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.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Learning is Messy

As adults, when we engage in self-directed projects, we learn by doing and by gathering first-hand experience. When things don't go as planned, we take the time to reflect critically and try to figure things out. We try and connect with others and seek inputs and guidance. We try to make connections between what we know and what we need to know. There are many such learning loops involved in the route between where we are and where we want to be

"Natural learning is not a straight line. It is a path full of twists and turns and each of these intersections presents us an opportunity to reflect on the experience thus far." - Tweet This 

However, as learning designers, when we design formal and structured learning experiences, we tend to generally design them in a linear fashion. Linear design may work for some content and audience but it is certainly not for everything or everyone. 

A learning experience that is designed to be followed along a straight line is essentially devoid of these learning angles and intersections. By overemphasizing the importance of doing it one way or doing it right the first time, we end up giving little value to making mistakes and learning from failure. We also underestimate the range of knowledge and experience of the participants and don't allow them to create their own individual paths to learning. As we attempt to remove or take away the chaos from learning, we also take away the essence of what learning truly is. 

"Learning is a long winding road that tends to get messy. And as learning designers, we must say YES to this mess." - Tweet This

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why Do I Teach?

As a part of a professional development program I am currently pursuing with the University of Victoria, I was asked to reflect on my learning biography and some of the key influences that have shaped my values, beliefs and attitudes about adult learning and education. As I reflected on my learning journey thus far, I found myself thinking about why do I walk this path. 

I have been in the adult learning/training industry for 17 years and haven't had an opportunity to write about my passion for doing what I do. So, here it is: #WhydoIteach?

WHY do I teach? 

"…the teacher and the learner reside within each of us and that it is this ebb and flow of giving and receiving that feeds our passion and fascination with learning." - Janet Groen, Colleen Kawalilak, Pathways of Adult Learning, Professional and Education Narratives, 2014 (Pg. 14).

I am a true believer of this statement and it provides an excellent premise for why I am so passionate about learning. For me, to teach is to learn. I am enthusiastic about lifelong learning and I find training others as a way to teach and learn. In my practice as an adult educator, I find immense satisfaction in being a part of my learners’ journey and I see myself both as a facilitator and a partner along the way. What motivates me about teaching others is the idea that I am positively impacting their lives and making a difference and they are doing the same for me; that this relationship is of equals who give and take.

WHAT do I teach?

I strive to spark curiosity, enthusiasm and appreciation of the opportunities for learning that life presents us. I work towards building supportive relationships with individuals. I try and encourage them to find their true potential by becoming critical thinkers who are interested in learning and development. Through my efforts, I want to help individuals learn how to learn and enable them to be more self-directed in their efforts.

HOW do I learn and grow? 

I self-evaluate my work by seeking feedback from learners and clients. I use every opportunity to improve my skills through continuing education and professional development courses. I also use my blog as a tool for self-reflection. I consult with my mentors and personal learning network and share and show my work to get feedback from others.
My goal is to keep working towards nurturing and developing myself as the seed for learning conversations and to be that integral node through which individuals can connect with knowledge, peers and experts.

Now that you know why I do what I do, I am curious to hear your story. Why do YOU teach? 

PS: I use the terms 'teaching and training' to mean the practice of adult education including the design of learning experiences and not necessarily being an instructor in a classroom. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Need for Transformational Learning

“Learning is about transformation, it’s about change, it’s about seeing yourself in relation to the world differently” - Apte (2003, pg. 168)

The world is changing faster than we can imagine. The social, political, economic, technological and cultural context of learning and work is changing. In this new world, individuals may not know the right answers but they must know the right questions. A change in learning is required to meet these challenges. To facilitate that process, as adult educators, it is important that we move beyond teaching ‘what’ towards teaching ‘how’. It is transformational learning that can help us focus on “changing how we know ” (Kegan, 2000, p.48). Dirkx states that “Transformational learning represents one of the most generative ideas for both practitioners and researchers concerned with adult learning” (Dirkx, 2001, p. 139).

In general, the process of transformational learning is consistent with a constructivist paradigm. Constructivism is a view of learning where the learner is an active participant in the learning process, creating and interpreting knowledge rooted in personal experience. The theory of transformational learning and the process of making meaning of one's experience, emerged from the work of Jack Mezirow. Transformational learning occurs when there is a transformation in one of our beliefs or attitudes (a meaning scheme), or a transformation of our entire perspective (habit of mind) (Mezirow, 2000). Mezirow (1997a) explained transformational learning as a process of effecting change in a frame of reference and identifies four main components that characterize this theory including experience, critical reflection, reflective discourse and action.

As adult educators and learning experience designers, we need to clearly distinguish between informational learning and transformational learning. The traditional view of learning is that educators lead and individuals follow; the content is prescribed and is built around instruction and information transfer; books or courses are the primary resource and the goal of education and training is standardization. In the transformative view, personalization, collaboration, creativity, reflection and experimentation are the core elements. The learning environment is purposefully designed for individuals to research, think, act, analyze, question, reflect and make meaning of their lives.

As learning experience designers, we are placed in a unique position to play a role in helping individuals develop the skills they need to deal with change and complexity. We can leverage transformational learning as a tool to enable individuals to question their own beliefs and feelings and become more aware of their own assumptions and myths. We can prepare individuals to adapt to the changing nature of work and help them engage with others in a more collaborative, co-creative way. We can strive to equip individuals with the right tools that they can use in order to address issues and challenges from multiple perspectives, reflect on their actions and make new meanings of their experiences. We can act as empathetic provocateurs who encourage critical thinking, challenge biases and misconceptions and provide encouragement to think differently.

With transformational learning, we can help them engage in self-reflection and trigger a dramatic, fundamental change in the way they see themselves and the world (Mezirow and Taylor, 2009).

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why We Need Learning Theories

I often find myself engaged in a discussion around the importance of learning theories. Newcomers to the industry are curious about why training design should be based on learning theories. Some are looking for the 'best' learning theory and others are wary of applying old theories in the age of digital and social learning. 

In general, I tend to stay away from academia. But when it comes to the area of learning theories, I think it is imperative that as learning designers we understand common theories of learning and are able to make good choices and educated decisions regarding the learning interventions we design. This becomes even more critical as we integrate technology, social media and informal methods into the design of learning and create blended learning programs. 

Whether we are aware of these theories and the related jargons or not, all teachers and learning designers approach training in a way that is governed by one of the learning theories. When we choose a particular way to teach, it has consequences related to how people learn. As learning designers, our goal is to make sure that learning is relevant and aligned to the needs of our audience. We also want to select and apply the right instructional strategies that help the audience achieve their goals. Once we become more aware of learning theories, we can begin to understand the process of learning, understand our beliefs about learning and challenge our assumptions around the methods and methodologies of learning.

Learning design should be based on learning theories because:

  • Theories provide a basis to understand how people learn and a way to explain, describe, analyze and predict learning. In that sense, a theory helps us make more informed decisions around the design, development and delivery of learning. 
  • There are different learning theories (behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, connectivism, etc.). These theorists have thought deeply about learning and contemplated and researched it extensively. Learning designers can leverage this knowledge to think critically about learning and education. 
  • Learning theories offer frameworks that help understand how information is used, how knowledge is created and how learning takes place. Learning designers can apply these frameworks according to different learning and learner needs and make more informed decisions about choosing the right instructional practices. 
There is no one ‘best’ learning theory because: 
  • Each theory offers a different way to look at learning and the essential ingredients that make learning happen. Using these theories as lenses, learning designers can understand and describe the role of the learner, role of the instructor/teacher/facilitator and how learning happens in different ways. Each theory has influenced and shaped instructional practices and methods and all new theories will continue to do so. 
  • Different theories provide the context of learning, underlying motivation and methods of teaching and these have implications for designing and delivering instruction. Also, different theories are best suited to different learning outcomes and different audience profiles. 
  • Since each theory comprises of facts and assumptions, learning designers must begin the design of training by first identifying the goal of training and then select the right theoretical framework that can help achieve those learning outcomes. 
If you'd like to learn more about learning theories and their impact on learning design, the following resources might be useful:

Taxonomy of learning theories by Ryan Tracey where he identifies key theories that apply to workplace learning, categorizes them according to common properties, and illustrates the relationships among them.

Learning theories for the digital age by Steve Wheeler where he discusses if old theories are still adequate to describe the kinds of learning that we witness today in our hyper-connected world.

Learning theories by Greg Kearsley and Richard Culatta where they describe the principles, application and examples of several learning theories

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Making a Shift from 'Know What' to 'Know How'

Source: Stocksnap Photographer:
In my previous blog post, I shared some of my thoughts on how to avoid the death valley in workplace learning. One of the key ideas was to step away from the know what mindset and focus on the know how and know who mindset as a way to design impactful learning experiences. 

So, what's the difference between know what and know how?

The ancient Greek philosophers had one word, epistêmê, that is usually translated as knowledge and another, technê, often translated as craft or art. This distinction, it might be thought, maps roughly onto the distinction between knowledge-that and knowledge-how, respectively.

Gilbert Ryle (1946) described a contemporary version of these two ideas when he distinguished between knowing that and knowing how.
"Effective possession of a piece of knowledge-that involves knowing how to use that knowledge, when required, for the solution of other theoretical or practical problems. There is a distinction between the museum-possession and the workshop-possession of knowledge. A silly person can be stocked with information, yet never know how to answer particular questions. (p. 16)"

All education and progress is a combination of know what and know how. But traditional models and methodologies have focused far too much on the know what mindset in trying to develop a body of knowledge composed of facts and information. Although know what is important, it is not the ultimate goal.  The way I see it: 

"Know what is to training what know how is to learning and performance." - Click to Tweet

We know how to swim by swimming not simply by knowing what is swimming or why we stay afloat while swimming. If we teach participants about swimming and create a multiple-choice assessment on swimming and the participants 'pass' the assessment, can they swim? The answer is an obvious no.

Learning is not something we get from others; it is something we do. Yet we continue to create and deliver 'training' using instructional methods that are meant for building a knowledge base or know what but are not suited for developing the know how. Know how is created by a process of "learning-by-doing" (Arrow, 1962; Dutton and Thomas, 1985; Argote and Epple, 1990). So, it is time that we focus more on this experiential aspect of learning and design learning experiences that focus on the doing. This can be facilitated by integrating learning and work, by working out loud and by sharing our work with the right network of people (know who).    

I once read somewhere, "The only certainty about the future is that it doesn't resemble the past." This statement cannot be more true when it comes to the learning and employment needs in the future. As the boundaries between humans and machines blur, the jobs of tomorrow won't be the same as today. Many jobs will change and many more will disappear. The World Economic Forum has produced a report that predicts what the employment landscape will look like in 2020. The top 10 skills in 2020 will be:

-Complex problem saving
-Critical thinking
-People management
-Coordinating with others
-Emotional intelligence
-Judgment and decision-making
-Service orientation
-Cognitive flexibility

Just reviewing this list on the face value is a good indication of the demand for know what vs. know how. The present but most definitely the future is not about what information we have. Rather it is about connecting with people who might have the information we need and more importantly using and applying information and knowledge to solve problems. 

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Avoiding the Death Valley in Workplace Learning

 Taruna Goel Photography
Taruna Goel Photography

Are you designing and delivering training but find that little or no learning is taking place. Are you trapped in the 'death valley' of workplace learning? Here are a few thoughts and ideas on how, as learning professionals, we can avoid the death valley in workplace learning and instead help sprout the seeds of learning, performance and change:

  • Let individuals take the accountability and responsibility for their own learning. Enable individuals to pull content at their moment of need rather than push content. Integrate learning into work.
  • Encourage individuals to unlearn before they learn. Support them as they let go of knowledge that has served them well. Help them find new knowledge and new ways of interpreting their existing knowledge.
  • Help individuals learn how to learn and enable them to be more self-directed in their efforts. Remind them that self-directed learning is more about autonomy and less about independence.
  • Help individuals move along their maturity continuum and support and guide them as they move from dependence to interdependence.
  • Don't rely only on courses and classroom training to create learning opportunities. Curate and share meaningful and relevant resources including websites, blogs, videos and a community of other individuals who are keen to learn and share.
  • Design structured reflective practices as a part of the learning experience. Relate reflection activities to performance outcomes and contextualize the activities to the learning process.
  • Step away from the know what mindset and start with the know how and know who mindset as a way to design useful learning experiences. Maximize the opportunities to learn by doing.
  • Defocus from smiley sheets, tracking LMS visits and checking off boxes and move towards measuring the real impact of learning by evaluating if and how the work performance has changed.
  • Say "Yes to the Mess" and be open to possibilities and the creative power of teams. Improvise with what you have and believe that something new and creative will emerge.
  • Promote a culture of continuous learning, trying out new things, experimenting with new ideas and embracing failure. Show individuals how to fail well.
  • Remind individuals about all the informal learning that takes place outside the classroom and help them make their own informal learning more visible by recognizing it, assessing it and encouraging them to share it with others.
  • Design and plan for transfer of learning to real-life to enable individuals to use the learning immediately and in the future.
  • Be an empathetic provocateur and question individuals in a supportive way. See yourself as both a facilitator and a partner in their learning journey.
  • Nurture and develop yourself as the seed for learning conversations and a integral node through which individuals can connect with content, peers and experts and develop their own personal learning network.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Adult Educators as Empathetic Provocateurs

These are the days of alternative facts and sweeping declarations of the so called truth. In this complex world, I often find myself reflecting about the role of dialectical thinking in my own life. What are those different views that I am missing? What can I do to become more aware? And more importantly, as an adult educator, what can I do to foster critical thinking in others? 

As per Wikipedia, "Dialectic or dialectics (Greek: διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ), also known as the dialectical method, is a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments. Socrates favoured truth as the highest value, proposing that it could be discovered through reason and logic in discussion: ergo, dialectic."

From the book, International Handbook of Education for the Changing World of Work, Page 2664 "From Mezirow’s perspective, the educator is described as an “empathetic provocateur” and role model who is critically self-reflective and encourages others to consider alternative perspectives. Mezirow ( 1991) contends that a central goal of adult education should involve creating conditions to help adult learners become more critically reflective and “advance developmentally” toward “integrated and discriminating meaning perspectives” (p. 225).”

As an adult educator, when I take on the role of an empathetic provocateur, I am able to encourage critical thinking, challenge underline assumptions and help my clients and participants by providing encouragement to think differently and engage in self-reflection. As an empathetic provocateur, I try to question them in a supportive way and see myself both as a facilitator and a partner in their learning journey. 

Fostering dialectical thinking is perhaps the most challenging yet the most rewarding way to learn and teach. One way that I have been applying dialectical thinking is to challenge any underlying beliefs that my participants may have. For example, some of the participants I interact with believe that ‘students learn best when instruction matches their preferred learning style.’ They come into the session believing they are more ‘visual’, ‘auditory’ or ‘kinetic’. Some clients also expect the use of different instructional strategies to support different learning styles. Although much has been written about how learning styles are a myth including several peer-reviewed scientific articles, TED talks, research reviews, blog posts and videos, this belief continues to be propagated via books, online articles, international conferences and companies that sell products and services based on this myth. When participants or clients bring up this belief in a discussion, I try and point to various resources to offer them another point of view. We are then able to engage in a discussion around our own underlying beliefs and assumptions about learning styles and why this concept may or may not be useful for learners and for adult educators.

As a learner, I find that the use of dialectical thinking enables me to become a better version of myself. When I am learning, I respect facilitators who are able to go beyond what's written in the textbook and encourage me to think in the grey zone. When I am encouraged and supported to engage in dialectical thinking, I find it extremely helpful when others present different views than mine and I am able to accept those views positively. By leveraging dialectical thinking, I become more aware of my own beliefs about certain issues and my underlying assumptions are able to come to surface. I am better able to see my existing frames of reference and filter bubbles and move past those. 

I recently participated in a session on understanding cultural contexts and diversity in the workplace. The facilitator used an interesting technique to encourage dialectic thinking. She cleared the room of all chairs and tables and posted signs that read ‘Agree’ on one side of the room and ‘Disagree’ on the other side of the room and somewhere in the middle she posted signs that said ‘Mostly agree’ and ‘Mostly disagree’. She then shared a few statements and asked us to ‘choose our state’. As she read the statements about culture and workplace behaviour, we were physically supposed to move closest to the each of these four states and then share why we felt the way we did. It was interesting and quite dramatic to see how for a few statements, we were pretty much all on one side of the room and for a few other statements, we were all spread across the room. The discussion that followed was extremely useful in understanding competing views and the paradoxes and contradictions associated with culture and diversity at the workplace. But what was more interesting was that she encouraged us to move and ‘change our state’ after hearing the discussion especially if we believed perhaps we were in the wrong state. 

Arne Tiselius, the author of the book, Place of Value in a World of Facts (Nobel Symposium) said. “We live in a world where unfortunately the distinction between true and false appears to become increasingly blurred by manipulation of facts, by exploitation of uncritical minds, and by the pollution of the language.” 

If such is the world today, what is the role of dialectical thinking in your life?
How do you take on the role of an empathetic provocateur to distinguish between alternative facts and the truth?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What Makes a Successful Self-Directed Learner?

Source: (Creative Commons CC0 license)

Tough (1967, 1971, 1979) proposed the first comprehensive description of self-directed learning, which he termed self-planned learning. Knowles described self‑directed learning as "a process in which individuals take the initiative without the help of others in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating goals, identifying human and material resources, and evaluating learning outcomes".

With these definitions as a guiding lens and after reflecting on the two instruments, Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (OCLI) and Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) to assess self-directness as a personality trait, here are the top 3 attributes that, in my view, are critical to the success of a self-directed learner:

1) Initiative

I was drawn to Guglielmano’s SDLRS quantitative measure of self-directed learning. One of the psychological qualities involved in readiness for self-directed learning as identified by her was initiative. In my view, initiative is the foundational characteristic of self-directed learners. One of the goals of SDL as grounded in the humanist philosophy is personal growth and an underpinning idea espoused by this is the notion of taking a proactive approach towards learning. (Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide, Sharan B. Merriam, Rosemary S. Caffarella, Lisa M., Page 107)

For me, this need for taking a proactive approach is fulfilled through initiative. When learners take initiative, they are designing their own learning experiences that best meet their learning needs and goals. 

2) Self-discipline

The second important attribute of self-directed learners according to me is self-discipline. This is an all encompassing attribute since it relates to many psychological qualities as identified in SDLRS with the most important being accepting responsibility towards one’s own learning, being goal-oriented and staying persistent. 

With self-discipline, learners are able to manage their time and resources and organize their learning as a means to reach their goals. Self-directed learners take control and the responsibility for their own learning and are able to monitor and evaluate their own progress. The OCLI also includes variables like self-efficacy, self-concept and personal responsibility that highlight the same set of characteristics.

3) Autonomy

The term, learner autonomy, was first coined in 1981 by Henri Holec. Autonomy is seen either (or both) as a means or as an end in education. Chene (1983) defines three elements that describe an autonomous learner: independence, the ability to make choices and critical judgement. Further, Candy (1991) adds to Chene’s notion by characterizing autonomous people as those with a strong sense of personal values and beliefs (Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide, Sharan B. Merriam, Rosemary S. Caffarella, Lisa M., Page 122). These values and beliefs give autonomous people a foundation for identifying and selecting goals, exercising choice and restraint and utilizing critical reflection. 
Benn (1976, cited in Candy, 1991: 102) likens the autonomous learner to one 'whose life has a consistency that derives from a coherent set of beliefs, values, and principles and who engages in a still-continuing process of criticism and re-evaluation'. 

Since critical thinking and reflection are core to learning experiences, autonomy as the underlying attribute reflects some of these process or methodological dimensions of self-directed learning. I could also relate autonomy to a few qualities as identified in SDLRS including independence, the tendency to view problems as challenges, a high degree of curiosity and finding enjoyment in learning.

Are you a self-directed learner? What attributes make you successful?

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Core Beliefs About Adult Learning (CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

What are the core beliefs about adult learning and development that guide your practice as an adult educator?

This is the question that our facilitator posed for us for Week 1 of a course on 'Adult Learning and Development ' that I am undertaking with the University of Victoria as a part of the 'Certificate in Adult and Continuing Education/CACE' program. Week 1 is all about understanding our frames of reference (FOR). He explained that 'We think from our beliefs every day as they guide our practice as adult educators; but we too infrequently think about them.'

I must admit that I had not really thought about my core beliefs in a long time. This exercise was all about developing a critical rationale for my practice as an adult educator. I was expected to state my top 5 beliefs, elaborate on their meaning and share how the belief impacts my thoughts, feelings, attitudes, perspective and/or behaviour as an adult educator.

This was a powerful reflective exercise for me and I thought I might be able to start a dialogue with others by sharing my beliefs on my blog. 

My top five fundamental beliefs about adult learning and development are:
  1. I believe that life experiences are critical to learning.
Elaboration: Adults accumulate a wealth of knowledge and life experiences. These positive and negative experiences provide connections between old and new learning. Adults appreciate when this knowledge and experience is respected and the value that participants bring to the training is recognized.

I use prior knowledge and skills as a hook or a context for participants as they process new knowledge. I draw out the wisdom that exists in the room by asking participants to think about what they already know and how their existing knowledge can be applied in new situations. This linking of new material to existing knowledge and experience creates a powerful and relevant learning experience. I am currently designing a training program on customer service skills. One of the activities that I plan to begin with is to ask participants to recall their own experiences of receiving good and/or bad service and identify the characteristics of those customer service experiences. I will then encourage them to draw on these experiences as they relate to the topic.
  1. I believe that adults learn when things are relevant to them.
Elaboration: Adults learn when the material is significant to them and to their current lives. If adults do not see the immediate relevance of the content, they quickly figure out that they don’t need to know it.

As an adult educator, it is important for me to answer the ‘WIIFM’ (What is in it for me?) question on behalf of my participants. Adults want their learning experiences to be relevant, to meet their needs and to help them achieve their goals. When a learning experience demonstrates these characteristics, participants find the learning process more valuable. One of the ways I am able to apply this principle is by having clearly defined goals, objectives, and agenda for the training. Early in the training, I try and highlight to the participants how the training will help them achieve their goals.
  1. I believe that knowledge is constructed in a social context.
Elaboration: Adults need dialogue and social interaction to learn and knowledge is co-created by a community of individuals. Collaborative learning enables participants to use their shared experiences to build upon concepts in ways that are not possible through instruction.

Because of this belief, I have a positive attitude towards social and collaborative learning, which brings me to online CACE courses. I appreciate online discussion forums that enable other participants to add their thoughts to my reflections. When I design learning based on this principle, I create a respectful and open climate and ensure that everyone is treated equal in the learning process. I create structured projects where participants work together. I encourage participants to feel accountable and try to foster an environment in which participants feel free to exchange ideas that are different and leave the room with new shared meanings.
  1. I believe that adults learn by doing.
Elaboration: Adults learn best when they are engaged with the content and are actively involved in the learning process. This happens when they get opportunities to apply what they are learning to solve real-life problems. 

One of the biggest challenges in adult learning and development is bridging the gap between learning and application. The way I see it, learning is not about knowing; it is about doing. When I design training programs, I am conscious of this and focus on the outcomes of learning and what the participants will be able to do at the end of the training. I use examples, scenarios and problem-solving activities that allow participants to apply their learning and see the connection between what is being taught and how it applies on the job.
Recently, I was involved in the design and development of foremen training at various ports in Vancouver. We (jointly with my colleague) implemented a design, which was centered on key tasks that foremen perform on a daily basis. We identified the expected performance standards for each task and the underlying knowledge and key behaviours that must be demonstrated. There was no classroom training and all learning happened on-the-job where foremen performed key tasks and a more experienced mentor provided feedback, direction and support based on the expected performance standards.
  1. I believe that failure is critical to learning.
Elaboration: Learning involves trial and error. True learning happens when participants try to do something and they fail. This expectation failure, when things turn out different from what is expected, is when participants learn.

I have been influenced by this belief around learning from mistake and failure. We learn when we reflect on our mistakes and strive to find better ways. I have designed several learning experiences built around mistakes that participants are likely to perform on-the-job. To scope the training, I focus on 20% of mistakes that cause 80% of problems; critical mistakes. I use task-based scenarios that challenge underlying assumptions and provide an opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment (instead of on the real job). I program the experience in a way that if the participant makes a mistake, they are prompted to review specific, supporting knowledge and feedback. The participants are then taken back to the scenario where they attempt to select the best way forward based on the new found knowledge. 

What do you think about my beliefs? Do you agree/disagree? 

I pose the same question to you now:

What are your core beliefs about adult learning and development that guide your practice as an adult educator?