Learning to the Power of Two

Rotating Pairwork simultaneously encourages both personal evolvement and mutual reinforcement.

By Moritz V. Poser, Initiator, 2lern.de

Students are more than empty buckets that can be filled with new knowledge. Every trainee already has a rich fund of knowledge, both conscious and subconscious, as well as various social skills. The trainer who can access the source of knowledge held by the trainee can tap into an unexpected treasure of knowledge, pride, and responsibility and create an increased level of identity both at a personal and corporate level.

The management under whose portfolio the teaching rests has a growing responsibility for the company’s success. To fulfill these responsibilities, management has to connect to the individual student both personally and professionally to create a sense of freedom and pride in all the learning processes.

The student who learns in a stressful environment is able to remember the learning matter, but because of the anxiety with which the information was gathered, is not be able to apply it creatively as the negative emotions subconsciously will be remembered, as well.

Thus, there is a need to acquire the knowledge with a degree of personal enthusiasm and commitment. Whilst basic fundamental skills are acquired only through systematic, well-structured work, teaching managers who want to realize the full potential of the trainee also must take into account the need for freedom of thought, as well as the formal structure in the learning process.

What are the practical problems and their solutions that are faced during this challenge?

Even the greatest expert will face qualitative and quantitative problems if he wants to go beyond an introduction and help his seminar participants to apply the new knowledge in a productive and independent manner.

While he talks and his participants listen, he can focus his presentation at a medium level, which results in some participants being overstressed and some being under-challenged.

But participants are restricted in the number of questions they can ask to clarify the issues by the numbers being trained and the limited time available.

To increase the individual’s scope of creativity, you would have to reduce the number of participants, and increase the number of tutors, as well as costs. At what point would you want to reduce the number of participants to give everyone more scope for personal understanding of the subject? Until you have a teacher for each student? Or are there other ways to achieve the quality demanded?

We believe that one must balance the time, the individual, the quality, and the cost factors to achieve the desired target of trained individuals as set by the institution. If there are 30 participants and they all take only two minutes for questions, it would total 60 minutes of extra time. If, instead, in those 60 minutes these 30 participants elaborate the subject in pairs, the active time individually for each participant is increased by 15 times from two to 30 minutes.

After 12 lectures, with the help of pairs working in rotation, each of the 30 participants has reproduced the learning matter in his own words and at his own pace for six hours compared with 20 minutes in total if the participants had spoken and questioned the lecturer one after another.

The comparative studies of Alfons Simon showed an increase of accurate data by 43 percent, as well as an increase of quantity able to be assimilated to be up by 60 percent compared to individual work. The confidence-building personal experience to solve tasks with different people is also verifiable by performance. Furthermore, the lecturers no longer are required to lecture without interruption as entertainers, but are able, during the duration of the seminar time, to observe their participants more closely, and to help those individuals who need it.

How can you be guaranteed that working in pairs during a seminar does not turn out to be just a relaxing of the formal learning process, but will lead to remembered knowledge?

It is only when the pairs work with their accurately defined plan or under professional conditions to create the positive reinforcement and environment that delivers above average results.

It is imperative in the industrialized countries with more and more functions being given to software and robotics, and the rapid shift of harsh economic reality, that the individual employee be educated within the organization to a higher standard of competency. To achieve and maximize employees’ full potential, we combine the rational logical process with human emotive responses by activating the bonding that is found within the working in pairs process, which is not able to be achieved by computers or the strictly formal seminar format.

The evaluation of more than 2,400 job offers from 500-plus companies shows the growing need for executives who must be well trained, analytical, and socially adept.

Qualifications in Demand

Social skills: 85%

Team spirit: 69%

Flexibility: 30%

Analytical thinking: 28%

One’s own initiative: 23%

Service orientation: 22%

Assertiveness: 19%

Organizational skills: 14%

Responsibility: 12%

(Data in percent, multiple answers were possible, Jobs in Time 07)

Basically, the individual student needs to be supported on two levels:

  1. A deep understanding of what is to be learned so it is permanently self-applicable
  2. The practice of cooperation

This probably cannot be accomplished through a closed education policy; rather, it must be done through an open-minded look at the potential of a combination of methods that can be used.

For this, Rotating Pairwork (RP) delivers a unique contribution to the application of learning systems. The development of Rotating Pairwork by Swiss and Russian scientists took place over a long time period and now is a comprehensive learning tool that has been used for needs such as:

  1. National literacy programs
  2. The training of more than 1,500 unqualified workers to become engineers
  3. Special language courses
  4. The study of various sciences

This structured pair work is not based on any formal teaching method, but on the normal interplay of two people communicating with each other in everyday life, such as the conversation with a friendly storekeeper or a hairdresser. The participant subconsciously feels immediately secure and comfortable with this familiar procedure.

The power of the Rotating Pairwork in the education process is important as most students know of only one method or the other—formal or the informal—rather than the combination of the two.

The economical advantages of working as a twosome helped to significantly upgrade the quality of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system. The programmers solved their problems in pairs quicker and more accurately than by working as individuals. This helped Microsoft regain trust after challenges faced by Windows 7’s less-convincing predecessor, Windows Vista.

With the addition of rotation, the students are not focused on just one other individual, but have the opportunity to cooperate with several other participants. The more opportunity you have to explain the subject matter to different listeners, the deeper and more solid your understanding will be.

If you have attended a lecture as an individual and then are asked to explain what you have just been taught, you inevitably find you’ve either misunderstood or not remembered some key points.

But RP simultaneously encourages both personal evolvement and mutual reinforcement, creating a new confidence and trust. This is also useful to overcome shyness.

But how do you absorb the subject matter in a more concentrated manner with two rotating pairs? When you can discuss and analyze the new subject matter, you become aware of any knowledge gaps or misunderstandings, which can be rectified immediately rather than having to correct it at a later stage.

Rotating Pairwork can be organized for any type of seminar. We have created benchmarks after years of testing in different areas, from language training to the teaching of chemistry, as well as in any type of business. It can be used to train managers and sales teams who need both complete knowledge of their products and the ability to understand and communicate with people.

As a teaching manager, you can check the increased performance resulting from working in pairs by doing a word association test: Take a word and ask your learning group to write whatever is associated with the word that comes into their minds individually, within two minutes. Then give a new word and ask the group to write again whatever comes into their minds within two minutes, but this time as pairs. Now, compare the number of ideas from both tasks.

Or to be more challenging: Take two equally important problems. Ask the group to write down as individuals spontaneous ideas for improvement for three minutes. Then ask the group to do the same as pairs in the same time for the second problem. Now, compare the number and quality of ideas for both problems.

Result? Write to me at poser@2lern.de!

Moritz Poser is initiator of learning provider 2lern.de.

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