Learners are taking control of what they learn and how they learn. And trainers face the challenge of rethinking their roles, create innovative learning environments and discovering and experiencing new tools to help learners learn better.
Informal learning, social learning, or learning based on the learners’ choices or options are certainly redefining the roles of trainers, learning specialists and even learners themselves. As they take more control of their own learning on their own terms, this becomes a frightening scenario to many learning specialists.
"Letting go of control" pushes trainers to rethink their roles in the learning process. However, rather than balk at the prospect, it is about time that this becomes an open issue. Years ago, letting go of control was like committing suicide where trainers are concerned.
Truth to say, we trainers, never had total control. We’ve always felt, thought and convinced ourselves that we control learning because we instruct and teach knowledge. However in reality, learners choose to learn based on their own personal goals. So, this openness about losing control is not entirely novel news. It should no longer be a surprise.
Consequently, it is now acceptable or in certain instances imperative to review and reconsider our perspective of our jobs as trainers. Since we were never really fully in control, in the past and more so now with informal learning, what should we do differently?
First, let's assess which part of the learning process can we best contribute to. I suggest that we carefully process learning. Roger Schank in his new book "Teaching Minds" suggests that we help learners learn by guiding and allowing them to gain insight from failures and/or experiences.
Let me offer some suggestions:
1. Set up learning situations, scenarios, real-life simulations that enable learners to do, act and even fail, but eventually learn from the experiences.
2. Rethink how to modify, discard or reject, replace and invent new tools.
Classrooms, learning objectives, curriculum, slideshows, games and exercises are common tools that we use to control learners. An innovative approach is to explore, reconsider and discover new tools that not only engage learners but make it possible for them to have control over their own learning (Wikis, Blogs, Searches, RSS, story and experience sharing, peer-to-peer learning, etc.).
However, the greatest drawback is that trainers are not comfortable with these new tools simply because they have not even started to delve into or experience them. This is where the dilemma lies. How do you, as a trainer/learning specialist, begin to help learners leverage these tools when you have not tried them out yourself?
We fail to realize that the best way to redefine, re-align and innovate our roles as trainers is to take action now. Dive in. Eat, dream, sleep and imbibe how learners control their own learning. Gain the emotional experience. Do not attend a class and learn the theory. Do it.
I’m including a vignette " Are Trainers Still Needed?"as a provocative discussion point. The pace, selection and retention of learning content are controlled by the learners’ needs, goals and interests. Trainers are challenged to step out of their comfort zones to explore approaches that will to help them keep in step with their learners.
Click here to view the vignette. Here below is a short description.
In this vignette “ Are Trainers Still Needed?”, a seasoned trainer is short of being told that what he is teaching is outdated. He used to be sure of himself all the time but now he suddenly isn’t. Not used to this kind of situation, he sticks to his dated information, risking the ire of his learner. What consequences will this trainer endure? What should he do? Click here to view "Are Trainers Still Needed?".
How to Use the Vignette
Although the situation presented is specific, this vignette covers a wide range of topics, including conflict-resolution, work ethics and other management-related issues. This vignette is very useful for eLearning sessions that require your learners’ undivided attention, especially those that deal with specific situations that need to be resolved in a timely manner. Use it as part of your lessons or as a post-training test. Face-to-face, eLearning or webinar, this vignette is a sure way to push your learners to the EDGE. Vignettes are captivating and highly effective learning tools that can power up your classroom training, eLearning activities and social learning communities. Click here to view "Are Trainers Still Needed?".
Join us and tell us what you think about the vignettes and share with us if you have had similar experiences. Your feedback and insights are highly valued. Also feel free to send in your suggestions, comments, improvements or topics that are of interest to you. This can help us greatly in coming up with better vignettes, especially on topics that are of great relevance to you.
Ray Jimenez, PhD
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"