Teaching Using Learning Personas or Roles
If we were to design learning events based on learners’ intentions on what role(s) they would like to develop skills for, then we could begin, hypothetically, with a few “personas” that would guide how their tutor and peers and others would interact with the learner. Many learners may be motivated to develop a number of perspectives over time, shifting from one another over years of non-formal learning, jumping over to new learning systems, contributing and participating in various combinations of formal and informal learning.
Designing based on personas, then might give participant different start/end points, and this shifting and trying on of personas can have a tremendous trans-formative potential. Learners can embark on a number of different cognitive apprenticeships, receiving instruction on how to manage messages and ideas in various roles.
The Town Crier plays a showmanship role, for instance, and most of their posts are commentaries. The main motivation for announcing and reporting on events and noteworthy news and resources is to provide leadership. This self-directed role might be very straightforward for some; for others, the town crier would take getting used to.
The Recorder is keen to disseminate and share information for self and others; a post that engages in feed-forwarding with an attached comment is such an example. Their motivation is to gain social capital and expand their network, and connect with others. Snapshots, summaries, reports on events, scrapbooked bits and pieces collected together for the review of others – all these are examples of content, and activities the the Recorder engages in.
While the Town Crier and the Recorder are more interested in connecting, networking, sharing, collaborating, and getting feedback from others, the Scribe is a different type of learner, whose primary rationale is to preserve private artefacts of learning. The Scribe prefers solitude, a quiet space away from the public sphere. Privacy and safety are important; feedback is allowed only when invited, often with a tutor or trusted mentor. The Scribe can focus on their own work, and develop their ideas, memoirs, narratives, reflections, and private impressions and stories. It is a self-contained private bubble to work through ideas.
The Elder is a role typically focused on sharing ideas and stories with others. The motivation is based on reciprocity and mutual sharing. This role is more open to others views, and seeks and provides support and feedback. Participating in a Elder role, one learns to adopt a perspective of co-creating legacies with others, composing group stories and extended narratives, inviting many others’ views over a long period of time.
The Mentor role is focused on making connections with others, building trust and opening lines of communication. It is a synergy between self and others; adopting this role requires a personal commitment to lifelong learning, working cooperatively and in synergy with others in extended conversations, dialogues, as well as pause-points, in which those in a mentor role engage in self-talk to describe their thinking process while solving a problem or completing a task.
Taking on the role of the Performer, your identity ceases to be public; your focus is anonymous participation in a series of creative, open learning activities and projects. The learning activities are creative, spontaneous, unfettered by the dependent role of student, and entirely unstructured. The focus is on performance, innovation and showcases of creativity.
Inviting participants to adopt various roles to “try them on for size” is best done within a non-formal learning setting, where assessment in the formal sense is absent. But it does speak to the key role of the facilitator to enlist participants who are strong in various roles to act as models and moderators and peer tutors for the others; some participants may feel comfortable in just one role, and develop it thoroughly. Others might opt to sample the various roles, getting a larger overview, identifying their own strengths, weaknesses and preferences.