written by: Cyndi Root•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 10/4/2010
In our cubicles and workplaces, tip sharing and knowledge farming can be hard to come by. Practical knowledge about efficiency and best practices can be lost as workers dwell in isolation and management focuses only on formal workshops. Coaching between peers fills the gaps.
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Tip sharing, or peer to peer coaching tips are best realized when employees feel like they are working together towards a common goal. Retrieving information, sharing knowledge, and advising one another happens when the employee knows that doing so will be personally beneficial and not harmful. A perception of reaping rewards will motivate an employee to share the quickest, most efficient ways or best practices in accomplishing tasks.
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Conferences and workshops are examples of formal learning. They follow a structure and are usually given by a speaker or instructor. Informal learning is a dynamic with a collective content and process. Privacy, individuality and autonomy are skirted to allow collaboration, shared responsibility and intellectual purpose. People learn to work together effectively outside of formal courses. Workers "visit“ with each other to solve real issues related to their day to day tasks. Learning is embedded in a collaborative effort.
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Coaching and Learning
Key principles in the learning experience include hints for the manager, tips for the coach and strategies for the learner. Managers, coaches and learners work together to create learning experiences. Peers coach each other best with support and approval from management. Successful dynamic learning incorporates some or all of the following strategies:
1) time built in - the workday could include specific time for instructional strategies. Managers should be included in this important first step. Prioritizing the need for tip sharing can make it happen
2) goals and feedback - coaches must make a plan and provide specific observations as the process unfolds. Need assessments will lead to the next step of developing a strategy and eliminating common misunderstandings. Feedback is given to the student and instructional strategies are evaluated for effectiveness.
3) sustained and intense - instruction is given in a way to build momentum. Short-term learning is transferred to long-term memory and practiced without long lag times.
4) learning cycle - the student engages in a cycle of receiving instruction, practice, reflecting, instruction, practice and reflecting. The cycle may include self-testing and the student may quickly become the teacher, coaching someone new.
5) hands-on - coaches can strive to develop lessons or experiences which address the need to apply learning to practical tasks. Refining experiences and devising new strategies can speed learning.
6) risk taking - devising new strategies demands an openness to ideas and alternate viewpoints.
7) modeling - the coach is being observed by the learner. Active learning happens as the learner practices, but passive learning happens as the learner copies the coach.
8) alternating study environments - mixing up the locale where learning takes place, embeds knowledge more richly and deeply. Having lunch with your co-worker in the cafeteria and discussing what you have just taught her in the office, will solidify her knowledge and she will appreciate your peer to peer coaching tips.
9) mixing content - present the same subject material in a variety of ways. Multi-media experiences, hands-on, and book learning will achieve a better result.
10) spacing study sessions - allow time between learning sessions for the learner to absorb and reflect upon the new knowledge.
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Solving Real Issues
Practical knowledge and problem solving is handed down outside of formal classrooms and workshops. Peers, with or without tacit approval from management, participate in coaching each other. Successful coaching incorporates the above strategies, along with the underlying motivation of working towards a common positive goal.