Imagine this: four desks pushed together in the middle of a room, and two desks together on each side of the room, angled at a slant toward the front of the room creating two walkways to the back of the room and four walkways side to side between the rows. There’s a lectern in front along with either a wall-mounted or a rolling whiteboard. That was a typical classroom back when I was growing up.
Fast forward to a couple of decades, my classroom as an OU student is where I choose to be or happen to be at any given moment, and lectures are accessible with a click of a finger. I can choose to sleep on it and come back to it on my own volition without notice. Technology has indeed come a long way. Resources have become accessible, getting answers to questions can be answered with 95% accuracy by Google, movies and presentations can be created with a touch of our fingertips, and practically anything and everything under the sun can be self-taught at whichever pace the learner feels comfortable with.
With all these advancements in technology, there’s always been a nagging fear that my own profession might go obsolete in a number of years. A number of times, the existence of my very team has been threatened by virtual language labs that promise a fresh and engaging twist even to the most boring parts of a language classroom.
This module has shown me that my role will always be indispensable as long as I know how to adjust my teaching style based on the student’s learning stage. All this time, I thought I’d gone through all the hoops and flexed my way through learning different approaches and teaching methods. When I was working as a trainer, my manager then had always ingrained in me that my role should be that of a facilitator. The approaches she bestowed upon us to learn by heart was anchored on lesser teacher-talk time and a significantly greater student-talk time. Much to my consternation, she pulled me away from the authoritarian, teacher-banker method I was used to. It wasn’t easy, but I slowly got used to it, and eventually found myself loving it because it required less energy expenditure for me in the classroom.
A couple of years ago, I accepted a new post with an even bigger role, and I found myself delegating service desk training to apprentice trainers. Changes in management and budget cuts likewise brought about changes in the profile of the trainers we hired. Almost immediately, I realised there was a mismatch in what I perceived then was ‘learner-readiness’ to my management/teaching style. This led to disastrous results as my escalations due to their lack of critical thinking and overall dependence on canned modules created resentment in them towards me.
I mistakenly thought stepping onto a new role meant forgetting my trainer instincts and focusing on managing them. But this module has opened my eyes to new take-aways.
I am still a trainer, first and foremost. It doesn’t matter that I manage a team of coaches and trainers instead of a class of agents, and that my class consists of managers. I need to meet them where they are. If that means going back to the basics and drilling them on the foundation, so be it. I still need to know my team not only as a group but as individuals. I need to know what’s the best approach when coaching them. Are they the type of people who wants to be recognised so they will perform? Or are they the types of individuals who need constant challenge so they can reach their full potential? Since I am now working with trainers, leads and managers, I need to find out what motivates them on a personal and professional level. Are they after rewards? Almost overnight, I needed to learn performance management so I can plot their career map for them and help them reach their goal. Lastly and most importantly, I need to help them reach the stage of involvement. Learning and retention will be at its best when there is involvement from the learner themselves.
Prior to this module, I’d always thought dependence as a learner was a disadvantage and should be frowned upon and not encouraged. As i started working on our lego-like submission for this unit, I realised that some situations do merit dependence in learners because they don’t know any better or they’re complete novices in the field. Being an adult learner does not exempt one from being a dependent learner. I was reminded of this when I was flicking through channels one day and landed on a re-run of the now-defunct TV show ‘Selfie’. A modern take on the classic film, My Fair Lady, it is a story of a self-involved 20-something year old who enlists the help of a marketing expert to revamp her image in the real world. One scene particularly stood out to me because Henry, the man whom the lady protagonist, Eliza, approached to help her re-brand herself, was teaching her good manners by responding appropriately when she is greeted. It was laughable and ironic, but completely called for, I soon mused because such things escape her. Thus, the constant drills and the reprimands.
When I was still training new hires, I would often check my class’s profile. I look at their age group, their previous work experience, and their educational attainment. .As I conduct language assessments, I likewise found myself zeroing in on those exact same things on a candidate’s CV. It is not to demean those who are not at par with the others but to create a benchmark reference of their strengths, weaknesses, attitude, learning style and language skills. After all, based on my experience, each generation have their own sets of skills, strengths and weaknesses. Some turn out to be unique exceptions, but most are smack on. It helped me plan ahead and strategise how I will deliver and facilitate the lessons. I always thought that it was my responsibility to share and make them learn so they can be the best version of themselves I wanted them to be. Although learning is a two-way street, some situations call for learners to be passive and absorb information. A student driver cannot just go off on his own on a highway in an effort to learn how to drive. Otherwise, it would have catastrophic results. My role is to help meet learners where they are and mold them to be self-directed learners, hope for positive transfer. Although negative transfer would always rear its ugly head, I can be confident in the knowledge that their road to self-directed learning will guide them towards achieving mastery of their craft and working around the effects of negative transfer.
Grow, G. (1991). Teaching learners to be self-directed. Adult Education Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp. 125-149. Available at http://alec2.tamu.edu/grad_courses/611/modules/module2/lesson2/grow01.pdf
Perkins, D.N. and Salomon, G. (1992). Transfer of learning. International Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. Retrived from http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/traencyn.htm
University of California, Berkely (n.d.). Anthropology: Situated learning in communities of practice. Available at http://gsi.berkeley.edu/teachingguide/theories/anthro-practice.html