The opportunity to observe peers or experts in action or participate in shadowing can provide a unique and authentic learning experience that often involves questioning, metacognitive thinking, and Problem Solving while providing Social Supports. Both the observer and the person being observed learn from the experience, especially when there is feedback and a clear purpose within an interactive structure.
Observation is particularly effective for continuous improvement, workforce training, professional development, and reskilling. Settings can vary from a "behind the glass" space in a training center to hands-on training in VR. Regardless of the setting, the opportunity to observe peers or experts in the authentic environment is critical to maximizing the transfer of process skills, procedures, and the "how" of putting what is learned into action. To best support Safety, open questioning, and a Learner Mindset, it is important to ensure that evaluation is not a part of the observation process.
Job shadowing provides an opportunity for one person to work alongside another to gain firsthand experience of the role and insights into the decisions that are made. It is a valuable experience for cross-functional teams to improve collaboration, communication, and understanding of the value each employee brings to the workplace. It can help with networking, relationship building, reflection, and fosters a Learner Mindset. Those being shadowed can develop their coaching skills, build metacognitive skills, and benefit from the questions and insights provided by someone without the same level of expertise (i.e. "fresh eyes"). Learners who are shadowing can build empathy by better understanding the needs and priorities of others which can build perspective taking skills and foster authentic relationships. Learning environments that have incorporated a variation of clinical rounds, cross-functional observation days, apprenticeships, and externships have found numerous benefits, including cultural shifts as adult learners develop a mindset of inquiry and curiosity.
It is even easier to implement observation in virtual learning environments, since they often do not require as much logistical planning and can overcome geographical constraints to learning. Inviting others in to observe in a virtual environment can maximize product chat features for questioning, breakout groups for peer discussion, and an open space (i.e. virtual hallway) for reflective conversations. Product developers can design features into products that allow for collaboration, discussion, questioning, and reflection before, during, and after observations or shadowing opportunities.
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