How People Learn

If you think back to university or even school; think about how you went about learning something. We have so many preconceptions around how people learn because of those experiences. We think we need to learn from the experts all the time; the teachers have to know everything! Is this really true?

Did you not also learn by watching someone and then trying it yourself? Did you not learn by figuring something out? (And then feel really pleased with yourself for doing so?)

In today?s society (especially at work), we expect people to learn really quickly, without guidance and get it right. These expectations are not necessarily appropriate because they are unrealistic.

People learn in a systematic way. That way or manner may differ based on a truckload of different theories, but everyone learns in a systematic way. There are some guidelines for the manner in which people learn; some would call them rules, but for me, they are guidelines.

These guidelines for the basis for all the work that I do. I try and never deviate from them:

  1. Learning is a skill. it requires practice. Some people learn quickly and are more talented naturally in this regard; others need some help. This is not about how ?bright? someone is. It is like everything, some people are good at it and some people need some help.
  2. Learning is an activity: Learning is not passive. You have to do things to learn. You cannot learn to ballroom dance, play football by reading a book.
  3. Learning is a social activity: We learn with other people. Think about school or university, or even at work: How many times have you asked the person next to you about something: ?How do I do that??, ?How does that work?? or ?What did he mean??
  4. Learning is messy and people need to be able to learn without feeling like they have to get it right first time. An advertisement in South Africa for a washing liquid said it all: ?No mess, no learning?. Therefore, we have to make space for learning and let people make (appropriate) mistakes.
  5. Learning always needs to begin at the starting point, but that does not have to be at the beginning. The best place to start (often) is the most important part or the foundation. Often we start at the history – to be honest, is it important that people know the history of the organistion in order for people to do their jobs?
  6. Learning changes the learner. When someone learns something, they change. They must change, otherwise they have not learnt anything. But in order for the change to be real, they must be able to practice their learning.
  7. Learning is about quality: Why is it we send the guy who cannot do things to teach others: Those who can do, those why can?t teach. Some say, those that cannot teach, consult. I have done both – what does that make me šŸ™‚. It is paramount in the global skill shortage that the best facilitators and the best leaders should be preparing the so called next generation of workers!

Anyway, this is a start! There is loads more stuff, but I will try and make things manageable in terms of length!

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