Even amid social distancing, ‘vicarious learning’ can work

“Vicarious discovering” is a term for how we discover from the encounters of others, especially individuals in our everyday particular and professional lives. But can it succeed in a time of masks, quarantining, and doing work from home?


Christopher Myers, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, has produced a exploration specialty of vicarious discovering. He recently revealed a paper in Behavioral Science & Plan on vicarious discovering during COVID-19 and helped writer a paper in BMJ Chief about resilient leadership during the pandemic. He is also the tutorial director of Govt Instruction at Carey and retains joint college appointments in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Underneath, Myers shares additional insights on vicarious discovering and explains how its concepts can verify helpful, even amid the social-distancing necessities of COVID-19.

Would you give a quick description, and an instance or two, of vicarious discovering?

Vicarious discovering refers to the method of discovering from anyone else’s experience. This variety of discovering is a little something we do all the time in our particular and professional lives—when we chat about “not reinventing the wheel” or “discovering from others’ mistakes,” we are conversing about reaping the advantages of vicarious discovering. Even as kids, we discover a great deal vicariously: If we see our guardian touch the very hot stove and get a burn up, we discover from their experience that we shouldn’t touch the stove (without obtaining to experience the pain of a very hot stove very first-hand). At operate, we may well discover vicariously from a colleague’s experience on a very similar activity or project, or try out to put into practice a new strategy dependent on how a very similar strategy was rolled out at one more site.

How would vicarious discovering be beneficially used during the coronavirus crisis?

Studying vicariously (alternatively than via our possess demo-and-error method) is especially crucial when stakes are large and time is limited, and when there isn’t a obvious, very well-recognized “appropriate solution” for how to reply. As the coronavirus crisis has unfolded, we’ve viewed all of these elements—so it can be exceptionally effective to discover from the lessons of others’ experience with the virus.

For occasion, we’ve viewed attempts to discover and apply lessons from other nations that encountered the virus before in the pandemic—with leaders about the planet seeking to replicate early successes and stay away from repeating the exact same mistakes produced somewhere else.

In your paper for Behavioral Science & Plan, you mention that electronic communications resources and social media can be practical at this time. How so? And does social distancing hinder vicarious discovering to any degree?

A person of the troubles of vicarious discovering is that it needs speak to. To discover from anyone else’s experience, you want to be uncovered to that experience and see how it turned out for the other particular person. At operate and at home, this frequently will take the type of observational discovering (basically looking at and witnessing anyone else’s experience “reside”), but we can also discover vicariously from tales or narratives of others’ encounters. When we question colleagues for tips at operate, for occasion, they may well tell us a tale of a time they faced a very similar challenge and how they dealt with it, so that we can discover vicariously from their successes and mistakes, alternatively than “reinventing the wheel” on our possess.

Regrettably, the exact same safety measures that are aiding us suppress the distribute of the virus (this kind of as actual physical distancing and stay-at-home orders) make these additional usual kinds of vicarious discovering complicated. If we are not in the business, it’s tough to notice a colleague’s experience or end by their desk to question tips. This is wherever important interaction and social media have emerged as exceptionally handy platforms for connecting individuals to re-develop these forms of discovering interactions. For instance, a significant quantity of well being care pros have been applying Facebook teams and other electronic interaction resources to share their encounters and distribute ideal techniques (or distribute the phrase on what techniques to stay away from).

As we’ve all viewed and knowledgeable, these electronic platforms are not always a fantastic substitute for deal with-to-deal with interaction, but they can protect a quantity of discovering advantages that may well if not be missing amid actual physical distancing. And in particular cases, these platforms can amplify the advantages of vicarious discovering by connecting a broader group than would usually be in a position to discover from the lessons of someone’s experience. For occasion, in just one Facebook group for robotic surgeons that I have examined in before exploration, we noticed that this group introduced together surgeons from all over the world, allowing individuals to share their experiences—and get practical tips and feedback—from a a great deal broader group than they would have if they had been just sharing encounters with people in their nearby clinic.

In the course of the pandemic, do you see vicarious discovering as a boon principally to well being care pros, or does it have programs throughout a array of professions and disciplines?

In my operate, I focus a great deal on well being care professionals’ discovering, but I imagine in these turbulent occasions vicarious discovering is crucial throughout all professions. We are in mainly uncharted waters in phrases of many administration techniques and business leadership choices, and each and every new choice a leader tends to make is in essence a small experiment in seeking to deal with the obstructions established by the pandemic. It would be an asset in all industries for as many individuals as probable to discover the lessons of these experiments, so that we would only have to make a lousy choice when (and share the knowledge from it so that others can discover), alternatively than allowing leaders throughout industries and geographies to retain creating the exact same lousy choices that could be prevented.

Your BSP paper proposes coverage changes to enable advance the concepts of vicarious discovering during the pandemic. Can you describe some of people proposals?

Irrespective of these advantages of vicarious discovering and the possibilities for harnessing electronic interaction resources, coverage in the well being care marketplace has not fairly caught up to these new kinds of discovering. Quite a few of the necessities and common techniques for well being care professionals’ discovering (this kind of as continuing education necessities) nonetheless emphasize independent, formal modes of discovering. Specifically when it will come to electronic resources and systems, the platforms and protections offered for well being pros to discover from just one one more on the net are nonetheless very confined.

Getting a user-welcoming, dependable, and HIPAA-compliant system for participating with other well being pros on the net would be a wonderful asset, as would coverage changes to deliver these on the net interactions with very similar lawful protections that are afforded to in-particular person discussion and discovering among well being pros. We have viewed rather swift coverage modify in other sections of the well being marketplace in response to the pandemic (this kind of as the swift adoption of payment models for telehealth), and my hope is we will see very similar improvements in possibilities for vicarious discovering among well being pros.


Diminishing panic vicariously by looking at others


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Johns Hopkins University

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Even amid social distancing, ‘vicarious learning’ can operate (2020, June 19)
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