Monday, December 11, 2017

Why Should L&D be the Champion of Informal Learning?

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Although we tend to recognize learning that takes place in formal settings and within structured learning environments, we all participate in valuable learning informally in everyday life. We are constantly learning everywhere and at all times whether we are driving on the road, sitting in a classroom, attending a conference, participating in remote work, engaging with our community or spending time with our family. We learn from our experiences and we learn by reflecting on those experiences.

However, learning that happens outside formal settings is generally not understood, recognized, shared or made visible. Therefore, it is typically not valued. 

Why is it important that as adult educators and learning designers WE recognize that learning happens in so many and varied places in the lives of adults? Why should L&D be the first the recognize informal learning?

1. Firstly, people need to understand and appreciate these settings and broaden their own definition of learning and become more aware of how much they learn outside a ‘training room’. In our role as L&D and enablers of learning, we need to provide people with guidelines, frameworks and methods to become more aware of their informal learning accomplishments and help them recognize their learning across different settings. This is perhaps the best way to empower people to be more self-directed in their efforts and a way to give them more autonomy and control. We need to remind people about all the informal learning that takes place outside the training room and help them make their own informal learning more visible by recognizing it, assessing it and encouraging them to share it with others.

2. Secondly, as professionals who conceptualize, design, facilitate and sponsor learning, we need to acknowledge that there are many ways to learn and therefore many ways to teach. In all of this, it is critical that we create methods and processes that recognize prior learning and utilize varied opportunities to assess new learning. We cannot rely on formal, structured settings as the only way to create learning opportunities. In fact, we need to pay more attention to what is really happening in between these formal settings and how people are truly learning. We must curate and share meaningful and relevant resources including websites, blogs, videos and a community of other individuals who are keen to learn and share.

3. Finally, it is important to understand that participant interest and motivation may be very different in each learning setting. Therefore, as learning designers, we need to design learning interventions keeping in mind the desired outcome and level of motivation required. For example, for a given topic, if given a choice between learning in a formal setting versus learning in an informal setting via social learning, when are people likely to be more motivated? 

Understanding the concepts of setting (formal, informal, social, organizational and lifelong learning) helps create the right context for both adult learners and learning enablers. 

In our roles as educators, trainers, facilitators, L&D, HR, managers, leaders, etc we need to be the champions of informal learning.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Learning is Messy



As adults, when we engage in self-directed projects, we learn by doing and by gathering first-hand experience. When things don't go as planned, we take the time to reflect critically and try to figure things out. We try and connect with others and seek inputs and guidance. We try to make connections between what we know and what we need to know. There are many such learning loops involved in the route between where we are and where we want to be

"Natural learning is not a straight line. It is a path full of twists and turns and each of these intersections presents us an opportunity to reflect on the experience thus far." - Tweet This 

However, as learning designers, when we design formal and structured learning experiences, we tend to generally design them in a linear fashion. Linear design may work for some content and audience but it is certainly not for everything or everyone. 

A learning experience that is designed to be followed along a straight line is essentially devoid of these learning angles and intersections. By overemphasizing the importance of doing it one way or doing it right the first time, we end up giving little value to making mistakes and learning from failure. We also underestimate the range of knowledge and experience of the participants and don't allow them to create their own individual paths to learning. As we attempt to remove or take away the chaos from learning, we also take away the essence of what learning truly is. 

"Learning is a long winding road that tends to get messy. And as learning designers, we must say YES to this mess." - Tweet This

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why Do I Teach?

As a part of a professional development program I am currently pursuing with the University of Victoria, I was asked to reflect on my learning biography and some of the key influences that have shaped my values, beliefs and attitudes about adult learning and education. As I reflected on my learning journey thus far, I found myself thinking about why do I walk this path. 

I have been in the adult learning/training industry for 17 years and haven't had an opportunity to write about my passion for doing what I do. So, here it is: #WhydoIteach?



WHY do I teach? 


"…the teacher and the learner reside within each of us and that it is this ebb and flow of giving and receiving that feeds our passion and fascination with learning." - Janet Groen, Colleen Kawalilak, Pathways of Adult Learning, Professional and Education Narratives, 2014 (Pg. 14).

I am a true believer of this statement and it provides an excellent premise for why I am so passionate about learning. For me, to teach is to learn. I am enthusiastic about lifelong learning and I find training others as a way to teach and learn. In my practice as an adult educator, I find immense satisfaction in being a part of my learners’ journey and I see myself both as a facilitator and a partner along the way. What motivates me about teaching others is the idea that I am positively impacting their lives and making a difference and they are doing the same for me; that this relationship is of equals who give and take.


WHAT do I teach?

I strive to spark curiosity, enthusiasm and appreciation of the opportunities for learning that life presents us. I work towards building supportive relationships with individuals. I try and encourage them to find their true potential by becoming critical thinkers who are interested in learning and development. Through my efforts, I want to help individuals learn how to learn and enable them to be more self-directed in their efforts.


HOW do I learn and grow? 

I self-evaluate my work by seeking feedback from learners and clients. I use every opportunity to improve my skills through continuing education and professional development courses. I also use my blog as a tool for self-reflection. I consult with my mentors and personal learning network and share and show my work to get feedback from others.
My goal is to keep working towards nurturing and developing myself as the seed for learning conversations and to be that integral node through which individuals can connect with knowledge, peers and experts.

Now that you know why I do what I do, I am curious to hear your story. Why do YOU teach? 


PS: I use the terms 'teaching and training' to mean the practice of adult education including the design of learning experiences and not necessarily being an instructor in a classroom.