“I have been a Toastmaster for just less than three years and have completed the competent communication manual under the old education programme. I switched to the Pathways programme when it was launched and have since done two projects, one of them an ice-breaker. This article is about my experience under both programmes.
The old education programme was compact, simple and easy to understand. As a new member, this was important because I needed a simple system that I could easily slot into. There were ten projects to complete, each aiming to develop a unique skill or set of skills. I understood the objectives of the projects and ran with it. A new member often has fears and confidence issues and when a system is easy to understand and as compact as the old programme, it gives them the confidence that they can do it. It also shows them that speaking is not as complicated as they had thought. Another merit of the old programme was that it had clear goals and targets. I knew exactly what I had to do to achieve an award. For example, I needed to complete ten projects from the Competent Communication manual to get the CC award. The clarity of the process and the fact that the end was in sight served as motivation for me.
However, the old programme was a bit narrow and one-dimensional. Because of its simplicity, there was that tendency to get comfortable and operate on autopilot mode. If that happens, it becomes mere routine and stops being challenging. This is often accompanied by the temptation to do the barest minimum to achieve the awards. Also, the programme seemed generic and did not consider preferences or the fact that people come to Toastmasters with different speaking challenges, and for different reasons. Therefore, it felt like a one-cap-fit-all system, which could undermine its effectiveness.
The Pathways programme, on the other hand, is broader and multidimensional. There are up to 300 competencies across ten paths. Hence, it attempts to capture the different preferences and challenges that people may have. The initial assessment I did when selecting a path gave me the sense that the one I got was tailored to suit my needs. It felt like my aspirations and challenges were taken into consideration. Furthermore, the Pathways is designed to develop a range of vital speaking, and non-speaking, skills at the same. For example, I had to carry out deep research while preparing the project I did under Pathways. This helped me to improve my researching skills alongside speaking skills. This has since proved useful to me. The broader nature and range of competencies of the Pathways programme make it more challenging. This forces people to go out their comfort zone and builds greater confidence as they develop other useful skills. I believe this is what makes the Pathways programme more effective.
The drawback with the Pathways is that it comes across as complicated and confusing. I still don’t understand completely what I am required to do to achieve an award. I also get the sense that there are too many projects. Maybe it is just me being lazy, but I did not have a hard time understanding the old programme. This can be demoralising, especially for new members. I believe it is important they get recognition early to encourage them.
So, that has been my experience with both programmes and I know it would be different for different people. It is my opinion that the Pathways programme is more effective. Although it still seems complicated to some, I believe that as we spend more time with it, we will understand it better.”