Involve recently held a workshop to explore the ideas around Learning & Development for Involvement across the whole of the National Institute for Health Research. I have begun a discussion group on LinkedIN but wanted to put my own thoughts down on paper.
Learning & Developing for Involvement in Research - BLOG 1
A LEARNING CULTURE
The goal should be for better research that becomes a standard and valued core element of improving health and social care. This means 'change' and that is best achieved by developing a learning culture. This is particularly true around involving and engaging people as an elemental part of a process rather than a Patient & Public Involvement (PPI) product.
People, whether public or professionals, should be entitled to information, support and offered opportunities for learning and developing their understanding, knowledge and skills for effectively involving people in research. We should focus on the intention, effectiveness and practices of involving people in the each of the different aspects of research design, delivery, evaluation and application. We should be clearer about the specific purpose, intended impact and capture examples of the benefit.
For learning to be effective it should take account of the learners' needs. The learners' needs should be at the centre of planning, preparation and delivery for all learning. The learning should be identified in joint discussions and tailored to those needs.
This equally applies to researchers who are unsure how to involve people at a particular stage in their studies as well as managers who are unclear about the value that the insight from patients can give, for example, to whether a study recruits to time and target. Many members of the public may lack knowledge about research but can bring a range of other transferable experiences that can be valuably used to improve research.
We must begin by identifying the skills, knowledge people already have, what is expected of them, how they learn and how it has been effective. We should explore and promote the development of creative and imaginative ways of helping people to learn with a broad spectrum from paper based information sheets, innovative practical activities to self-learning tools and social media resources.
CONTEXT & PURPOSE
Learning should be set in the context of where it is taking place i.e. within the different functions of National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) supporting either study design, commissioning and/or delivery. This helps clarify the parameters of what is expected - what can be changed and what cannot.
The actual purpose of engaging or involving people is a key to the learning and central - i.e. Improving the design of a study might seek to involve people in identifying priorities or clarifying the questions and defining outcome measures; Better delivery of research might focus on targets and recruitment advice; Reviewing Study Protocols might focus on critical analysis skills.
The purpose is not involvement as such, it is the task in front of us.
It is important to note that learning for involving people is rarely a linear course for those who become actively involved. Knowledge is gained in an experiential manner - a series of stepping stones - where things learned one day get applied somewhere completely different. Many of the workshops sessions are successful because they provide simple activities that enable discussion and networking. We should look to the learning models that exist for 'adult learners' rather than a traditional school approach.
Choice should therefore be an important element of all learning and developing for content, approach and formats - to reflect personal learning styles and opportunities to learn - i.e. a mixture of face to face workshops, peer learning and use of technologies, etc.
We learn best by doing yet is important to provide time for reflection. It is the simple act of writing down what was done, what was achieved, the benefit of involvement and most importantly what have a learned as a result. It is by carrying out some reflection that we can apply the learning in future.