethinktank at lists.bikecollectives.org

Subject: Re: [TheThinkTank] Test for (volunteer) mechanics?


Hm, it sounds like yu are really hoping to get volunteers with a solid knowledge level to make sure you're helping a lot of people well. 

Is a written test your favourite method and do you think it is accessible to 
all? In my experience, written tests favour a very particular sort of 
learning style. What about something less academic/intimidating/formal, like a conversation or hands-on demonstration?

We don't test people at Bike Pirates, we basically let anyone start (after they take an orientation) and learn "on the job". New and vet volunteers alike are encouraged to be open and honest with their knowledge levels with participants, to learn by "shadowing", and to ask questions vs. guess. We also explain to participants when they walk in (at least, we try to) that all our volunteers have varied knowledge levels and that we are a DIY work space.


So we don't require people have a "base level" of knowledge. If you're just starting out but you've mastered flats, or brakes, or whatever, be the one to help with that issue as often as possible and shadow others on topics you know less about. 


It's an imperfect system but it allows for people to learn at their own pace, for our
 program to be welcome and accessible, while still being as efficient as possible.

Background --> at Bike Pirates we have a 
(recently refined) volunteer training program that involves a couple 
hours on every Wednesday night for 3 weeks. The first week is a general orientation 
to the space and is the only mandatory week, followed by a mechanical 
orientation and the third is a walk trough and practice Bike Build 
night.

- Keren, Bike Pirates. Toronto

--- On Mon, 6/3/13, Paul Nagel <paul at thebicycletree.org> wrote:


From: Paul Nagel <paul at thebicycletree.org>
Subject: [TheThinkTank] Test for (volunteer) mechanics?
To: "thethinktank at lists.bikecollectives.org" <thethinktank at lists.bikecollectives.org>

Received: Monday, June 3, 2013, 8:58 PM




To start off, we've been seeing that nearly everyone (literally 49 out of 50 or even 99 out of 100) that comes to our workshops for do-it-together repair knows very little about bike maintenance (don't know a barrel adjuster from a limit screw). The process of learning is fundamental to these workshops, as it may be for most of the groups on this list. The notion of having a workspace where someone is vaguely supervising while people have at their bikes would not work for us at all. We pretty much need to be one on one with our visitors, we were 3 visitors to one volunteer the other day and it was far from optimal.


In this light, it is important that our volunteer mechanics be at least decent mechanics as well as good teachers. We respect the importance of "hands off", but know that people come to our workshops not so much for the tools, but rather for the assistance of someone who knows what they are doing.


So, I'm
 wondering if anyone uses a pretty simple written test (30 - 50 questions) in the process of bringing in new volunteer mechanics. We do not currently, though we do have new volunteers self-evaluate their level of knowledge on a one-page volunteer information form. I'm thinking a test could help quickly and objectively evaluate a person's skill level and help identify opportunities for growth. Any advice regarding problems and pitfalls would be appreciated. Of course any sample tests would be fantastic. This could be the same as an Earn-A-Bike test.


Thank you,

Paul Nagel

The Bicycle Tree

P.O. Box 11293

Santa Ana, CA 92711

http://www.thebicycletree.org

info at thebicycletree.org

 		 	   		  

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