What’s the first thing a learning team should be doing?

14 Feb 2018 |Written by Kevin Maye

Kevin Maye, Learning and Development Manager, muses on how learning theory can help his team improve the Learn My Way offer.

That's a fine rhetorical question, and of course I've got an answer: LEARNING.

Learning how to make great learning experiences for other people. Learning how to be more effective or efficient. Learning how to automate transitions between slides in Powerpoint. I'm not bothered what a learning team is learning as long as they're learning.

I joined the Modern Learning Leader programme run by Suhkvinder Pabial last summer. This programme examined different aspects of learning leadership using modern learning techniques. After the final face to face session I was ready to pass things along and start to be a learning leader.

Back in the day job, with projects and learning designers to manage, how do I put that into practise?

Surely it's more important to get on with doing the things that work to get people learning?

But what if the things we're doing could be more effective? What if what we've always done is making things worse not better? How would we know?

Luckily there's loads of learning theories around. Some with a strong scientific base, some that feel right anyway, some with no basis that anyone could see.

70:20:10, gamification, spaced practice, blended learning - it could be learning buzzword bingo but it's a selection of things that might or might not be important to our learning team and what we do.

So the big question is, What does [learning theory] mean to us as a learning team?

The second part of that question is actually key. There's a lot written about these learning theories (and more). But what's written doesn't always reflect our context.

To improve our learning offer we need to make the connect between our context and effective learning theory.

Each month we're getting together as a team to spend 2 hours examining a different learning theory and using some of those modern learning techniques to help us organise our thinking.

In February we're going to talk about game based learning. We'll have a discussion. Try some wild writing and finish with some sort of discussion/group decision making about what we'll do.

Sounds great right?

Actually it's more effective than you might think. In January we talked about 70:20:10 (Charles Jennings writes extensively about this). We recognise that Learn My Way courses are in the 10 (formal learning events either in the classroom or online), but that what Online Centres do is often about the 20 (social learning, talking and working through things with other people).

Which made us think, what can we do about the 70 (learning by doing)? We can't do things for real in Learn My Way courses (we have practise activities but practise isn't the same as real).

What we can do is add prompts to suggest people break off from learning with Learn My Way to try things out for real. Or give the Online Centres we work with suggestions of things to try for real.

We're currently lining up an experiment to see if those suggestions work so fingers crossed we'll be shouting about our successes soon.