The Listening Workshop

Professor Liz Anderson
De Montfort University Leicester, University of Leicester
Patient and Public Involvement


The idea for this work arose from a meeting between a small group of service users and the speech and language therapy teaching team at De Montfort University.  Although the service users had very different background and experiences their key messages were the same, for example:

  • See the person not the diagnosis
  • Listen to the service user
  • People can be experts in their own health and care
  • Small personal touches have a huge impact

Colleagues from different disciplines discussed the importance of students hearing such key messages.  We felt these were common themes relevant to all professions making a sound basis for interprofessional learning.

What are the Aims?

We aimed to develop an interprofessional workshop relevant to all pre-registration health and social care professional students. Informal conversations led by service users and carers would be at the centre of the workshop. Service users would listen to students presenting their learning and would give feedback on the students they met.

The early evaluations and further development of this project were supported by mini grants from the Higher Education Academy.

Who was/is involved?

The project is overseen by a Steering Group comprising service users and carers, academics from De Montfort University and University of Leicester and interprofessional tutors from Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust.

What has changed/will change?

Students on 9 courses from the two universities have an opportunity for interprofessional informal conversations with service users and carers. The students report their learning back to service users, carers, their peers and tutors for discussion.  Students receive feedback on their interaction from the service users they met.

How did we develop this work?

Step One Prototype - the workshop was piloted on a small scale

Step Two Evaluation and improvements – evaluations by all parties identified some important improvements needed including suitability of venues, size of student groups, format of students sharing their key learning and process for service users to give feedback on the students

Step Three Further development – some experienced service users and carers have trained to co-tutor the workshop and to recruit and mentor other service users and carers.

What lessons have we learnt?

Service users need to be in control of how their experiences are shared with students; in the Listening Workshop service users are in control of informal conversations with students

Informal two way conversations are a powerful way for students to learn from service users

Student learning is much richer in interprofessional groups; different professions explore and understand different perspectives.  This does not happen in uniprofessional student groups when students tend to keep to their professional “scripts” in a one-dimension manner.

Students need to meet disabled people in roles of authority e.g. as co-tutor

The emotional demands of sharing experiences are high for service users; they do not always share this with tutors; trained service users are often best placed to offer support

Everyone benefits when we can build a community of service users interested in student education.  Tutors do not need to be the intermediaries.

Where next?

We need to further develop the support for our service user co-tutors and mentors and develop ways of delivering the training on a cyclical basis so other experienced service users and carers can take on these roles.


This workshop is now embedded in the curricula of participating course and is delivered to around 700 students each year.

We have a community of about 70 service users who participate in the workshop.


We have grown a community of participating service users with an interest in professional education.  Many have gone on to become involved in other educational work with the universities.  Many report an increase in confidence and opportunities. There are many stories examples of the value of talking to students and other service users e.g. information and resources shared.

Students report being enlightened by hearing personal stories with time to discuss informally.  Many report changes in attitudes of specific techniques they will take forward into their careers.

Contact details

University of Leicester Professor Liz Anderson

De Montfort University Rakesh Patel

Links to further information and resources

Anderson, ES., Ford, J. & Thorpe, LN. (2011).  Learning to Listen: Improving students’ communication with disabled people. Medical Teacher,  32,1-9.