Talking not Telling: Don’t domesticate, liberate!

Do you think (as Wellington and Austin suggest) education domesticates or liberates?  In this post I argue that talking rather than telling in teaching transforms one state into the other.

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Many courses of education in the health and social care sector seem to follow to a standard or code of conduct – infection control, safeguarding children, fire safety to name a few – mandating and controlling what is taught, when and how.  I appreciate the importance of this topics…I just dislike the feeling of being made to conform.  Inevitably this training takes me away from the place where I put it into practice and throws me into an abstract, sanitised (no pun intended) classroom environment – even if that classroom is online.  It seems like such a waste of time and energy to go back through extracting, re-contextualizing and re-integrating this learning back to the workplace.  Particularly when that work place is not a controlled environment.

However much we might like it to be, health and social care is not a production line – or at least, not a very efficient one.  In the complex, ever-changing health and social world, we’ve got to start managing rather than overcoming these challenges.

The School for Health and Care Radicals was my first truly liberating experience of clinical education.   When we connect to  learn from and with each other, we are liberated because become more than the sum of our parts.  Take the issue of resistance to change – a topic I’m sure we are all familiar with.  Through the School, I began talking and listening rather than telling when I come up against resistance.  Discussing real-life problems that might compromise patient care and safety is more likely to uncover obstacles to success and increase motivation than using either a carrot or a stick.  This is the dialogic approach to change (Busche and Marshak, 2009).  Diagnosing the cause of the problem means solutions can be found.  Success comes when we look at it from every angle, in every condition and acknowledge every possible interpretation.

Of course, talking to people higher than you in the hierarchy can be tricky.  Those in positions of power and influence are busy, often over-stretched by lack of time and money.  This may explain why, in their evaluation of the SHCR, Gifford et al (2015) found that the SHCR’s newly-qualified change agents had little confidence in organisational abilities to commit to or enact change.  This makes me sad but at least I know there is a way to make this better.  When more senior leaders join – as equals-  the network of School for Health and Care Radicals change agents, we may begin to achieve a better balance, with less telling and more talking.

Other References

Wellington B, Austin, P (1996) Orientations to reflective practice. Educational Research, vol. 38, no.3, pp. 307-16.

Talking not Telling: Don’t domesticate, liberate!