Innovative learning

22 October 2018

Dyfrig Williams Dyfrig Williams

At Research in Practice and Research in Practice for Adults, we are on a journey of continuous improvement. We embrace the feedback from our events in order to help us to understand what we are doing well, and what we can build on.

The evidence-informed practice model underpins everything that we do. This means triangulating research evidence, practice knowledge and the experience of children, young people, adults and their families and carers in our learning resources and events. This is so we can support professionals across the sector to access, understand and apply evidence in their work.

We have recently been looking at how our website, resources and events can best meet user needs. In particular, exploring innovation in learning alongside our network and with experts in this area to inform our design process. This has been really helpful in understanding how people perceive our learning offer, particularly how our events and digital learning can provide participants with the space to think freely outside the confines of their day-to-day work. 

Training and events – traditional and new ways of working

Our national learning events enable us to share research evidence, whilst also enabling participants to share practice knowledge. The network discussions at events fit with theories of social constructivism, where individuals seek to understand their world and develop their own meanings that correspond to their experience. By providing networking opportunities through participatory exercises, we enable participants to enrich their own understanding.

We also ensure that the voices of those with lived experience informs our events. The views of people accessing services, their families and carers are key to the success of the training and to service change. They must be at the heart of improvement work.

However, there are alternative ways of delivering learning events and new ways of working are continually evolving. For example, unconferences are purpose-driven events that do not have a formal agenda. Instead, participants identify the themes that they would like to discuss. This format could be particularly useful in fields where there has been very little research, or complex topics where there is not one single solution. The format ensures that networking and knowledge sharing are key outcomes from the day, and it also applies a strengths-based approach where the key knowledge and information is available in the room.

New formats, such as Pecha Kucha, in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each, are driving presentations to be concise and fast-paced. These new ways of working are creating conversations around how traditional presentation events should be delivered. We’re consistently looking at and learning from new types of events and how new formats might be used at our networking events. 

Alternative means of training delivery also includes training transfer - ‘the use of trained knowledge and skill back on the job’ (Burke and Hutchins 2007). Training transfer is based on the theory of transfer of learning practice, meaning using knowledge, skills and abilities that may have been acquired in one area, across to problems or knowledge acquisition in others.

The responsibility for training transfer is shared between delegates, organisations and us as a training provider. This doesn’t just affect the design and delivery of our events, but also our thinking around how we can facilitate aspects that fall outside our immediate control. In particular, how we can enable event attendees to apply and transfer learning within their organisations and with wider colleagues.

Research in Practice for Adults has a fantastic publication on training transfer. It’s an important but overlooked issue in social care given the resources that are involved in effective learning and development. Events do not occur in a vacuum and are not an end itself. This is why we are so keen to work with our members to create environments where learning around service improvement can be put into practice. 

Additionally, over the last few years our delivery of Webinars has grown. Webinars provide short, one-hour online learning sessions with an expert speaker presenting the latest evidence on a particular topic. As an online resource, our Webinars can be accessed from anywhere and participants are able to watch live, or to view a recording at a later date. This provides an accessible means of learning, at your own pace and within your own time.  

Developing our learning offer

Working with our Partner network and other experts has confirmed some things that we already know. We know that our Partners work incredibly hard to provide the best possible services, and that this means that learning and development time can sometimes get squeezed. With that in mind, we have been developing more resources that can be accessed on a flexible basis. 

This year we have added Podcasts to our Delivery Programme to further enable people to access resources at their convenience. Podcasts are open access digital audio files that are available to download and access at any time. They can be downloaded onto a computer, tablet or mobile device, and are typically available as a series, with new episodes automatically downloading once a user has subscribed. We’ve had some great episodes so far that have looked at a range of topics including risks, rights and strengths-based working.

Of course, it could be argued that this increased flexibility comes at the cost of face-to-face learning. We are mitigating this by ensuring that each Webinar includes participatory activities and polls, as well as building in opportunities for questions into each session. With Podcasts, we encourage the use of Twitter to facilitate online knowledge sharing and discussion, as well as the opportunity to build online networks. If you’re interested in learning more about this, ‘The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organisations Through Social Media’ by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner is a great introduction to the benefits of this.

We’re also keen to ensure that all of our resources are as accessible as possible. Every one of our webinars is transcribed for subtitling, and they are also available as MP3 files.

Are you using new learning platforms that are helping you to improve your practice?

We are now starting our work on our Delivery Programme for 2019-20. We’re really keen to learn from our Partners around what works for you. Are you using new learning platforms that are helping you to improve your practice? We would love to hear from you about how we can improve our work and your own innovative practice. Email Dyfrig.Williams@ripfa.org.uk with your ideas.

About the author

Dyfrig Williams is the Learning Events Coordinator at Research in Practice and Research in Practice for Adults.




Burke L and Hutchins H (2007) Training Transfer: An Integrative Literature Review. Available online: http://ow.ly/mIB530mjYfO 

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