Training – the How of LD

Last time, I blogged about what the balance should be between the What (the knowledge and content) and the How (the skills) in training, particularly in respect of the one-to-one training I’m putting together for Learning Developers. I looked at what the What might be – the expert knowledge that we possess that we pass onto our students, as well as allowing it to inform our work. This time, I’d like to flesh out the How a little more.

What are the skills needed by a learning developer to do their job well? In another recent post, I looked at the various hats we might wear in the performance of our role.

Teach: at this end of the spectrum, we are imparting knowledge to students which they don’t already have themselves. The skills we need here are how to do this effectively – good teaching is not just telling. We need to master a number of models of teaching, from offering multimodal and active ways of exploring a topic, to scaffolding students into a greater understanding and ability to apply new knowledge, to facilitating their own construction of understanding through problem-based learning.

Mentor: The skills to mentor someone are the ability to disclose your own experience in a productive way that doesn’t dismiss, diminish or detract from the centrality of the student and the issues they want to address. Modelling approaches, decision-making processes and techniques is one key strategy, together with non-directive advising, and the ability to draw out with the student the general principles which they feel they can apply in their own circumstances.

Coach: Coaching in the sense of using questions and other strategies to set goals, reflect, reframe and summarise is a key tool for learning developers, possibly as much as or more than teaching. It enables us to operate meaningfully in disciplines we aren’t familiar with, teach things we don’t know (and indeed, subject expertise is the opposite of what we offer!), and honour the knowledge and experience which students do have, helping them articulate and make sense of it.

Counsellor: We aren’t counsellors, of course, but we are ‘skilled helpers’, and one of the skillsets we need to develop is active listening, and knowing when to shut up!  Using active listening, we can ensure that the student feels heard, validate their experience of studying at university, become a sounding board, allow them space to explore an issue, rehearse solutions and perhaps talk themselves into a course of action or insight. Sometimes the best and most helpful tutorials are the ones in which you, the tutor, doesn’t say a word….

There are more roles, I’m sure, that could usefully be included in one-to-one training but these are the core skills I’m aiming to focus on in the day event- are there any others I should add in?



3 thoughts on “Training – the How of LD

  1. Beautifully expressed, Helen!
    One thing that we also offered in our ‘how’ was what we came to believe a true ‘university’ experience – and an antidote to to the siloes that form when people are isolated in their Schools or Faculties.
    That is, despite many believing that the best 1-2-1 is private and personal (and sometimes it might need to be – and if people wanted privacy we would always decant to our adjacent room) – we offered our drop-ins ‘in the round’. We sat around a large table and people waiting for their session could wait at the same table. Thus, people from different disciplines could over hear what was going on – and get a sense of what other disciplines did and how they did them … and they could make connections with their own learning and their own issues.
    I stress, this did take place in a space of trust and support!
    And it tended to be very popular – I cannot remember one person wanting to step into the private room.
    Moreover, we would often note people having moments of identification and connection – which we thought were as powerful as what they would get in their own 1-2-1 session.

    1. I think this kind of cross-disciplinary approach can work really well. Emma Coonan does this brilliantly. The trick is to build the trust in us to handle them and in other students to be valuable sources of advice, and to bring students round to the idea that personalised 1-2-1 guidance from the tutor might not be the only, or indeed the most powerful way to get input. We’re going to be doing some drop-ins in a public space next year, and will also experiment with something we’re calling ‘forums’ – basically group discussions, semi-peer mentored, but facilitated by a tutor around a theme, with students of different stages and subjects. Kind of like a seminar, but we think that terminology has misleading connotations in this context. I’ve seen it work really well, just have to convince students that it’s got benefits of its own, that they can learn from and support someone in a very different subject, and we’re not just offering them cos we can’t see them all 1-2-1!

      So another How of LD outside of the one to one might be Facilitation skills, to manage a learning conversation between potential peer mentors. Will add that in as an idea for the Workshop training!

      and something a little more amorphous about how to build a space of trust and support, even if it’s not a physical space, but one you just happen to be occupying for the work.

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