Sunday, November 4, 2007

Teaching or facilitating learning

Regarding facilitation and teaching. I am still trying to get my head around this topic . I have written the following to clarify for myself what my thoughts are. I would love some comments if anyone feels they have anything to add or any comments they would like to make.

I am working with adult learners. Women enter the Bachelor of Midwifery program with a variety of life experiences and most have some prior knowledge of what it means to be a midwife. Some have personal lived experience of their own or close friends or families birthing experiences. So we are not starting with a blank slate but building on previous knowledge and experience.

As with most professions knowledge in midwifery is constantly changing and growing. Some things we 'knew' in the recent past we now know not to be the case. Midwives cannot learn all that there is to being a midwife and then stand still. Learning is continuous, developing new skills, further developing skills which have been gained previously or identifying new evidence for practice decisions. I believe our greatest role is to stimulate curiosity, and provide students with the ability to continue their learning journey as professionals in the field. Students learn through inquiry and investigation, not through lecturers delivering material or being repositories of knowledge. If lecturers have all the answers, where do you go when this knowledge font is no longer there? I believe that this is the skill of facilitation, supporting and guiding others through a learning experience while making sure they have access to the necessary resources to accomplish their task. My thoughts on what can be learned in this way are changing all the time.

We have just completed our first year integration week where students work together in groups, researching material around a clinical scenario and then presenting this to the class at the end of the week. As lecturers we facilitate their learning through this process, meeting with them each day, offering suggestions for material they might want to check, making sure they keep focussed on the necessary aspects of the task. The learning that occurs during this week is enormous. Much greater than all the lectures I could deliver. I wonder how much more could be achieved if more of our course content was delivered in this way.

Having said that there are some things that just have to be taught, students will not learn the correct technique for taking a blood pressure, dressing a wound, maneuvers for assisting with a birth if they are not taught how to do so. Or am I wrong, could they also learn this through facilitated group work? As with my students, I am on life's learning journey and my thoughts on these matters are constantly changing. I think the really important thing is that we reflect on what we are doing, evaluate it and gather evidence on the effectiveness of our facilitation or teaching. We will then have some basis to state that something works or does not work and identify what produces the best outcomes for those with whom we are working.


Leigh Blackall said...

good to see you storing what you write to the email forum on your blog as well. In teh long run its a smart move.

Sitting in Silence said...

I agree Life is one big changing learning journey.
You only get out of it what you put into it.

As a student, I found that I learnt best when we got to brain storm in groups and take on other trains of thought.
I felt that it gave me a bigger picture of scenarios and people were able to exchange their ideas and experiences more.

Carolyn McIntosh said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this Danielle. I think scenario based group work is a fantastic way to learn

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