Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Guided learning - coaching

Interim frequency analysis of the data from the ‘learning a trade’ project with apprentices reveal ‘being coached’ to be as high on the ‘ways of learning’ as ‘learning by watching’. Therefore, a need to do a summary of what ‘guided learning’ means in a workplace-based context. One comprehensive and relevant resource is chapter 5 (guided learning at work) from Stephen Billett’s 2001 book ‘Learning in the workplace: Strategies for effective practice’. Barbara Rogoff’s work, focused more on children learning, is also useful. Rogoff's  key reference is her book 'Apprenticeship in Thinking' which I have recently purchased second hand from Amazon and am working through. Both Rogoff’s and Billett’s work are informed by socio-cultural frameworks, premising that learning involves individuals and guides (trainers, mentors, supervisors, shift leaders, senior apprentices, peers etc.). Learning is also based on balancing the tensions between individual learning needs / trajectories and workplace organisational objectives (i.e. production). Guided learning goes through the steps of modelling, coaching, scaffolding and fading.

The newer socio-material approaches to understanding learning includes the socio-cultural frameworks and the many other factors that impact on/ influence learning – spatial, material, mechanical etc. I will be adding the socio-material influences into the project literature review but so much of socio-material learning is tacit. Apprentices, many struggling to articulate how they learn their trade, have alluded to socio-material influences although we have a few good examples.

Two categories of guided learning are proposed to be direct (as per coaching / mentoring) and indirect (learning by watching – i.e. Nielsen’s circumspection). If we re-analyse the ‘learning by watching’ and re-classify as either direct or indirect, we come up with half as learning by watching while being coached and half with learning by circumspection. So guidelines for both approaches need to be provided for apprentices and trainers/coaches.

For apprentices to learn and develop deeper understanding of work tasks, including some of the tacit and socio-material elements, strategies to use include questioning dialogues, diagrams and models and analogies. There is project data on apprentices 'learning by enquiry' and using sketches and plans. However, these strategies tend to be work or task driven, rather than something that every apprentice does in a particular trade. A more rigorous and deeper study will need to be made of each individual trade to sift out the salient learning approaches for each trade to identify 'signature pedagogies'