The alumni of the School for Health and Care Radicals are fortunate that this innovative educational programme has been independently evaluated by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (Gifford et al, 2015). This report found ‘a moderate increase in the participants’ ability to “rock the boat” by initiating change’ (Gifford et al, 2015, p 5). The researchers’ finding that participants felt they learnt how to set realistic goals may have something to do with this.
I reflected on what was special about the SHCR that fires our motivation and sense of purpose (a statistically significant finding from the CIPD study) whilst simultaneously giving us a reality check and concluded that it must be a property of the SHCR community itself. Diversity of viewpoints and constructive challenges within a shared vision are characteristic of the SHCR social learning experience. However, another effect of openness in mass participatory educational events is at play here – namely access to expertise.
The SHCR offers us the opportunity to engage directly with experts who might otherwise be difficult to meet. Online synchronous meeting platforms, such as those used by the SHCR, allow busy clinicians to connect from the workplace. YouTube and Slideshare offer access to expert-led instruction – for no cost and at any time – but they also enable comments and reply. Twitter and Facebook offer spontaneous and contemporaneous interactions, potentially affording a more personal and meaningful connection.
These technologies are effectively breaking down social conventions. In the past we may have read and quoted papers, raised a hand at conference to ask a question or even sent an email. Now we talk to each to each other in tweet-chats, share links on Pinterest, comment on blogs and posts. I’ve “talked” to experts-in-the-field about common issues more directly than I ever would in person. In real life I am shy – I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable going straight up to well-respected figure who I’d never met before and ask for their advice. I’m quite happy to do it online. Social conventions, of course, must be respected but it’s hard to deny that the virtual world often cuts straight to the point – whether it’s due to a 140 character limit or an over-crowded chat box.
This access to expertise is a modern-day version of the master-apprentice model on a massive scale. When we interact with the SHCR we are participating in a community that contains people with various degrees of mastery of their specialist areas, from whom we can learn (Lave and Wenger, 1991). The SHCR teaches us to lead from the edge, but these master-craftsmen hold legitimate power of expertise rather than the hierarchical power of authority. Technology has given us the opportunity to respectfully share and learn from experts as never before and I, for one, am a very grateful apprentice.
Gifford, J., Houghton, E., Martorana, S. and Zheltoukhova, K. (2015) The School for Health and Care Radicals: What impact has it had? [Online]. Available at https://www.cipd.co.uk/binaries/school-health-care-radicals-review_2015.pdf (accessed 14 August 2016)
Lave J and Wenger E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.