In my speaking and here on the blog, I frequently note that:
- The vast majority of adult learning happens in an informal and largely self-directed way – i.e., not in classes, seminars, conference sessions, etc.;
- Most of us aren’t all that well-prepared to be effective self-directed learners – meaning, the quality of all that informal learning could, no doubt, be improved upon dramatically;
- Organizations that aren’t taking (1) and (2) into account in how they think about their overall educational strategy are missing an opportunity.
I was thrilled when catching up with my reading recently to see that an article in ASTD’s T+D magazine takes a similar view, albeit from more of a corporate training perspective. In “The Amazing Era of Self-Service Learning,” Patricia McLagan argues that there is a significant opportunity in supporting learners with their self-managed learning activities. “If we could help learners manage their learning,” McLagan writes,
I speculate that there would be as much as a 500 percent increase in benefits due to clearer intentions, selection of better resources, better information processing and concentration, more focused learning, greater learning transfer, and ultimately better results. Also, the more we know about that learner-led dynamic, the better we can support it both as learning professionals and informal helpers.
“500 percent” is bold speculation, but I’m on board with it – and I think this line of reasoning applies at least as much to the continuing education and professional development market as it does to corporate training. McLagan notes that:
There are important areas where self-managed learning breaks down. People have trouble, for example, clarifying what they want to learn. They don’t always use the best resources. Their information-processing skills can be improved. They don’t really know what the process is to develop a new skill or to rise above an outmoded attitude, belief, or value. People run into plateaus and obstacles and get discouraged or quit. They don’t always use third-party help in the best possible way. And learners don’t declare victory when they have achieved a learning goal; rather, they blur one learning project into another as one learning project fades and others begin.
These are areas where it is well within the reach of the average association to provide support, and clues to that support are contained in the passage I just quoted. It’s not too difficult, for example, to imagine kicking off each new year with series of articles, Webinars, videos, or (preferably) some combination of these things dedicated to:
- How to clarify your personal learning goals for the year
- How to find and make use of key resources available from your association
- Effective processes for developing new skills and habits
- Effectively tapping the knowledge and skills of your peers
- Overcoming obstacles and celebrating your learning victories
- Implementing and sustaining new skills and knowledge
While I mainly have informal and self-managed learning in mind, I could also see addressing the topics above in the opening session at a conference. And then imagine wrapping the conference up with a well facilitated session in which attendees review and reflect upon both their formal and informal learning at the conference.
Strikes me as well worth trying. How about you? Any readers already doing anything along these lines?