Social context: group.
Until about 10 years ago, the overwhelming majority of formal learning took place in classrooms. Since then, other approaches, particularly those that employ technology, have significantly eaten in to this share, but it is probable that still more than 50% of courses are classroom based.
Classrooms are versatile environments in which to provide training, supporting a wide range of strategies and training methods: the trainer is able to augment their own delivery with flip charts, whiteboards, slides, videos, models and printed materials; participants can be divided into small groups to undertake practical exercises; and classrooms can be equipped with PCs so each participant can work individually to develop their IT skills, while under the supervision of the trainer. And because they are off-job, classrooms are free from normal day-to-day interruptions and provide a rare opportunity for protected learning time.
The danger in a classroom is that the trainer dominates proceedings in their role as ‘performance artist.’ As Professor Dylan Wiliam explains: “Teachers do not create learning. Learners create learning. Teachers create the conditions under which learning can take place. Our schools don’t function like that, which is why somebody once joked that schools are places where kids go to watch teachers work.”
The transition from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’ is recognised by l&d professionals themselves, as indicated in a CIPD report: “Trainers are no longer the sun around which learning planets revolve. Training should no longer be seen as a discrete set of activities around a course or similar event.”
Classroom courses are:
- at their best when collaborative, practical, learner-centred and facilitated by skilled trainers;
- best avoided when they last for more than a few days at a time, are focused primarily on knowledge transfer, are trainer-centred.