The Playing Mantis training philosophy

Conventional, also called ‘authoritarian’ training philosophies are usually based on the idea that a student is a ‘tabula rasa’ or clean slate onto which knowledge must be transferred. They are empty vessels into which the trainer can pour information. In contrast contemporary inclusive training models view students as being rich with a personal body of knowledge acquired through experiences within unique contexts. Playing Mantis training follows this philosophy.

1. Training is a conversation not a monologue: for us training is no longer a top down one way process, but rather  a dialogical interaction between equal partners: trainer, trainee and  fellow trainees.

2. Trainees’ needs drive the learning, not the curriculum. : Where conventional training methods presume that there is a notional average learner at which training should be aimed and which determines the standard, we believe that no such assumptions can be made. Rather, an assessment of trainee’s needs and expectations must be made and the trainers own articulated. This is not a once off occurrence, but happens continuously throughout training.

3. Training is driven by difference not sameness: In other words, trainees do not form a more or less homogenous group and those who differ can be categorised. Rather, all people differ from each other and these differences are fundamental to our training planning and provision.

4. Training is facilitation, not transmission: As inclusive facilitators the focus of our training is not the content, and our role not to transmit it. Our focus is rather the trainee with their experience and our role is to facilitate the dialogue between the material and the trainee. We become mediators of knowledge, not transmitters of it.

5. Training is creating experience, not transmitting information: Our teaching aids are therefore not mere extensions of the trainer like a projector transmitting information where trainees participate mainly by looking (reading) and listening. Our learning aids, and indeed our entire methodology, aims to create or draw on experience where trainees can participate with as many faculties as possible. It is a whole brain, whole body approach.

6. Relevance is more important that accuracy: In our sessions we do not so much value questions relating to the material, but rather questions relating to the relevance of the learning for each participant’s individual job and personal journey.

7. There is more than one kind of knowledge:  In our training there is not just the trainer’s subject knowledge in the room, but also the tacit knowledge participants carry in their bodies, and the group genius that arises from the collaboration between trainees as they work to interpret and apply the knowledge.

8. Action and implementation speaks louder than words and learned answers: Responsibility and ownership of the learning becomes that of both trainer and trainees. Assessment then focuses not on the reproduction of knowledge taught, but on its integration and implementation in the workplace – not on words, but on action.

The role of improvisation

Acting in a set context without the benefit of scripted words and only the tacit knowledge accumulated through experience is called improvisation – the central concept around which our training revolves. Improvisation also draws on the ability of a group to generate solutions together and use dialogue to drive the story, and indeed the learning, forward.

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