What We Know About How Adults Learn
We often talk about principles of adult learning (andragogy popularised through the work of Malcolm Knowles), but there are a few other things we now know that can help us provide more meaningful, flexible and impactful solutions to developing workers and helping them perform in the workplace.
These six points were developed by Jay Cross, the international informal learning expert, and serve as reference points to help you identify and plan development opportunities.
Consider how you might use each of these to guide you as you develop practical solutions in your plan to implement the 70:20:10 framework.
1. People learn more about their work informally than formally
Most learning happens on the job, through challenging experiences and through others. This learning happens every day, but is often left to chance.
There are opportunities for the learning function to identify ways to make informal or workplace learning intentional – building the scaffold that ensures workplace experiences are positive and impactful.
2. ‘Novices’ will learn a greater proportion formally
Structured learning is an important aspect of development. 70:20:10 recognises the importance of formal development and reinforces the need to contextualise to meet the needs of each specific situation.
Novices by their nature are new to tasks and/or the broader environment. Structured learning can provide a positive foundation for building knowledge, skills and mindsets required to perform.
The opportunity for the learning function is to balance the requirement for formal development with social and experiential learning. Explore ways to add, embed and extract learning with work to support workplace performance. Consider options for flexible delivery that engage workers and support improved speed to productivity.
3. ‘Veterans’ will rely more on informal learning
One characteristic of high performing individuals is that they are likely to have mastered the basics as a result of structured development and workplace experience. Social and experiential learning are the keys to helping them perform and improve.
Solutions that embed learning in the workflow can be used to help solve workplace problems. A focus on extracting learning from work can also support continuous improvement. Collaborative approaches allow knowledge to be built and shared on a continual basis.
4. Formal works best with explicit
Knowledge that can easily be codified within documents and relates to core concepts is best suited to formal learning.
There are opportunities for the learning function to create flexible means for workers to understand core concepts and to link them more closely with the workplace context and tasks. This may involve the provision of short eLearning modules, checklists, job aids, guides and other tools.
5. Informal works best with tacit
Knowledge workers deal with complex problems in an environment of constant change. The dynamic nature of the modern workplace means much of what workers need to do cannot be easily documented or kept up to date and may be difficult to explain. In these environments, workers need to learn by watching and doing, with support from colleagues.
There are opportunities for the learning function to provide scaffolding to support knowledge sharing, workplace coaching and opportunities to practice – embedding learning in the workflow and extracting learning from work.
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