In this article, member Sandra Rennie tells us how she is working with the standard 'Build positive and collaborative relationships with colleagues and learners' and how this is helping her practice.
Our Award in Education and Training course is a blended learning course, mixing classroom-based sessions with online learning through social networks and online meetings. The students work for the same large employer but despite this, often have not met each other previously and don’t know about each others’ areas of work. We use the business-based online network at www.yammer.com; however, it can still be difficult to establish an active online community discussion where everyone feels included. So we get a culture of collaboration going immediately in the first face to face session and then track how deeply each person is engaging in that culture so that the teacher can give a nudge in the right direction if needed.
The first exercise in the induction session involves a selection of objects being placed on the table and each participant in turn is asked to pick up an object and say what meaning that has for them when they think of ‘education’. These objects have been selected because they can be used as a metaphor or because they are everyday objects associated with the students’ jobs or declared interests. e.g a bunch of keys, Russian doll, treasure map, tape measure, football, etc. This activity initiates trusting relationships which then make it easier for people to take the risk of sharing their learning ideas later online.
We can identify which students were progressing through the stages of learning to collaborate, how far they have reached and how much they are enjoying the process. The first stage in collaboration – asking questions of each other when you are unsure – was reached on the first day. Within a few days other students reached stage two, which is sharing their ideas and assignment plans on the online network we use for each class. By the end of the second week others had reached stage three of collaboration, which we define as supporting and helping each other in their learning and giving each other constructive feedback on their assignment tasks.
The collaborative use of Yammer is something we in SEQUALS have learned through collaborative research projects we have engaged with previously with the Workers Educational Association (WEA) and with the Northern College. We still participate in the Northern College online Yammer group TeachNorthern and see the ongoing positive effect of such techniques, and some of our past students have adopted the same techniques in their workplace.
The students were asked to write comments on sticky notes at the end of the first session and the feedback from all students was positive and, what is more interesting, it was also reflective. Here are a couple of examples,
‘I liked the use of objects for explaining what education means to us individually. As a shy person this made me relax and gave me the opportunity to speak’
‘I enjoy the teacher's approach, she was very informal and yet being able to include everyone in the session. Respecting everyone’s opinions and made her objectives clear.’