When I listen to my clients’ talk, it is clear that they learn in different ways. In my previous Blog post, I noted it is important to recognize the value of the learning in our lives each day. Let’s have a look at some great ways to develop yours.
1. Identify Your “Best Practices”
One of the best ways to learn how you learn is by reviewing your past. Think of learning experiences you have had, both inside and out of ‘formal’ education. Identify the ones that stand out – situations where you felt successful and those where you did not. This information will be your richest source of data.
Consider the following:
- People I liked to learn from
- People I learned from most
- Situations where I learned well
- Learning situations that were unsuccessful
- Atmospheres that helped my learning (e.g. competitive, cooperative, non-judgmental)
- Atmospheres that were not helpful (e.g. competitive, cooperative, non-judgmental)
- Time restrictions that affected my learning (e.g. Do I thrive under pressure? Do I learn best at my own pace?)
- My favourite learning aids (e.g. a book, a person or a tool).
The information you discover in your past will help you generate a list of “best practices”.
2. Where do you learn best?
- In a formal setting, where you attend workshops, seminars, night courses, etc.?
- In an informal setting, where you learn at work from co-workers, coaches, mentors, etc.?
- Where you “soak up” information by being in the workplace, watching, and trying things out with co-workers?
Does it look like you learn best in a particular kind of setting? Or, does the nature of what you are trying to learn affect where and how you prefer to learn?
3. Are You Concrete or Theoretical?
As you learn at work, you may need concrete skills and knowledge. This could be things like how to use specific tools, or how to fill out a certain kind of form. You may also need theoretical knowledge. This could include how the tool works and why filling out the form is crucial to the business.
If you favor a hands-on style of learning you might find it difficult to take in theory. You may prefer diving into your tasks and discovering by trial and error (How does that computer program work? Let me play with it a while…”).
Most work demands a combination of theoretical and concrete skills and knowledge. You may find that if you tend to favor concrete kinds of learning. There are times when you may need to cultivate patience for theoretical learning. If you prefer the theoretical approach, you may need to practice getting your hands “dirty”.
4. Consider these extra points about your learning:
- Do you learn best in or out of a context? For example, could you read an article about communication skills and then try them out at work the next day? Would you prefer to watch a demonstration and then try them out in a role-play?
- Do you learn best in a social environment like a seminar or class? Or do you like to learn on your own, reading and experimenting? Or one-on-one with a coach?
- Are you a learner who prefers plenty of structure, direction and encouragement? A collaborative learner who enjoys the challenges of sharing with others? Or an independent learner who prefers to discover and experiment on you own?
You can use these concepts to help your learning by combining approaches. For example, you may develop your time management skills by:
- Reading an article on the subject (theoretical)
- Talking to a friend about effective methods for managing your tasks (collaborative)
- Shopping for a time management app (independent, experimental) and
- Using it (concrete)
One of the best experiences in my life was the process I engaged in with my Grade 5 teacher, Mr. Persod. He created learning ‘projects’ for us throughout the year. The projects were ‘hands-on’ activities that required us to learn by creating something. In some cases these were also group-based projects. I remember one group project where we had to create a life size human body with all the internal organs. I worked with my group to gather all sorts of interesting objects together to create this. This project was also competitive and our group one first prize for the best project! Since that time I have discovered I learn best through project based learning.
Ask yourself what types of learning needs you currently have. How you can create a closer match between your learning approach and the learning tasks? If you are having difficulty learning something, switching to a different approach may help. You may hear the penny drop, see the light come on, or bring the pieces of the puzzle into place!
The photo is of my Grade 5 class picture with my teacher Mr. Persod. I’m the kid with the white shirt and blue tie!
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