Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Participation and Silence

Participation is critical to learning particularly as a way to challenge our ideas and beliefs, share our thoughts and discover new ways of thinking. But what does ‘participation' typically look like? Does all participation need to be verbal or loud? 

Well, participation is not always about being the first to respond or about having lengthy group discussions and debates. Participation can be facilitated via a simple voting activity with a yes/no response or using social media tools and technologies – for example, tweet a reflection or write a blog post, etc. Being shy, anxious or not much of a talker does not absolve anyone from the responsibility of participating in a learning experience. Having said that, it is important to realize that participation may be different for different people. 

Silence, often misunderstood, also speaks. It gives us the pauses that we need to learn and to teach. Some times, silence is about being respectful and at other times, it is self-protective. But silence is also participative. One participant's silence enables another participant's voice to be heard. 

I loved this post on 'Sanctioning Silence in the Classroom' where the author says:

"In his "Lecture on Nothing" from his book Silence, John Cage states that "What we require is silence; but what silence requires is that I go on talking." Silence and speech exist together in a symbiotic relationship. Silence is not merely the antithesis of speech but rather the necessary precondition for authentic, lively, and engaged speech."

To me, participation is as much a collective responsibility of the group as it is an individual responsibility. Everyone needs to feel that their contribution is adding to the learning experience and is ultimately facilitating new conversations. The learning environment has a role to play as do the facilitators in encouraging the right kind of participation. But participation is not about the frequency or the quantity of conversations. Participation is about engaging fully and authentically and sometimes being silent is a way to do it. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Traditional Approach to Learning Doesn't Work Anymore

Whereas the traditional management pursued an ethos of efficiency and control, often treating both employees and customers as things to be manipulated, the new paradigm thrives on the ethos of imagination, exploration, experiment, discovery and collaboration. It deals with employees and customers as independent, thinking, feeling human beings. It embraces complexity as an opportunity, rather than a hurdle to be overcome. - Steve Denning, The Management Revolution That's Already Happening 

The biggest implication for traditional approach to learning and development is that it doesn’t work anymore. Fifty years ago, efficiency and control were the tools of choice because organizations were dealing with low or semi-skilled employees and the main focus was to increase production values and control costs. All training initiatives were aligned to these outcomes and top-down, push learning was the choice of the day. 

The realities of business have changed. Organizations have to be competitive, flexible and extremely responsive to these new realities. In this environment, the ‘one-size fits all’ approach to learning doesn’t work. With a shelf-life to skills, employees have to constantly keep learning. 

To address this new reality, organizations must realize that:  
  • Training is not learning. Work is learning. 
  • Learning is not about courses and training days; it is ongoing and happens everywhere.
  • Performance is not how many hours people work; it is how much value they add to their work. 
Organizations need to move away from encouraging efficiency and control towards enabling effectiveness and self-directed behaviours. L&D departments have to be where the learners are. They need to explore the themes of personalization and customization synchronized with the work context and tied to specific performance outcomes. 

In this new reality, curation, informal learning, social learning and learning enhanced with technology will play a significant role in helping organizations design more adaptive, agile and modern learning experiences. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

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

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 to 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.