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5 Building Facilitating Structures for Informal Faculty Development (Step 4) HIGHLIGHTS â¢ Some of the most profound insights can come from incidental and informal learning. (Sherman) â¢ Faculty should strive to create âlearnable momentsâ when they are open to and aware of the potential for learning. (Sherman) BUILDING FACILITATING STRUCTURES FOR INFORMAL (AND INCIDENTAL) FACULTY DEVELOPMENT Lawrence Sherman, Meducate Global and Association for Medical Education in Europe âInformal and incidental learning does not mean unimportant learn- ing,â said Lawrence Sherman, principal of Meducate Global, and inter- national development expert at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE). Learning can happen in any time or place, including a casual conversation, watching a movie, or reading a comic strip. Sherman said that while his presentation was focused specifically on faculty develop- ment, informal learning is a lifelong process for all people. For example, he said, finding and cultivating a prospective faculty member (i.e., pre-faculty development) could happen informally and incidentally, through a chance meeting or a casual conversation. While informal faculty development is the fourth step in the framework, he said that it is applicable to all of the other steps as well. 35 PREPUBLICATION COPYâUncorrected Proofs
36 HEALTH PROFESSIONS FACULTY FOR THE FUTURE Sherman offered definitions for both informal and incidental learning, which are sometimes used interchangeably but are quite different. Informal learning, he said, is learning that happens outside a formal environment (e.g., classroom) but where there is still an expectation of learning. For example, informal learning could happen while reading articles, watching a webinar, listening to mentors, or talking with colleagues. Incidental learn- ing, on the other hand, is learning that happens âwhen you donât expect it.â These experiences can happen while watching television, talking with a passenger on a plane, looking at social media, or interacting with people outside oneâs own profession. For example, Sherman said, he has learned lessons from conversations with people ranging from oil executives to pilots about how to be a better teacher. He also noted that âthere were no greater lessons learned about presenting to a challenging audience or a group of learnersâ than being a stand-up comic at 2:00 a.m. in a comedy club in New Yorkâthese lessons are engrained in him. At the 2019 workshop Strengthening the Connection Between Health Professions Education and Practice, four broad themes were identified: tech- nology, incentives and support, interprofessional continuing education, and communication. In all of these areas, said Sherman, one can see the value of informal and incidental education. He noted that informal education does not necessarily require financial resources, but it requires investing time in building a system that supports faculty in connecting with one another and allows for opportunities for informal learning. Sherman said there have been many times in his career when he learned lessons from a âconversa- tion with somebody in the hallway,â or talking to someone in a different profession who had a different perspective on practice or education. We encourage faculty to create âteachable momentsâ for students, he said, but faculty also need to strive to find âlearnable momentsâ for themselves. Â herman asked participants in a poll whether informal and incidental learn- S ing are important to faculty development. Some participants chose âYes, of course!â while others chose âYes, but it only happens when it happens.â Is it possible, asked Sherman, to be intentionally incidental and infor- mal? In the context of learning, a learner can be guided, with the objec- tives controlled by the teacher, or a learner can be the discoverer and in control of the learning objectives (see Figure 5-1). The beauty of informal and incidental learning, said Sherman, is that it is unstructured, unplanned, Â nexpected, and the learner identifies their own opportunities for new skills u and knowledge. However, it is possible to be intentional in encouraging faculty to discover things on their own. Intentionally encouraging and sup- porting informal learning can help identify, support, and retain faculty, he said. For example, faculty can be encouraged to intentionally identify skills or knowledge that they need, and to find âlearnable momentsâ to develop these. PREPUBLICATION COPYâUncorrected Proofs
BUILDING FACILITATING STRUCTURES 37 FIGURE 5-1â Matrix of learning. SOURCE: Presented by Sherman, August 11, 2020. Workshop participants offered ideas in the chat box about how Â nformal i and incidental learning could be supported and facilitated (see Box 5-1). Chappell noted that recognizing and reflecting on incidental learning is a skill, and wondered if this skill could be strengthened in faculty. Poll said that for informal and incidental learning to be effective, faculty âneed to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and being inconvenienced.â K Â ylie Dotson-Blake concurred and added that successful education requires seeing learners as people âwho bring their whole selves, their full com- plexities of context and intersections of identity and experiences into the learning community.â Participants mentioned faculty book clubs, the use of ânear-peerâ mentors for guidance and training, brown bag lunches, vol- unteering, and community engagement. Artino brought up âwater cooler learning,â and Sherman noted that this type of informal learning could even PREPUBLICATION COPYâUncorrected Proofs
38 HEALTH PROFESSIONS FACULTY FOR THE FUTURE BOX 5-1 Key Points Made by Individual Participants Chappell asked participants to reflect on how they might create opportuni- ties for informal and incidental learning within their own settings. Responses included â¢ In pre-COVID, conversations traveling on the way to places; having l Âeaners over to house, breaking bread. COVID makes the things we do on the way to other things go away. How do we recreate these oppor- tunities under COVID? (Warren Newton) â¢ I learn so much from my peer faculty through informal conversations. (Lori Greene) â¢ This chat box is a great example of our current COVID-19 strategies to learn from each other. (Norma Poll-Hunter) â¢ I sometimes notice certain faculty are quicker to recognize that incidental learning has occurredâpause and reflect on it. Is that a skill (this insight) we can strengthen to boost the impact of this type of learning? (Reamer Bushardt) â¢ Incidental learning can occur through reading student feedback, in assignÂ ents, discussions. (Kathy Chappell) m â¢ We had success from signposting informal/incidental learningâÂ elpingh learners identify, record, and enhance their own learning. (Warren Newton) â¢ An example of good informal learning might occur when faculty attend professional meetings and network with other professionals working in the field. (Sandra) â¢ The breaks at a meeting might be just as important as the meeting itself. (Patricia Cuff) â¢ Opportunities depend greatly on the teaching and learning styles of dif- ferent cultures. (Ying-Chiao Tsao) â¢ It seems to me that educators need to be comfortable with being uncom- fortable and being inconveniencedâthey never know what a learner will share or an unexpected question that may be asked. (Norma Poll-Hunter) SOURCE: Adapted from the presentation by Sherman, August 11, 2020. take place virtually, with a weekly informal video chat between colleagues. Poll mentioned that the chat box itself was an example of an environment for informal learning. To close, Sherman showed participants a framework for informal and incidental learning that was developed by Marsick and Watkins and later modified by Cseh et al. (1998) (see Figure 5-2). The model describes the process of workplace learning based on a trigger occurring in a specific context, followed by problem solving and ongoing reflection (Marsick et PREPUBLICATION COPYâUncorrected Proofs
BUILDING FACILITATING STRUCTURES 39 FIGURE 5-2â Framework for informal and incidental learning. SOURCES: Presented by Sherman, August 11, 2020; Cseh et al., 2000; Marsick and Watkins, 1990. al., 2006). Sherman encouraged workshop participants to consider how they might incorporate such a framework into their own faculty develop- ment efforts before handing the microphone over to Normal Poll-Hunter. Poll-Hunter thanked Sherman for calling attention to those learnable moments in everyday life to maximize our own informal education. With that, Poll-Hunter moved to the final session. REFERENCES Cseh, M., K. Watkins, and V. Marsick. 2000. Informal and incidental learning in the work- place. In Conceptions of self-directed learning, theoretical and conceptual considerations. Edited by G. A. Straka. New York: Waxman. Pp. 59â74. Marsick, V. J., and K. E. Watkins. 1990. Informal and incidental learning in the workplace. London, UK: Routledge. Marsick, V., K. E. Watkins, M. Callahan, and M. Volpe. 2006. Reviewing theory and research on informal and incidental learning. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED492754.pdf (ac- cessed December 27, 2020). PREPUBLICATION COPYâUncorrected Proofs
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