"Educational Tools for Dealing with Trainees with Difficulties"

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This is our ingrained voice of authority, absorbed conditioning, learning and attitudes from when we were young. We were conditioned by our real parents, teachers, older people, next door neighbours, aunts and uncles, Father Christmas and Jack Frost. Our Parent is made up of a huge number of hidden and overt recorded playbacks. Typically embodied by phrases and attitudes starting with 'how to', 'under no circumstances', 'always' and 'never forget', 'don't lie, cheat, steal', etc, etc. Our parent is formed by external events and influences upon us as we grow through early childhood. We can change it, but this is easier said than done.


Our internal reaction and feelings to external events form the 'Child'. This is the seeing, hearing, feeling, and emotional body of data within each of us. When anger or despair dominates reason, the Child is in control. Like our Parent we can change it, but it is no easier.


Our 'Adult' is our ability to think and determine action for ourselves, based on received data. The adult in us begins to form at around ten months old, and is the means by which we keep our Parent and Child under control. If we are to change our Parent or Child we must do so through our adult.

In other words:

  • Parent is our 'Taught' concept of life

  • Adult is our 'Thought' concept of life

  • Child is our 'Felt' concept of life

Larkin's words are a bitterly incisive comment on the negative effect that parents can have on their children. The words are especially relevant to understanding the potency of parental conditioning upon young children, notably in the context of Transactional Analysis.

"They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad,
They may not mean to but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra just for you."

At the core of Berne's theory is the rule that effective transactions (ie successful communications) must be complementary. They must go back from the receiving ego state to the sending ego state. For example, if the stimulus is Parent to Child, the response must be Child to Parent, or the transaction is 'crossed', and there will be a problem between sender and receiver.

If a crossed transaction occurs, there is an ineffective communication. Worse still either or both parties will be upset. In order for the relationship to continue smoothly the agent or the respondent must rescue the situation with a complementary transaction

Significantly, the original three Parent Adult Child components were sub-divided to form a new seven element model, principally during the 1980's by Wagner, Joines and Mountain. This established Controlling and Nurturing aspects of the Parent mode, each with positive and negative aspects, and the Adapted and Free aspects of the Child mode, again each with positive and negative aspects, which essentially gives us the model to which most TA practitioners refer today:


Parent is now commonly represented as a circle with four quadrants:

Nurturing - Nurturing (positive) and Spoiling (negative).

Controlling - Structuring (positive) and Critical (negative).


Adult remains as a single entity, representing an 'accounting' function or mode, which can draw on the resources of both Parent and Child.


Child is now commonly represented as circle with four quadrants:

Adapted - Co-operative (positive) and Compliant/Resistant (negative).

Free - Spontaneous (positive) and Immature (negative).

Where previously Transactional Analysis suggested that effective communications were complementary (response echoing the path of the stimulus), and better still complementary adult to adult, the modern interpretation suggests that effective communications and relationships are based on complementary transactions to and from positive quadrants, and also, still, adult to adult. Stimuli and responses can come from any (or some) of these seven ego states, to any or some of the respondent's seven ego states.


  • Between teaching and learning styles

  • Between the expectation of the trainer and what is motivating the learner

  • At different times of the year

  • Because of not enough or too much support

  • Because of not enough or too much challenge

  • Because of different beliefs and values about being a GP

We no longer interview and choose the trainee who will work in the Practice and the need is for trainers to be as FLEXIBLE as possible to the different needs, experiences, expectations and motivations of our learners.

The trainer needs to be flexible to the needs of the learner

  • This will vary during the year

  • Should be supported by good feedback

  • Should not be an excuse to collude with the learner and avoid challenge

  • Can be supported by good use of the practice team

  • Needs to manage the difference between formative development and assessment

To help remind you about areas that need flexibility I attach reminders of the following

  • Of teaching and learning styles

  • Of VAK styles

  • How transition into new posts can affect learning

  • This curve also has relevance to how we ourselves perform new tasks

  • The Johari window as a way of looking at creating an open learning environment and about the need for effective feedback

  • Everything is supported by good feedback

  • Things are helped by Awareness Raising Questions

  • Cultural mismatch

  • Information about mismatch by Gerald Grow

  • Mismatch is often at belief and values levels and conflict at a behaviour level.



This style is traditional and didactic. Conveys facts that the teacher thinks the learner needs to know and may answer questions but only relating to what’s been said. Likened to parent child relationship.


Less didactic and based on questions and answers but it is still the teacher’s agenda. The teacher gives new facts but only when the learner shows they don’t know. Thus is still teacher driven although more learner centred and supportive. Can motivate the interested learner to learn and at some stage move onto more independent learning.


More facilitating along the line of “Find out for yourself.” Teacher happy to share information and knowledge and recognizes that each party knows some things but not necessarily the same. Sharing approach good for training.


Discussion between equals and as if the teacher holds up a mirror, helping the learner to understand what the problem is, and to look at relationships and communication. Acts as a consultant when needed but mainly happy to delegate to the individual their self directed learning.


Honey & Mumford

Learning styles, in common with any other style, have in themselves been learned as people repeated strategies and tactics that were found to be successful and discontinued those that were not. In this way preferences for certain behaviour patterns develop and become habitual. These styles tend to be strengthened as people gravitate towards careers that are compatible with their preferred modus operandi. Here are paragraphs describing four learning styles. 

Activists Activists involve themselves fully and without bias in new experiences. They enjoy the here and now and are happy to be dominated by immediate experiences. They are open-minded, not sceptical, and this tends to make them enthusiastic about anything new. Their philosophy is: "I'll try anything once". They tend to act first and consider the consequences afterwards. Their days are filled with activity. They tackle problems by brainstorming. As soon as the excitement from one activity has died down they are busy looking for the next. They tend to thrive on the challenge of new experiences but are bored with implementation and longer term consolidation. They are gregarious people constantly involving themselves with others but, in doing so, they seek to centre all activities around themselves. 

Reflectors Reflectors like to stand back to ponder experiences and observe them from many different perspectives. They collect data, both first hand and from others, and prefer to think about it thoroughly before coming to any conclusion. The thorough collection and analysis of data about experiences and events is what counts so they tend to postpone reaching definitive conclusions for as long as possible. Their philosophy is to be cautious. They are thoughtful people who like to consider all possible angles and implications before making a move. They prefer to take a back seat in meetings and discussions. They enjoy observing other people in action. They listen to others and get the drift of the discussion before making their own points. They tend to adopt a low profile and have a slightly distant, tolerant, unruffled air about them. When they act it is part of a wide picture which includes the past as well as the present and others' observations as well as their own. 

Theorists Theorists adapt and integrate observations into complex but logically sound theories. They think problems through in a vertical, step by step, logical way. They assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories. They tend to be perfectionists who won't rest easy until things are tidy and fit into a rational scheme. They like to analyse and synthesise. They are keen on basic assumptions, principles, theories, models and systems ;thinking. Their philosophy prizes rationality and logic. "If it's logical it's good". Questions they frequently ask are; "Does it make sense?" "How does this fit with that?" "What are the basic assumptions?" They tend to be detached, analytical and dedicated to rational objectivity rather than anything subjective or ambiguous. Their approach to problems is consistently logical. This is their 'mental set' and they rigidly reject anything that doesn't fit with it. They prefer to maximise certainty and .eel uncomfortable with subjective judgements, lateral thinking and anything flippant. 


Pragmatists are keen on trying out ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work in practice. They positively search out new ideas and take the first opportunity to experiment with applications. They are the sort of people who return from management courses brimming with new ideas that they want to try out in practice. They like to get on with things and act quickly and confidently on ideas that attract them. They tend to be impatient with ruminating and open-ended discussions. They are essentially practical, down to earth people who like making practical decisions and solving problems. They respond to problems and opportunities 'as a challenge'. Their philosophy is: "There is always a better way" and "If it works it's good".

Each style 'connects' with a stage on the continuous learning cycle of Kolb. 

People with Activist preferences, with their 'I'll try anything once' approach, are well equipped for Experiencing. 

People with Reflector preferences, with their predilection for mulling over data, are well equipped for Reviewing 

People with Theorist preferences, with their need to tidy up and have answers', are well equipped for Concluding. 

Finally, people with Pragmatist preferences, with their liking for things practical, are well equipped for Planning. 

Types of Memory (VAK) (5)

Visual; Visual learners find it easier to take in new information through pictures, diagrams, charts, films, etc.

Auditory; Verbal learners find it easier to take in new information through the spoken word

Kinaesthetic; Kinaesthetic learners find it easier to take in new information through copying demonstrations and getting physically involved


The best learning takes place using all 3 memories, e.g. If you are reading:

  1. Visualise the key messages

  2. Read aloud or hear the words internally

  3. Get physically involved - underline, highlight, Mind Map. etc.

Learners dominate in one style and have a preference for another. Previous learning may have been hindered if it did not cater for your learning style. Typically, schools are not geared to kinaesthetic learners.

Many learners don’t know about this and many have mixed learning styles in different situations.

Just make sure you understand your trainee’s way of learning and that you match it.


Visual Learners

Auditory Learners

Kinaesthetic Learners

Use phrases such as: 
"I see what you mean"
"I get the picture"
"That looks right"

Use phrases such as:
"That sounds right"
"I hear what you are saying"
"That rings a bell"

Use phrases such as:
"That feels right" 
"I found it easy to handle"
"That touched a nerve"

When relaxing, prefer to watch a film or video, go to the theatre or read a book

When relaxing, prefer to listen to music or radio

When relaxing, prefer to play games and sport

Prefer to talk to people face to face

Prefer to talk to people on the phone

Prefer to talk to people whilst doing something else

Fast talkers, dislike listening to others

Enjoy listening to others, but impatient to talk; talk in a rhythmic voice

Slow talkers, use gestures and expressions

Forget names, remember faces

Forget faces, remember names

Shake hands with people they meet

If lost or need directions, prefer a map

If lost or need directions. prefer to be told

If lost or need directions, prefer to be shown the way

When inactive, tend to doodle or watch someone or something

When inactive. tend to talk to themselves or others

When inactive, fidget

When angry, are silent and seethe

When angry. express themselves in outbursts

When angry, clench their fists, grit their teeth and storm off

Reward people with a note, letter or card

Reward people with oral praise

Reward people with a pat on the back

Well dressed, tidy and organised

Do not like reading books or instruction manuals 

Cannot sit still for long periods of time

Match and Mismatch between
Learner Stages and Teacher Styles

From Gerald Grow (6)

In this model, teachers adapt their teaching styles to match the student's degree of self direction, and in order to increase that self-direction. Problems occur when dependent learners are mismatched with non-directive teachers and when self-directed learners are mismatched with highly directive teachers.

Self-Directed Learner


Students resent authoritarian teacher


Near Match




Near Match


Near Match


Near Match


Near Match


Dependent Learner


Near Match



Students resent freedom they are not ready for





The T1/S4 Mismatch.

Some problems in education arise when the learner and teacher are not matched. When self-directed students (S4) are paired with an authoritarian teacher (T1), problems may arise--although some S4 learners develop the ability to function well and retain overall control of their learning, even under directive teachers (Long, 1989). Other S4 learners, however, will resent the authoritarian teacher and rebel against the barrage of low-level demands. This mismatch may cause the learner to rebel or retreat into boredom.

To make things worse, the S1 teacher will probably not interpret such a rebellion as the result of a mismatch; that teacher is likely to see the student as "surly, uncooperative and unprepared to get down to the hard graft of learning basic facts" (Fox, 160). Hersey (1983) describes the result of this mismatch as "havoc," in which "extreme over control by the leader can result in stress and conflict where the follower engages in behavior designed to get the leader out or to get out from under the leader."

The T1/S3-S4 Mismatch.

The T1/S3-S4 mismatch is one of the fundamental difficulties with the public school system. Students who are capable of more individual involvement in learning are often relegated to passive roles in authoritarian classrooms.

Adults who return to college may find themselves faced with a similar mismatch. Their life experiences and learning skills enable them to learn at the S3 or S4 level in many subjects, but at many colleges they find faculty accustomed to using S1 and S2 methods on adolescents. Furthermore, after many years of responsibility, adults may experience difficulty learning in from S1 teachers. Adults may be unused to blindly doing what they are told without understanding why and consenting in the task. Many of them are accustomed to having authority. They don't jump through hoops just because somebody says to--even though younger students are ordinarily expected to do so without question.

Older adults returning for graduate study, in particular, may run aground on courses like statistics, which are often taught by briskly directive faculty using the S1 mode. The S3 mode is sometimes not used with older learners, even when it is possible and appropriate, simply because teachers lack experience in this type of teaching. Mature students may respond like the disgruntled dog in a recent New Yorker cartoon, who complained, "It's always 'Sit,' 'Stay,' 'Heel'--never 'Think,' 'Innovate,' 'Be yourself'" (Steiner, 1990).

The T4/S1 Mismatch.

A different problem occurs when dependent learners are paired with a Stage 3 or Stage 4 teacher who delegates responsibility that the learner is not equipped to handle.

(I developed the entire SSDL model just to gain the insight reported in the following paragraph.)

With such students, humanistic methods may fail. Many will not be able to make use of the "freedom to learn," because they lack the skills such as goal-setting, self-evaluation, project management, critical thinking, group participation, learning strategies, information resources, and self-esteem, which make self-directed learning possible--skills such as those described by Guglielmino (1977), Oddi (1986), and Cafarella and O'Donnell (1987). In this mismatch, students may resent the teacher for forcing upon them a freedom they are not ready for. In Pratt's words, they may feel "frustration and anger when, in a misguided spirit of democracy, they are expected to make decisions without sufficient knowledge or expertise" (1988, p. 169). Wanting close supervision, immediate feedback, frequent interaction, constant motivation, and the reassuring presence of an authority-figure telling them what to do, such students are unlikely to respond well to the delegating style of a nice humanistic facilitator, hands-off delegator, or critical theorist who demands that they confront their own learning roles. They may even hate the teacher (as my student hated me), or, like the Chinese law students described by Nadler (1989), they may dutifully recite the words of authority figures and shy away from the kind of independent thinking Americans value.

Hersey (1983) describes the results of this mismatch a kind of "havoc" that occurs when the followers do not receive the guidance they need, and,

"lacking the ability to perform the task, tend to feel that the leader has little interest in their work and does not care about them personally [This form of leadership makes] it difficult for these followers to increase their ability and reinforces their lack of confidence If the leader waits too long but then provides high amounts of structure, the followers tend to see this action as punative rather than a helping relationship."

Several telling examples of this kind of mismatch can be found in the reports of innovative teaching in Carl Rogers' "Freedom to Learn in the '80s." One student, whose ability to respond with self-direction was less than that demanded by the course, wrote:

"I am the product of a system built around assignments, deadlines, and conventional examinations. Therefore, with this course graded by the flexible method and four other courses graded by the more conventional methods I tend to give less attention to this course than it merits due to lack of well-defined requirements." (Rogers, p. 91)

In another section, Rogers acknowledges "the shock and resentment that sometimes occur when students are faced with the necessity of making responsible choices" (p. 93). Other teachers in the book blame such students for not taking responsibility for their own learning, concluding that in dependent learners "old conditioning feels safe and operates well" (p. 66). The teachers quoted in this book want students to be more self-directing, but they have no pedagogical method for helping students move from dependency to self-direction.

That is what the Staged Self-Directed Learning Model proposes.

Discussion of Mismatches

The T4/S1 mismatch and "free schools." The T4/S1 mismatch (or the milder mismatch of T4/S2) points to a fundamental problem with the extreme "free school" approach to education (practiced by Neill [1960] and attempted by many). This approach trusts that, left alone, children will learn on their own. The literature on self-directed learning, however, suggests that "learning on your own" requires a complex collection of self-skills and learning skills which not all learners spontaneously acquire. Unless self-direction is explicitly encouraged, "free" schools and "open" programs may work only for those whose family background has already prepared them for self-direction (Tuman, 1988).

Teachers using critical pedagogy have also reported difficulties when the method does not match the learning stage of the student. Even though critical pedagogy is specifically designed to address the learning problems of students in their real situations (including the classroom), some students do not respond.

"Most of my mainstream college students...are waiting for the teacher to speak and do all the work and leave them alone to copy down what should be memorized," Ira Shor reported. "They generally begin passively alienated, and many stay that way until the end" (Shor & Freire, 1987, p. 129).

For all its virtues, critical pedagogy alone may not be sufficient to move students from dependent to independent learning. The SSDL model suggests that problems may arise when the S3 approach of critical pedagogy conflicts with the need S1 students have for being taught.

Though adult educators recognize that adult learners are not necessarily self-directed learners, it is widely assumed that adults will become self-directed after a few sessions explaining the concept. (See, for example, Rutland & Guglielmino's [1987] well-designed program for teaching adults about self-directed learning before they begin a self-directed learning group.) But not all adults will become self-directed when told. Adult learners can be at any of the four learning stages, but the literature on adult education is dominated by advocates of what the SSDL model would call a Stage 3 method--a facilitative approach emphasizing group work (epitomized by the generous, gentle approach in Knowles, 1975). Even teachers of adults, however, may need to approach certain learners in a directive, even authoritarian style, then gradually equip those learners with the skills, self-concept, and motivation necessary to pursue learning in a more self-directed manner.

Freire, advocate of a classroom in which student and teacher receive equal respect, acknowledges the paradoxical need to be directive:

"On the one hand, I cannot manipulate. On the other hand, I cannot leave the students by themselves. The opposite of these two possibilities is being radically democratic. That means accepting the directive nature of education. There is a directiveness in education which never allows it to be neutral My role is not to be silent" (Shor & Freire, 1987, p. 157).

Every stage requires balancing the teacher's power with the student's emerging self-direction. If I emphasize the need for directiveness, it is because, coming from a humanistic background, I had to learn to use directive methods wholeheartedly, without apology or shame, as part of the long-term cultivation of self-direction in certain learners. Pratt makes a similar case for practitioners of andragogy to "acknowledge states of dependency as potentially legitimate" and provide the needed direction" (1988, p. 170).

Good Teaching

The SSDL model suggests why "good teaching" is widely misunderstood. Most people seem to think that there is one way to teach well. Awards usually go to a teacher who is outstanding in one of the first two stages--the one who "pours it on" or the one who leads and motivates students--less often to the one who encourages students to develop on their own, or the one who engages the most advanced students with deep, open-ended problems.

What is "good teaching" for one student in one stage of development may not be "good teaching" for another student--or even for the same student at a different stage of development. Good teaching does two things. It matches the student's stage of self-direction, and it empowers the student to progress toward greater self-direction. Good teaching is situational, yet it promotes the long-term development of the student.

Conflicts among teachers with different styles.

In my experience, teachers of the S1-S2 types and teachers of the S3-S4 types often dislike one another's methods, even one another's personalities. Humanistic educators (for example, Fox) often ridicule or reject S1 and S2 methods. "Back-to-the-basics" teachers, conversely, often ridicule those they consider fuzzy and non-directive. In typical polarizing fashion, each group compares its virtues to the other's faults.

A similar point is made concerning the debate about andragogy in adult education.

I have listened for many years to colleagues who devalue their counterparts. Whatever its faults, the SSDL model provides a way to honor the strengths of a broad range of teaching styles.

Multi-Mode Teaching. Nearly any teacher can teach in more than one style. Hersey and Blanchard (1988, Ch. 12) give an interesting account of all possible pairs of management styles in the Situational Leadership Model, though I suspect that teachers lump into two large groups--those for whom the S1-S2 styles come naturally, and those for whom the S3-S4 styles come naturally. The S3-S4 group seems dominant among writers on adult education.

Toscanini as a multi-modal teacher. A study of 122 high school and college choral conductors found different ones favoring styles 1, 2, or 3, but many using a dominant style and one or more secondary styles (Friedman, 1988). I believe that some teachers use all four styles quite naturally.

In tapes of Toscanini's rehearsals, for example, the maestro's dominant style is what I would call S2 (the same style Friedman found dominant in choral directors)--leading by motivating. When mechanical difficulties arise--such as tuning, balancing sections of the orchestra, or mastering his interpretation, he does not hesitate to ask world-class musicians to follow blindly while he drills them in the S1 mode. When rehearsing with a soloist, however, Toscanini shifts to an S3 mode in which he uses the entire orchestra to facilitate the soloist's interpretation. Changes can be negotiated; but the maestro does not dictate them. And, in the S4 moments of transcendent magic, he (without ceasing to be dynamically present) virtually disappears, so that the music plays itself through him and through the orchestra. In those moments, each player is independently self-directed in one of the great communal experiences of human culture.

Such convergences underscore the difficulty in drawing clear lines between self-direction, other-direction, and teaching style.
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