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Passionate Learning

Passionate: having, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs.

passionDo you remember when you first joined your organisation and started training?
Do you remember the first time you moved from being the learner to the trainer?

I remember feeling excitement, anticipation, sometimes even wonder at everything there was to learn about. I remember enthusiasm for helping others to learn and at finding great ways to help them do it. I recall many bubbling fast paced conversations sharing experiences and strategies with other trainers.

Conversations were passionate, and the person’s passion showed through in the way they trained – you could literally see it infect a group of learners. To quote one of the most passionate trainers I have ever known, “Great trainers inspire”.

I have to wonder though… are we training the passion out of our trainers and learners? Does paperwork, assessment requirements and repeat sessions of standard skills and content kill the enthusiasm and passion? Is this why many experienced and long term members lose engagement with their ongoing training and development? Is it a contributing factor in the burn out of trainers and assessors?

In the Public Safety Sector, many things that we do are governed by nationally recognised training requirements and other organisational needs and restrictions. Limited time and availability for training means that often it’s hard to even meet the minimum time we need to be compliant. Much of what we ask learners to remember has little emotional charge to it, even though we know from research that emotions significantly affect the creation and recall of memories. We know that what our members remember best is experiences on the job and information or learning that has been emotionally charged, we just often can’t seem to provide it in this format.

Yet passion based learning is so powerful!

  • Passion motivates learner’s during a training session, but also leads to self-directed inquiry and further learning into topics that have caught their curiosity.
  • Passion helps ensure learner’s brains make long lasting connections and memory slides that simply would not occur otherwise.
  • Passion finds a way forward when there wasn’t an obvious path – finding time to learn, discovering methods that otherwise learners might not bother with, or even developing new tools and ways of doing things. Requests for access to equipment or extra training sessions and presentations of ideas that can improve our processes are all examples of this.
  • Passionate engagement can empower a learner to feel in control of their own learning, which is something research tells us is important in adult education.
  • Passion leads to the development of communities of practice where the passionate share their enthusiasm and encourage each other to keep going – often independently of organisations and higher management.

For example, without this passion-based learning it is unlikely our own Public Safety Sector would have:

  • The Holten Foot – a stablisation device used to stabilise a vehicle that has rolled onto its side and is in danger of rolling further. Invented by a FRNSW Rescue Firefighter and now carried on all FRNSW Rescue Units.
  • NSW SES Large Animal Rescue Capability – Developed by local volunteers due to needs identified in the Hawkesbury area and rolled out across SES units and other community interested parties.

For many of us trainers, passion is still the underlying theme of many different approaches we try. Consider some of the strategies we use:

  • Hooking a learner’s attention by getting them involved in the task (using inquiry based learning, practical training, scenario based training).
  • Having learner’s work and interact with each other to learn knowledge and skills (problem based learning, cooperative learning and active learning).
Passion for learning is the key pedagogy to prepare for 21st century challenges. Credit: Ainissa Ramirez

The research community is increasingly clear that passion and a love of learning is a key skill for the 21st Century, so what can we be do to keep the passion for learning alive within the boundaries of nationally recognised training requirements and other organisational needs?

1. Don’t stop the feeling

Firstly, there are some people that will be passionate despite anything we say or do. Let the enthusiasm top up yours, and yes – sometimes this passion can be a bit exuberant, but try not to shut them down completely.

2. Set the example and don’t forget to feed your own passion

Continue to put the passion into the training you are delivering and encouraging others around you to do the same. If you feel the passion is waning, try to work out why and find some ways to top it back up. Sometimes a chance to talk and share, or to learn something new and challenging themselves is enough to do this. Disinterest, comfort and apathy are the antonym of passion.

3. Create connections

If a learner’s passion doesn’t align with your own, help them to access more about it somewhere else. Offer suggestions on who else they could talk to about it who is also passionate, or suggest a Facebook community etc that they can join.

4. Redirect when needed

People certainly get distracted and carried away by their passions, and at times it is entirely appropriate to redirect them to the focus of training at hand. If you are feeling particularly skillful, consider the idea that  “when students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done” and create a scenario or phrase a topic question in such a way that it links them back to their passion. Show how learning about seemingly unrelated topics can help them learn more about their passion.

5. When possible, let the passionate take control… and take advantage of it

You may not have the time to develop a scenario or run a session for experienced members, but someone with passion for a topic might jump at the chance!

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