"Vicarious Learning" (VL) is the notion that people
can and will learn through being given access to the learning experiences
of others. Simple traditional examples are instances such as master
classes in music and the process of clinical teachers going through
cases with students. In these situations, one person or student
is the focus of tutorial attention, but others present will benefit
from observing the interaction. Also, as teachers know, many students
are too shy to indicate their need for help in class - such students
learn a great deal from observing and overhearing the learning
experiences of others. But although we know VL is effective in
broad terms, our aim in this project is to find out more about
how and why VL works.
A broader application of the VL idea envisages it being used in
the development of multimedia databases of learning experiences
which can be made available to other learners. In this project
we aim to add VL resources to an established on-line learning resource
called PATSy (http://www.patsy.ac.uk/). This is a web-based multimedia
database shell that makes 'virtual patients' available to trainees,
educators, clinicians and researchers in various clinical professions
and cognate academic disciplines, in use in over 25 UK university
departments. The domains represented include developmental reading
disorders, neuropsychology, neurology/medical rehabilitation and
speech and language pathologies.
In this project we focussed on the training of speech and language
therapists, particularly their learning of diagnostic skills. We
studied pairs of individuals using PATSy ‚ students and
tutors, and students and clinicians. Dialogues were videotaped,
and interactions with the PATSy system recorded. Learning difficulties
that students encountered with clinical assessment were identified.
Then, recorded video clips of students discussing the difficult
topics with other students or tutors were produced and incorporated
into PATSy as VL learning resources.
To achieve this we aim to developed techniques for eliciting learning
dialogues that will subsequently be effective as vicarious learning
resources for other. When a future PATSy user encounters a learning
impasse, they can then call up an appropriate pre-recorded discussion
of the issue to view. They thus become vicarious learners. Although
the focus of this project was on learning by students of the
health professions, general principles for the production of effective
VL material were developed for application to other domains
(e.g. initial teacher training).