Agile & Digital / Matrix Management / Virtual Teams

The empowered learner

What would you rather be, spoon-fed or in charge of your learning? I’m guessing I know which most of us would choose. With the drive towards more learner-centred training, self-directed learning and workplace learning – we have far more control over what we learn than ever before.  This is good news. But with that control comes responsibility.

It’s no longer possible just to rock up to a 5-day training course and hand over responsibility to the trainer to ‘teach’ you what you need to know.  With discussions with our manager(s) and key stakeholders, its up to us to figure out what we want to learn to flourish in our immediate roles and our wider career path.

However it doesn’t stop there.  Organizational psychologists talk about the need to develop our ‘metacognition’ and ‘self-regulated learning’ – that is, learning how to learn – and how to stick at it when there are a million other things to distract us.  This is true whether we are about to go on a 1-day face-to-face course, a series of online webinars or have been given access to an online resource library. Psychologists have shown we need to actively adapt how we think, feel and behave throughout any learning experience so that we reach our desired level of achievement. This involves:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Planning
  3. Self-monitoring
  4. Self-evaluation of progress
  5. Self-belief in our ability to learn and reach our goals

These factors all influence how we allocate our time and attention during a learning experience. That is, it’s up to us to make sure in advance that the content will be relevant, to make links between the concepts and our own challenges, to try things out and to ask questions to help us apply it afterwards. At the same time we need to be working at the higher ‘meta’ level and checking-in on whether we are making progress towards our learning goal, and if not, how we need to adapt our feelings or behaviour.

Studies have found that ‘self-regulation prompts’ throughout the learning can help us take greater control of our learning and so learn more effectively.  For example prompts such as, “Am I setting goals to ensure I have a thorough understanding of the training material?”, “Do I understand all of the key points of the training material?” So as managers it is worth prompting our team members to think through how they will carry out the 5 steps of self-regulation above – before, during and after they embark on a learning experience.

Self-regulation is particularly important when we go back to work after a f2f or online course or eLearning session – where planning, self-monitoring and self-evaluation of progress towards our learning goals is imperative for helping us try out the new tools and change our ways of working for the better.

No more spoon feeding. It’s over to you.


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