Hypothetical learning scenarios
When volunteers teach volunteers it is both a challenge and a strength that the relation lacks the traditional, formal authoritative teacher/student dynamic. Many volunteers will not appreciate an authoritative approach, so instead we focus on guidance and facilitation rather than supervision: Here, the volunteer teacher can facilitate the learning by making sure the practical framework is in order, all necessities in place and instead of taking charge in a process just be present. The volunteer teacher will encourgae with a “yes and” instead of “no, because”. This encourages self-management and agency, while establishing a safe learning environment: The volunteer learner is not alone, nor the sole responsible, but is still encouraged to do their work his/her own way.
If successfully applied, the result is a combination of the volunteer learner’s new ideas and individual input backed up by the expertise of the volunteer teacher.
By facilitating and guiding rather than leading, the volunteer learner works actively with his/her own learning, which fosters independence and self-commitment.
Every time new volunteers join our organisation they are in charge of one project to ensure they enhance their project management skills. To make sure they get the most out of managing their own project one more experienced volunteer will guide the new volunteer.
The job of the volunteer guide is mainly facilitating and setting the framework.
For instance the volunteer guide can create a group chat for the people involved, set a meeting date, bring papers and pen for a brainstorm. During the brainstorm the volunteer guide will mainly be silent to not impose ideas, but he/she will have the expertise to know what works, what framework is in place, and can encourage good ideas. The volunteer guide also makes sure that a safe learning environment is provided – the new volunteer shouldn’t be afraid to fail, so encouragement of the volunteer guide is important. At the end of every meetings the volunteer guide makes sure that everyone knows what their next task is, and when to meet again. However, it is the new volunteer that leads the meeting, delegates task and decides on ideas.
It is important that the volunteer teacher does not have a preconceived idea of what the end project is, keeps an open mind and gives room to experiment.
Not all volunteers who have a teaching role know how to structure a class, and sometimes this makes them insecure. There is a lot of information out there about how people learn and what helps them. Make this information available to your volunteers and implement it in the organisation – but don’t make it obligatory. Let people choose what suits them best.
Volunteers have something to rely on and if they have questions or complaints you can use this to talk about it and to clarify the issues.
Volunteers feel more supported. What they do matter and is of value. It makes them stronger people and stronger volunteers. Your participants will also feel this, so everyone benefits from it.
Along with students of the University of Antwerp DINAMO made a road map of a possible course progress (based on the ‘9 phases of Gagné). During the Annual Day of the Volunteer they received more information about it and learned to use it in their work. Now some of them use it to prepare their lessons, others have it in the back of their minds as a guide, and others don’t use it at all.
If you want more information about the nine steps, you are welcome to contact DINAMO.
If you are a volunteer in a teaching role, you need to be aware of the impact you have on your participants. If you want them to learn something or change something in their behaviour you have to do so as well. You are an example of good practice, without directly telling them what to do.
Your own behaviour will motivate others without them even noticing. They will start doing what you do because they want to, not because they have to.
The positive effect of your behaviour will motivate your students.
Our gym teacher is very enthusiastic while teaching. Her enthusiasm motivates others and they begin to enjoy moving. She promotes biking to class and also bikes herself. When she comes to class, she invites her pupils to join her for a drink of water to rehydrate. Now, almost the entire group bikes to class and have a drink of water when they come. They even bring their own reusable bottles.
Sometimes you have to surprise people to keep them motivated. As a (volunteer) teacher you have a lot of opportunities to think outside the box and to foster an environment where people wish to learn, are enthusiastic to learn, and make an effort to do so.
Your participants will find the courage to go on or to start over.
Dinamo-volunteers have already experimented with outside lessons, big group lessons or (as in the little compilation) they invited the (grand)kids of the participants to join in the lessons. This keeps people inspired and motivated.
It should be noted that, in a non-formal learning context, opportunities can be implemented in a flexible way. Sometimes one participant’s small idea can have a great effect on the group.