Rethinking Learning & Relearning Thinking

By Sarah Quinnell Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Today's post is by Sarah Quinnell, Maths Doctor's Educational Development Manager. Sarah discusses the processes in place that help Maths Doctor tutors be the best tutors they can, and ensure that each and every student they teach achieves their learning objectives.

What is L&D?

Traditionally Learning and Development is thought of as an HR function – employees engage in learning because they need to. While I acknowledge that there will always be an element of mandatory training required in every job, in my eyes learning is something we all do all the time; every interaction we have with the world we are learning something new. This raises two questions: Why should that be any different at work and how do we harness these experiences to improve our working practice?

As Learning & Development Manager I see my role as developing a curriculum / programme of continuous professional development (CPD) activities that stimulate both thinking and learning. The purpose of our L&D function is to develop our tutors as rounded educational professionals. I believe the key to this is not just the learning of specific skills and having a certain level of subject knowledge but the development of critical thinking and reflection skills. It is these higher-level skills that differentiate a good tutor from a brilliant one. So to answer question 1, workplace learning is no different than how we learn from every day interactions.

How do you change learning from something you have to do to something you simply do?

A number of professions mandate the number of CPD hours their members must do or how many points they must collect over a 12-month period. In my opinion this puts people off learning, it is nothing more than a function required to get a signature on a piece of paper, you cannot evaluate whether anything has been learnt. When our tutors apply to join us they have to undertake a set of four induction training courses which set the minimum standards / competencies we need them to meet before they can start teaching students. This is only the beginning of their own personal learning journey.

From the moment they start tutoring with us our tutors engage in a continuous cycle of self-audit and reflection and they use this to develop their own individual learning plans. From my work with both Health and Education profession I view this reflective practice element as an important tool in practice-based professional learning settings where individuals learning from their own professional experiences, rather than from formal teaching or knowledge transfer, may be the most important source of personal professional development and improvement.

By engaging in this type of activity, we are asking tutors to ask themselves, have I to the best of my abilities supported student learning, and provided all of my students with an entry point into learning. Through reflective practice our tutors are reflecting on their professional knowledge and professional practice; they are looking at how they teach and the information and forms of learning they are bringing to their students, and taking a critical look at whether or not they are current and if their ways of teaching are having an impact on student learning that they will be able to translate into future endeavours.

This approach to L&D means that learning is not an added extra, it is a central to our tutoring philosophy. It supports a shift from routine actions based on common sense thinking to reflective action emerging from professional thinking.

Categories: Education