Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn

21 Mar

Imagine this: Learners need to learn to run data, analyze the numbers, and report the findings in a coherent, consistent way. (It could just as easily be “operate a software system” or “build community outreach programs”… it doesn’t really matter.) There are 20 of them. Plus, they have very limited time to meet and are geographically disperse. Go!

What to do, Ms. Instructional Designer? Mr. E-Learning Practitioner?

One approach is to allow the learners to become the expert trainers, and have them teach each other. Who doesn’t recall the details of a topic they’ve had to teach? Want to learn to play chess better? Teach a lesser player to play better, and your game will improve, too.

So, in our hypothetical example, you could divide the learners roughly into thirds (7-7-6), and charge them with becoming an expert on one of the three essential training content areas (collect, analyze, and report). If each team can collaborate, all the better. If not, individual effort is fine, too.

Then, when you do have your precious opportunity to gather in person (live or online), each person/group takes their turn as expert trainer to teach the others on their particular topic. (Yes, this is a flipped-classroom model.)

Angelos Morenao, Yoga-Inspired Art

Angelos Morenao, Yoga-Inspired Art, Yoga-Art.net

Approaching a complex organizational performance need in this way has several benefits:

  • Empowers active learning
  • Teaching, by its very nature, reinforces and deepens learning
  • Builds collaboration and organizational learning culture – learners are in it together
  • Creates internal experts for future help
  • Allows the trainer/ID to relax and let others do their work for them

Sadly, that last point is not even remotely true. But, it does make us approach our role quite differently. Rather than tight authority over a specific e-learning track or training room, we open our controlling fist to the chaos of the crowd. What that means is we become curators, coaches, mentors and evaluators.

  • Curate: We provide the materials, links, and other resources that are going to allow learners to build and contextualize their growing expertise in their area.
  • Coach: We want to monitor, redirect and reward learning along the way; in particular, we will need to guide how they intend to teach what they are learning. Training is hard, and we know it is a skill that many don’t have naturally. So…
  • Mentor: We need to work with individuals to find their strengths in how to present the content (talking, demonstrating, visual depiction, metaphoric illustration, interpretive dance, etc.).
  • Evaluate: Was our flipped method successful? What follow-ups, resources and continuous learning scaffolds need to be in place to build on both the content and the learning culture that has taken root? (Seems like a great place to start an online Community of Practice, but that is a topic for/from another day.)

Seen this way, our job is less to prepare and deliver training “products” or “events,” and more about adjusting to a digital age learning culture. The constant stream of information is relentless, and we need to help our learners make sense of it and flourish beneath the deluge.

One Response to “Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn”

  1. Yolanda May 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    I found this information is very interesting to a trainer / teacher. I agree with the thoughts and processed. To further the discussion, becoming a good trainer definitely should engage their learners in various information gathering and problem-solving activities. A trainer has to be mindful to present the material in an encouraging manner and try to lead discussions, ask and answer question and introduce activities in order to balance the learning content. I look forward to seeing more intriguing posts.

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