Mind Over Matter

Learning in the Round – The essential route to work based learning

Posted: August 16, 2017-Likes: 0-Comments: 0-Categories: Courses

Mind over Matter Consultancy (MOM), through Professors Chris Kemp and Patrick Smith has from its inception used ‘Learning in the Round’ to provide an essential platform for knowledge and skills acquisition whilst enabling instant practice in the workplace.

The following passage provides an insight into how this process works. It is especially useful when working with leadership teams as it provides the environment and context to create well developed and integrative partnerships between the learners.

First, ‘Learning in the Round’ captures the fluid relationships and engagements between the different actors in the work-based learning process (Participant, Specialist, and Facilitator) in both the design and delivery phases.

Whereas in more traditional, ‘intra-mural’ pedagogies, schemes of work or individual learning units may well be prepared by one lecturer or a delimited academic team, here the work-based learning curriculum is more commonly co-created (Linehan, 2008; Ball and Manwaring, 2010) with contributions from disparate disciplines and fields of practice; academics and professional partners collaborating to produce a range of learning opportunities and learning resources which integrate both theoretical and experiential material.

Likewise, in the delivery or, more aptly, realisation of a session, all three actors in the process are enabled to shape the content and conditions of learning. Traditional distinctions between teacher and learner are changed.

In the triadic relationship involving participant, professional specialist and facilitator, it is not uncommon for the latter’s role to be de-emphasised, even marginalised as the participants and industry specialists work through issues and dilemmas.

Secondly, ‘Learning in the Round’ is also, we suggest, an apposite label for the process whereby graduates of successful work-based learning programmes exhibit a marked capacity for managing their own learning and development, and applying their learning iteratively across different contexts and spheres of knowledge and practice.

In an era where the notion of employability looms large in every curriculum development initiative, work-based learning programmes continue to over a realisation of how academic and practice learning can be harmonised and applied across different knowledge domains and contexts.

While the limitations of concepts of transferability have long been recognised by researchers and wariness of exaggerated claims has rightly been exposed (Barnett, 1994; Eraut, 2008; Lucas et al 2004), the same research nevertheless demonstrates that skills developed in one context can indeed be utilised, albeit in amended forms, in other contexts.

The crucial element would appear to be the in influences and limitations placed on notions of transferability by particular contexts of operation.

By foregrounding the importance of context, relationship and interaction, ‘Learning in the Round’ aims to articulate and keep prominent and ubiquitous for all parties this important consideration.

Thirdly, ‘Learning in the Round’ is a profoundly social process, (Bandura, 1971; Coffield, 1999) a further form of that situated learning that has been identifed as so characteristic and so beneficial in learning and development in contemporary education and professional development (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998).

By bringing together the perspectives of Specialist, Facilitator and Participants, niceties and particularities of organisational culture and practice are captured and perceived in a manner that would not be possible by any one of these key actors individually.

This process is not without its challenges in terms of foregrounding misperceptions and assumptions which can emerge as tensions and disagreements which are inherent in the ‘settling in’ process.

A successful work-based pedagogy in the professional fields covered in this book at least has a fundamentally social and connectivist orientation. As the examples included in this book will show, it has been our experience that learning strategies which require participants to describe significant work-related episodes and events can initiate this process.

Recollections, shared ‘in the round’ within a peer group, gradually move from the descriptive to the analytic as participants begin to appreciate that their ways of dealing with and managing common work-based occurrences are but one way amongst a range of others.

From this realisation it is a relatively short step to participants recognising preference in the form of habitual assumptions, beliefs and practices in relation to their own learning. It is then possible to begin to consider the effects of context and task on actions and to introduce useful concepts such as that of metacognition.

Finally, we set out ‘Learning in the Round’ as an apt summation of that most important aspect of the successful work-based learning pedagogy – the process whereby a work-based learner no longer reflects upon workplace issues and challenges from a single aspect, or even ‘in the main’, but now in the round.

In a fully realised work-based learning process, the learner is fully engaged in the learning process. Experience is indeed converted into learning, a process outlined powerfully in Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985) and new conceptual models are developed for processing future experiences (Mezirow, 1991).

Realising this fourth dimension of Learning in the Round is perhaps the most challenging aspect of work-based learning programmes: for many practitioners, concerned with interventions and outcomes in the workplace, the notion of standing back, of suspending action so that one might reflect at length, is virtual anathema. It runs counter to the dynamics of many workplaces in which action and decision-making are so valorised in organisational culture that individuals’ identities become tied up in an action orientation, to extent occasionally of confusing action with purpose.

Creating the conditions in which participants can begin to appreciate the value of reflection as a central element of learning takes time and requires patience and persistence by the facilitator, however once that particular penny has dropped, it is our experience that participants’ learning and predispositions to new ideas and approaches are significantly increased.

It follows from this that the learning journey and trajectory of the respective actors involves them experiencing, adapting and re-adapting to a range of situations and recognising the potential of these experiences in relation to their own personal and professional development.

More about our work in this area can be found in:

Smith, P., Kemp, C. (2012) Learning in the Round: Concepts and Contexts in Work-Based learning Cambridge Academic:Cambridge

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