Child protection learning and development 2024: national framework

Framework to support multi-agency learning and development relevant to child protection in Scotland. This highlights key learning for all workforces according to the level of responsibility they have for child protection.

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Appendix B: National Learning and Professional Development Group offered their best tips for learning events

Practical tips for designing, delivering and evaluating learning events

Preparing for a learning event: preparation starts with the 'ask', the design and the planning

  • trauma-informed practice is a key baseline for all learning
  • know the who, what, where, when and why this event is being offered
  • know what you need to cover; where and when it has to be delivered; who is likely to be in your group of participants (their agencies and likely role in child protection) and consider what key learning they need to know ) – have some examples ready for the event about how a particular worker might be first to notice a concern e.g. the housing officer noticing unknown people resident in a tenancy; a school escort noticing a parent's stress; school office staff noticing a child in tears on arrival, a mental health worker noticing a child regularly missing school
  • use course descriptors to advertise the learning event, covering all of the above, being as clear as possible about who the course is aimed at and what the key learning will be; date/time/venue and what participants will need to do to gain a place – be clear about target group and what they can expect from course
  • know who is in your confirmed group of participants in advance; any specific barriers they might have to learning – check with them what could help
  • know your material; anticipate questions/issues likely to arise; anticipate where difference of opinions might arise and how you might manage conflict; familiarise yourself with the technology; have contingencies for a short break where this might be needed (in the event of technical or participant difficulties)
  • set any pre-course learning/reading or task*, ensure you are clear about expectations of participants for completion of these tasks and/or whether you will expect anything to be returned to you in advance of the course *(particularly for online delivery, where time may be shorter, some pre-course reading or reflective tasks may help prepare participants for what is to come and/or test existing relevant knowledge/attitudes/values to provide a platform for the main event and to get participants thinking in advance of the learning event)
  • provide clear joining instructions to all participants with confirmed places on the course (including specific guidance on how to join an online-delivered or hybrid event); establish any expectations; set the tone for shared learning on the basis that this is professional training and will be delivered in that context.

Consideration of design/delivery:

  • face-to-face delivery: best for interactive exercises, skills practice, qualitative participation and engagement
  • online delivery (e.g. MS Teams): easier access for some (notwithstanding technical hitches); best for a maximum of 3 hours (with at least one break); more difficult to 'read' the group/room and to reach any participant finding content difficult (NB for triggers/trauma-informed practice)
  • co-delivery: breaks up presentation; co-facilitators can share responsibility for monitoring engagement/reaction/be available to participants, should they need support; ideally with professionals from different backgrounds to model multi-agency collaboration.

Preparation on the day of the event: for face-to-face delivery:

  • arrive early to set up the room/tables for small group tasks
  • test all equipment and arrange whatever hospitality is available; set out materials for any group tasks
  • ensure flip chart/stationery etc are all available
  • having a second person/co-presenter is preferable in case of technical hitches (someone to keep conversation going while the technical matter is resolved) and to organise or lead on any small group tasks/join small groups/facilitate tasks or present as required/someone to keep an eye on the group dynamics/group functioning and respond to anyone who needs support with any aspect of the materials (trauma-informed practice)
  • it is good to have some informal small talk until everyone is present.

Preparation on the day of the event: for online delivery:

  • log on early to test connections
  • set up break-out rooms/groups as far as is possible in advance, to ensure a good mix of participants. (Allocating breakout rooms in advance allows groups to be set up as people are logging on and allow presenter to select who will be in each.)
  • ensure presenters have 'facilitator' access - having a second person is preferable online as with face-to-face delivery, in case of technical hitches (someone to keep conversation going while technical matter is resolved)/ to support/join break out rooms and facilitate chat or task as required/someone to keep an eye on the group dynamics/group functioning and respond to anyone who needs support with any aspect of the materials (trauma-informed practice).
  • for group cohesion and best interactivity, establish that cameras should usually be on/mics off (until invited to contribute or participant has a question/contribution to make).

NB when participants join from a home PC or are in noisy office, encourage them to avoid disruption/interruptions by finding a quiet space. It is recommended that participants avoid joining the event via their phone since this gives very limited access to any visual presentation such as PowerPoint or showing film clips

  • it is good to have some informal small talk until everyone is present but not so easily done online.

In both types of delivery it is good to have a co-presenter from a different professional discipline to model the multi-agency nature of child protection.

Setting the atmosphere for learning:

  • welcome, introduce facilitators; introduce the topic and who the main target group for the event is (and why); check everyone is clear they are in the right place and know how long the event will run; housekeeping and advance notice of breaks
  • establishing the 'rules of engagement' – setting out expectations at the beginning - phones off, no distractions, punctuality, good listening, respectful challenge (encourage reflective discussion); confidentiality etc
  • group introductions (name, role or job/service; one thing they hope to get out of the day) - building in time for group introductions helps the group to settle and get a sense of each other and the facilitators; it also gives them a chance to hear their own voice within the group (especially online) and to get used to speaking out loud
  • option (in face-to-face): draw a blank jigsaw on flipchart page and add each agency into a blank jigsaw piece as they are represented by the group to emphasise the multi-agency collaboration and networking involved in child protection
  • (optional) name badges help to be more personal in interactive elements of the course, including role/job may also help in networking or in reflection on specific roles in child protection
  • good self-care/wellbeing: alert the group to the sensitive nature of the topic and need to respect the confidentiality of any personal information shared by participants
  • encouraging participation by thanking people for practice examples shared, acknowledge shared experiences and points of view
  • remind everyone that the course is participatory as much as possible. Keep an eye out for quieter participants and, as the course progresses, find opportunity to invite them to comment
  • maximise engagement by planned interspersed shifts of format: for example use film clips to provide a change of focus to visual/audio input or change of screen; set clarity about what participants should focus on in the film/audio input; use small group tasks and activities for more interactive discussion between participants
  • consider where breaks might be needed: participants usually need at least one short break per 2-3 hours to allow a break from screen or concentrated discussion; you may want to set these around exercises/small group tasks (e.g. before or after you take feedback); being trauma-informed in how you set breaks might mean keeping an eye on the group atmosphere so that heavier/more sensitive topics are cushioned a bit with a short break in between group activities/feedback: sometimes time-dependent; can be small group tasks or full group task/activity. Feedback should include some reflection as well as reassuring/reaffirming people's points of view and thanking them for contributions.

Group engagement:

  • engagement of participants is essential and likely to feel more fulfilling for everyone; models a shared learning approach
  • engaging participants throughout the training starts with introductions onwards, good listening and responding/making connections at that point by the presenter helps the cohesion of the group
  • if online, encourage participation by having cameras on; use of break-out rooms for small group tasks or conversations (some people find smaller groups easier)
  • setting an early icebreaker task or exercise (ideally, with a bit of fun/laughter* but very much depending on the sensitivity of the topic in question) will often help people relax and be more likely to contribute as the session progresses.

*Example: use a flip chart/post-its per participant and ask them to write up (in 3 columns) 1. favourite animal and why; 2. second favourite animal and why and 3. favourite bird and why. Once completed advise that these are meant to (subconsciously) reflect 1. how you see yourself, 2. what you look for in a partner and 3. how you think the world sees you. Group will have shared their favourites, feedback creates some surprises for individuals, offers some humour (or reflection!) and usually a bit of laughter as well

  • bringing learning to life by using practice examples helps participants see themselves in a similar scenario and inviting them to (confidentially) share work experiences reinforces reflective learning
  • encouraging active listening from participants and seeing how a similar situation might apply to their service will support reflective practice
  • sitting with silent pauses – allows a bit of reflective thinking; anticipate that someone will usually say something (maybe not so comfortable with silent pause); maybe use humour to prompt group; alternatively give a hint in a question posed to them to start the conversation
  • ensure you cover the agencies present e.g. 'what's the view of education/health/social work/police/third sector colleagues?', to ensure collective understanding and fair and equitable sharing of time
  • managing conflict/challenge – ask the person to say a bit more of why they see things the way they do; offer a response that 'best practice would be…' /'according to the guidance available…'; open it up to the group – 'what do other people think about that…'.

Follow up/evaluation/feedback options:

  • if the event takes place over a few days, ask each morning about learning and reflection from the previous day
  • taking time for evaluation on the day is likely to get more immediate thoughts about learning, so try to build in 5 minutes or so for this at the end
  • if you did a pre-course questionnaire about where participants rated their knowledge on the learning topic, ask them to re-rate their knowledge post-course
  • if online, using a MS Forms evaluation questionnaire is easy and immediate, put the link into the chat (in the last 5-10 mins of course) and/or email it with post course learning after the session
  • use the SMARTER acronym (specific, meaningful, achievable, relevant, timeous, evaluate, reflect/review) is a useful way to do this i.e. 1 Specific/Meaningful/Achievable etc. thing they will take from the course to apply to practice immediately and going forward
  • A-Z summary – ask participants to identify something learned or reflected on within the course for each letter of the alphabet (best done in small groups to save time – creates a bit of competition, maybe offer a small bag of sweets to winning group?)
  • other options to ensure learning is embedded: 1. ask group to express their opinions on what they have learned and future application to practice 2. ask group to identify and follow up on at least one further reading/resource provided 3. encourage group to buddy up with someone or create a small community of practice to share/reflect on learning and meaning for practice 4. ask group to identify and describe how they would explain one specific element of the learning to a colleague 5. ask group to produce a 60-second resumé of a learning point
  • random sampling of attendees invited to group/practice discussion can be effective, but be sensitive to their time pressures
  • use one of the many online feedback platforms for immediate and visual impact - takes a bit of technical organisation and planning
  • consider a supporting practice audit at the end of the calendar year e.g. uptake of tools learned in training within practice.

Bringing the session to an end (some of the above and):

  • remind people that they will receive any additional leaning resources by email and that learning doesn't end with the course – importance of discussing learning within supervision and with peers
  • follow up feedback at 3-6 months e.g. a subsequent MS forms evaluation/telephone call on impact on practice)
  • supervision buy-in of line managers/supervisors is crucial; consider delivering short briefings to managers about course content and key learning points so that they know what to follow up on in supervision.

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • reading from the slides without looking at your participant group (engagement!)
  • delivering to very small group of participants (unless it is a specialist/intensive area of practice)
  • not being prepared (practical organisation e.g. forgetting the printing or hospitality; own knowledge of topic/key learning)
  • not being self-aware, aware of your emotional health or knowing your own limits
  • forgetting that content can trigger participants – stress the good self-care bits!
  • getting too drawn into live specific practice/assessment issue – keep reflections broad and based on evidence-based practice or guidance
  • use of acronyms – or at least explain them and do not make assumptions they all know them
  • never make assumptions – about anything!
  • running over time
  • taking negative feedback personally – especially when it is about something presenters can't control, like rubbish biscuits!



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