Acting Up & Shadowing

One of the ways in which we learn from an early age is to watch those with more knowledge, experience and understanding than ourselves. We analyse their behaviour, try out elements of it, maybe adapt it a bit to suit our personalities and circumstances and perhaps try it again, evaluating which bits of the behaviour we are learning work best for us. Synthesising all this experience, over time our knowledge and understanding grows as we gain mastery of new skills and attitudes which we can make use of in a wider variety of situations.

If this is one way in which children learn does it work with adults? My experience is it can and in my view there are two possible ways in which we could apply these basic ideas about learning to professional development. They are as follows:

  1. ‘Acting Up’ - This is where a colleague takes on the responsibility for another colleague’s work for a defined period of time. It usually works well where the ‘actor’ is professionally one step away from the role in which they are asked to act and is seen at its best where the ‘actor’ has to been ‘in role’ for a reasonable length of time.
  2. Shadowing - A colleague quite literally ‘shadows’ a more senior colleague for a day or longer (the latter is often impractical, but two half-days can provide a broader look at a role). This can work well if the ‘shadow’ wishes to reflect upon a role which is, at present, further away from their experience base.