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Continuous Professional Development for Focused Experiential Learning

Continuous Professional Development for Focused Experiential Learning

Most good trainers and facilitators I meet tend to have a strongly developed intuition about the needs of others. It doesn't take long for them to get to understand what will help a student to learn, and how learning material needs to be presented to make it easier for that learning to take place. As these trainers and facilitators become more experienced, they also tend to develop the confidence to trust this intuition and adapt how and what they deliver to suit the needs of different groups. I see L+D professionals continually examining their own practice in an effort to ensure that what they are doing is 'right' for the people who are going to be consuming it. This is all very positive, yet, here at the start of a new year with all its challenges, I wonder how many of them apply the same diligence to looking at their own learning needs. 


I've written in recent posts about metacognition, the process of intentionally thinking about one’s own thinking and learning, and how we need to build this discipline through our work with students. I consider it equally, if not more, important that we apply it to ourselves. Most trainers and facilitators I work alongside are sufficiently interested in their own practice and career to dedicate time to Continuing Professional Development (CPD), they usually are involved in some level of study, often towards professional qualification. 

My question is this:

Are L+D professionals accepting standards in their own developmental practices that they would challenge if they observed them in their students?

(Please note that I'm not talking about results here, I'm referring to HOW these professionals are going about their own learning and study processes.)


Let's consider my own specialist field of experiential learning design and facilitation. It's an apparently simple approach to people development that can be broken down into a series of steps that look something like this:


  • Determine learning needs and choose a learning tool that will address these.
  • Administer delivery of learning tool and observe results.
  • Facilitate a debrief that defines the learning available to the students.
  • Work with the students to transfer the learning appropriate to their needs.


Expressed like this it's a particularly reactive process. Once you get to the stage of delivering the learning activity it's very much about responding to what's happening in front of you and, let's face it, that's inherently unpredictable. This unpredictability means that the 'safety rails' of more didactic approaches are simply not appropriate as they are based on an anticipation of where the group will be at any given moment in the learning process. It's good practice to have a pre-prepared set of questions that will help you to keep your review on track to deliver the desired learning outcomes, but there will always be situations where the group performance or expressed needs take you beyond what your pre-prepared questions can respond to. This is where your own knowledge and experience must take over, and this is where your own CPD needs to be targeted. 


So, the question is this. 

If you want to build the skills and abilities to remain composed and effective when a group is doing / has done something you hadn't anticipated how might you go about it? 

Here are a few thoughts that might help you get started.


Look back in this series of blogs to October 2023 and November 2023. In these I wrote about how to work at the extremes of anticipated group task performance. Once you've read these blogs ask yourself how confident you would be in your response to these situations? What do you need to know or practice that would build your confidence in your response?


Whenever we design a new learning tool for a client, we insist that the people who are going to deliver that experience go through the activity themselves as learners. There's huge value to be had from 'walking in the shoes of the learner' before we adopt the different role of facilitating the experience. When was the last time you were part of a learning group faced with an experiential learning tool? Is it part of your discipline to ensure that you've been a participant before you introduce a new tool? What opportunities do you have, or could create, to be an experiential learner?


I'd strongly advise that, if at all possible, you come along to one of the RSVP Design events that we run to talk about our tools. You'll learn a lot about the practice of being an experiential facilitator, the tools available to you, what these tools are designed to do, and best practices in delivery. You'll also have the opportunity to ask any questions about adapting the tools and techniques to your own needs as a L+D professional. For details about these events, which are delivered by our own team face-to-face or online, see Here.


If you can't make it to any of these organised events, we always have someone available to talk to you about your specific needs.  Get in touch on [email protected]

If you are interested in watching some of our training tools in action you can head to our webinar recordings page.

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