The author has incorporated a number of different teaching experiences focusing on two Basic First Aid Training Courses used by the Territorial Army (TA) mainly for Health Professionals (APPENDIX **).
The learning outcomes for each of the teaching sessions and programmes largely dictated the teaching style. The method of delivery with existing instructors had often become established and didactic, focused more on the achievement of established assessment criteria rather than the positive experience of the learner with retention of knowledge and skills often being a low priority. The author's first thought was "how can I get them to retain knowledge" beyond assessment.
The learning involved in the adult learning sessions generally combined pedagogical and andragogical approaches throughout with changes taking place in phases as the learning and practice are applied. Mezirow (1981) considers andragogy to be an organised and sustained effort to assist adults to learn. Knowles (1990) acknowledges, a pedagogical approach involving didactic teaching is useful when the learner encounters new situations provided that an andragogical approach is used overall. The andragogical aspect has a positive effect when the learners have a vested interest or some knowledge of the content, despite this there were some basic elements that were peculiar to First Aid courses that needed a didactic approach with even medical professionals. One of the main factors in the post 16 learner is that they are there by choice and usually have a particular reason for undertaking the programme of learning (Reece & Walker 1997). This has a positive effect as they are keen to learn providing they know what they have to do and how to successfully complete the course.
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The author was keen deliver a wide range of learning styles and keen to introduce elements of experiential learning by applying a combination of cognitive and psychomotor skills being used to generate thought and application to practice when applying the skills being taught and learned. In the first course the author introduced a few changes that allowed a more formative approach. This gave a positive effect as the learner and the author were able to assess progress before moving on. The subject matter limited this but instant feedback and skilful questioning proved to be useful for all.
The theory and skills delivered were not new to medical professionals although for some of the learners this would be their first experience of applying the learning to a practical scenario. The author was able to use this to apply the importance of correct methods which focus learning. On the first course some of the learners initially saw this as being a little condescending and were quick to point this out, despite the initial concerns this was overcome as learning progressed. This was considered carefully when planning the sessions for the second course as the author felt it very important to allow the learners to experience and apply their learning and skills, albeit to sometimes artificial situations. The author was able to use previous experience to address any errors by allowing the learners to demonstrate and then use praise or criticism as applicable before then demonstrating the appropriate techniques. This worked well with the second course as it became a constructive element of the learning. Methods such as this are useful when looking at prior knowledge and learning as it allows the learners to share and demonstrate existing skills and knowledge. This proved very useful because rather than assuming the learners knew nothing, skilful questioning allowed them to openly share their existing knowledge and experience relative to the topic being addressed as well as allowing the author to make a quick assessment of prior knowledge and experience.
Experiential learning has become more of an important part of learning, particularly with adults, although experiences are neither innocent nor free from cultural contradictions that inform them (Brookfield, 1995).
This proved to be successful in general terms but created a challenge to the timings of lessons. Despite this it allowed the author to move on rapidly when required being able to use the time as the reason.
Review and evaluation of the sessions shaped planning for future delivery and the timing of lessons was changed slightly to facilitate the learning processes mentioned.
Always on Time
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In the sessions that the author was involved the assessment was mainly demonstration of knowledge and skills, effectively a "performance", the author considered the phases described by Fitts (1967) that suggests there are three phases to a skilled performance, these are: - cognitive, fixative and autonomous. The cognitive development encouraged a smooth transition into the fixative phase where the practical elements and psychomotor skills are introduced, developed and practiced. As the skills are practiced they become more and more autonomous. This style applied teaching techniques to provide extrinsic motivation as the author was able to use experiential dialogue from skilful questioning to progress the learning needed for each topic. Using this and a combination of didactic teaching the necessary information and skills were delivered. This was more useful in the second course as allowing the learners to "have a go" and then put things right was effectively used by the author.
The author chose to introduce this new approach as the teachers / instructors often tend to follow a basic process using Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation, Practice to impart knowledge, the author felt this to be a little crude as there appeared to be little opportunity to reflect during the learning and that much of the cognitive aspect was passed quickly. This created a few problems initially as the time constraints were tight and the author had to quickly adapt to avoid the sessions over running, despite this it avoided the historically established nature of previous delivery.
The content of the courses and lessons and time allowed proved to be the biggest challenge as the established schemes of work meant that a substantial amount of information needed to be given in a relatively short period of time, in addition the teaching and practice of skills needed to be done, as both theoretical knowledge and practical demonstration of skills formed the part of the assessment process.
The author was keen to assess the success of the courses and lessons in comparison to the traditionally delivered ones, and for this purpose a short follow up session was used to have an open forum with learners, instructors, teachers and the author sharing their experience.
Not surprisingly the initial comments from the instructors and teachers were reserved as the author felt the delivery challenged the traditional way it was done. Knowles (1976) identified assumptions, for instance, that adults prefer to be self directing rather than totally dependent. The learners had stated that in other sessions they had felt dependant on facts quoted to them feeling that it was just a case of remember this and that and quote it back! They had expected this on the first aid course but respected the fact that the author appeared to recognise and value their current knowledge and status. As the session progressed the comments became more positive and open dialogue was apparent. Many things were mentioned by learner and teacher alike about the experiential approach particularly about the way everyone was given the opportunity to share thoughts and experiences during the learning sessions. The author went into the first course with some apprehension and introduced a few changes expecting that there would be some resistance from learners and other instructors alike. Success on the first course gave the author and the observing instructors more confidence to experiment for the second. The evaluation "open forum" summarised the success of what was developed.
It is evident from the teaching that all learning involves a combination of styles and methods of delivery, and whilst the teacher may focus on one method or style others are incorporated to enable successful delivery.