Creating an environment for learning
Trainees in difficulty will undoubtedly benefit from targeted and effective clinical and educational supervision based on assessment for learning principles and a personalised curriculum for workplace-based learning. However, as with all trainees, the need to create a ‘safe’ learning environment will be as important. Maslow has argued that in order for individuals to achieve self-actualisation, that is, to reach their full potential, a range of basic needs have first to be met.
Trainees who face difficulties may well struggle to achieve what they are capable of achieving. The need to attend to the emotional dimensions of learning is evident in these situations. Learning in the workplace is about learning with and from others. Most of us can remember at different times how we may have tiptoed around the workplace, trying to second guess what was expected of us as the newcomer. Trainees face these challenges on a regular basis. Turnbull notes that:
As organisational members, we learn to collaborate, influence, negotiate, motivate, and achieve results through our interaction with others, all of which can be highly charged with emotion (Turnbull, 2000, p. 3).
It is important to ensure that the workplace enables trainees to feel that they are part of a team. This involves all members of the healthcare and support team conveying positive messages to trainees so that the workplace culture and support mechanisms welcome, involve and value the regular influx of new trainees. Trainees in difficulty may need longer than most to recognise and adopt tacit rules of behaviour, which may include learning what are ‘acceptable’ displays of emotion in each setting.
As supervisors we should also note the significance of positive emotions in educational experiences and address any approaches to learning that exploit fear and humiliation as key ‘motivators’. On this issue there is general agreement: negative approaches to education have little evidence of their effectiveness. For example, Moore and Kuol (2007) analysed students’ recollections of excellent teaching and observed that these included interest, intense positive affect, humour, fun, enjoyment, enthusiasm, commitment, dedication and compassion. Significantly, the authors determined that a teacher’s attributes were invoked more frequently than their actions by students, as they recalled positive learning experiences. They were led to conclude that ‘who a teacher is with their students’ was more relevant in the recollection of good learning experiences than ‘what a teacher does with his/her subject’ (2007). Reflect on what this insight might tell you about the trainee in difficulty, in relation to their trainer.