TPSO Newsletter Edition 1: What is learning in the round and what makes it different? Patrick Smith Emeritus Professor, MA

Learning in the Round is Silverback’s approach to work-based learning and professional development. It’s a process in which practitioners come together to share experiences, compare ideas and approaches, and in so doing, convert experience and unspoken understandings into productive knowledge.

We borrowed the concept from Theatre in the Round in silverbawhich the stage – the arena – is in the centre with the audience all around. The arena is the learning space, and everyone is close to the action and involved in it.

Learning in the Round is not startlingly original, it’s what’s recognised as good practice in learning and teaching. But it does view the roles of learners and teachers in different, less formal ways. It identifies three roles, which are: Participants, formerly known as students or learners; Facilitators, previously referred to as tutors/teachers, and Specialists, individuals with expert knowledge in those fields and topics under consideration. These terms aren’t used for effect. They reflect the expanded, less restricted roles that the terms student, teacher and expert suggest.

And in practice these roles are not fixed but alter and change. The distinctions between them become blurred as issues and topics are explored, for example; participants, drawing on their experiences and reflections can often assume the role of facilitator or specialist, and facilitators whose role is to observe and contribute where appropriate, are often in the position of participant.

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Learning in the Round reflects the active and social nature of learning. It’s not only about content, but about how that content is explored. It reflects what’s known about adult learning theory and requires those involved to step beyond the traditional roles of student, learner and teacher. It recognises that in any learning situation everyone is capable of developing new understandings and insights. In this way it more accurately reflects what often happens in workplaces.

Learning in the Round is not only about transmitting content, it’s also about constructing knowledge and understanding, about transforming collective experience into useful knowledge.