What do you see? Two Fish … or Two Eyes?

Both are correct. And if you can see both your brain is switching between two different interpretations of the same image. Being able to switch from one interpretation to another is a bit like a paradigm shift. In other words, the change that happens when the usual way we think about or do something is replaced by a new and different way.

Have you ever monitored a group of students as they move from uncertainty about a new task to a point where they have complete confidence in their own knowledge and skills so that they come together as a team to achieve a goal? If so, then you have observed a paradigm shift in “maturity in learning” from dependence on the trainer (you) to independence as they learn new skills and knowledge (me) and finally they recognise the importance of interdependence (we) as they pool their knowledge and work as a team.

I saw this a few years ago in a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment class I was running. The group consisted of adults with very little training experience or prior knowledge of the VET sector. They were initially dependent on me, the trainer, for information, guidance, approval and reassurance that they were on the right track. At this early stage in the learning process I supported them in their learning as they were asked to complete simple tasks and answer questions to broaden their knowledge.

As they grew in their knowledge of the training sector and tried out their new skills by completing simple case studies and research tasks they become more independent; they began to discuss concepts and use the ‘lingo’ of the sector and identify the components of the training system.

As I challenged their capabilities and expected them to work together to solve more complex problems they developed a sense of interdependence. They had learned how to cooperate with each other, share their individual talents and abilities to create something great – they were now a team working effectively together towards an outcome.

An example that comes to mind is where they were asked to role play as a group of consultants who were required to determine the training program needs of a ‘client’ and design that program. The activity was set up with the spirit of friendly rivalry with simple rewards to encourage realistic performance during the role play. As a result, they expertly navigated the www.training.gov.au website, interviewed the ‘client’ to determine training needs in a professional manner, documented their progress and designed programs based on appropriate qualifications.

It was a satisfying experience for them, as students and for me, as the trainer. They had grown into mature learners and had made a paradigm shift from dependence through to interdependence & trust in their fellow learners to work as a successful team. This is what we should always aim for with our students as they undertake their learning journey isn’t it?

But this shift in maturity in learning did not take place by accident. It was the result of a number of factors including a carefully planned training program, specifically designed training activities, a supportive trainer who was willing to take a variety of approaches to encourage knowledge and skill development and the desire of the students to undergo change as they learn. The learning was the result of a partnership between trainer and student. Or in other words, it was the result of the development of a community of learning within the classroom.

It is also what we should aim for with our staff isn’t it?

To build a successful team in your RTO you can intentionally facilitate this same paradigm shift. You can start by providing the right information and resources for your staff, and give guidance and direction as they start a new task. Then as they develop confidence you can encourage them to explore their roles and ask questions as they learn. Your role can start to shift away from direction and towards the provision of coaching, helping them to set and achieve goals and work with team members along the learning journey. This will foster the development of independence in their day to day tasks and interdependence on others in the team. It will also demonstrate the importance of developing a learning community within the team and across the organisation.

Have you had the opportunity to observe this type of paradigm shift in your organisations?

We’d love to hear your stories. Share them in the comments below.








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