Look into the Mirror – 4 tips for learning professionals, by Charles Jennings

 It goes without saying that all humans are different.  However there are also some remarkable similarities.  

Over the years learning thought-leaders and practitioners have attempted to produce generalised solutions that address the similarities and minimise the differences. This, of course, is a Sysphean task and we’ve ended up down many blind alleys – such as learning styles, gender and age stereotypes, and thinking that eLearning is a magic solution or implies ‘learner-centricity’.

So, here are my four tips for effective learning support. They are based not on some tight pedagogical model but on observation that if you pare adult organisational learning down to its basic elements there are four ways in which we all learn.

  • Through the experiences we are exposed to
  • Through the opportunity to practice, especially in context
  • Through conversation and stories
  • Through having the opportunity for reflection

Tip 1: Support learning through ensuring exposure to rich and challenging experiences

Make sure any learning intervention you design or develop  –whether it involves eLearning or not – is focused on gaining deep engagement with the learner. Experiential learning has far greater impact than any other approach.  If learning content is only informational it will wash away faster than the receding tide.

Tip 2: Every learning experience should offer the opportunity to practice

Practice is critical to learning. Practice in context works better than practice away from the point-of-use. And supported practice in context works best of all. If you can see the opportunity to provide support and the opportunity for learners to practice in context, then grasp it with both hands.

Tip 3: Exploit the power of conversation

My colleague Jay Cross says that conversation is probably the best learning technology ever invented. Of course he’s right. We know that rich conversations and sharing with colleagues and peers are powerful tools for learning. As the great educational psychologist Jerome Bruner (still working at the grand age of 96) once said ‘our world is others”. The social aspect of learning is critical.  Good learning design has always included it. In today’s world we have many available options and tools to help us incorporate learning through conversations, stories and simply sharing experiences – so we should never think of learning without thinking about how to weave conversations and stories into the process.

Tip 4: Provide plenty of time for reflection

The power and usefulness of reflection is something that we seem to have forgotten in our fast moving world. Yet reflection is essential in all learning. The power of reflection can be seen in simple things, such as taking the time to stop and think and reflect on what went well, what didn’t work out and what you’d do next time. If, as learning professionals, we ever design a learning environment, a learning programme, an eLearning course or, in fact, any process or activity to help improve performance without baking in plenty of time for reflection – and preferably guided reflection – then we’re simply not doing out job.



Author: Charles Jennings 

Learning and Working Smarter specialist/consultant. Work globally. Internet Time Alliance team member. ‘When working is learning, then learning is working’

Website: http://www.duntroon.com

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