Rather than define learning as formal or informal, why not provide learners directions that guide them to learn job competencies especially, through job based experiences?
The idea of guiding self-directed learning is a very practical approach. Rather than define learning as formal or informal, why not provide learners directions that guide them to learn job competencies especially, through job based experiences?
After years of designing and implementing competency based training, I have come to support the research that says how you apply knowledge is linked to how and where that knowledge was acquired. I have found that 90 percent of job competencies are learnable on the job through guided job-based experiences involving observation and working with role models, inquiry, problem solving, analyzing processes, and social and collaborative learning activities. The other 10 percent typically represent behavioral or complex skills not easily learned on the job. Learning on the job and applying acquired skills under real job conditions creates opportunities not associated with traditional training approaches. This prepares learners for the job before they enter it.
Build a Learner Guided System
Developing a guided learning approach consists of three elements:
Construct Training Guides
A training guide is created for each competency and contains the following four parts:
Create Standards of Performance. Each learning activity has a standard of performance to guide evaluation. Criteria such as timing, context, quality, correctness, etc and the organization’s current or future policy and procedural standards are considered. In essence, a criterion referenced approach is applied.
Managing the process of evaluation is greatly enhanced by using the idea of "learning contracts." For each training guide, a designated coach/advisor/mentor signs off that the learner has mastered all agreed to elements of the competency.
As learning activities are worked on, learners receive positive, immediate, and continuous feedback as they accomplish each training activity. Further feedback occurs as they master each competency.
By learning job competencies that are practiced on the job, learners achieve a high level of retention and application, which significantly enhances future job performance.
The benefits of constructing a learner guided framework go beyond a mere training application. For individual employees, clear expectations of the training program, as well as the job itself, are set forth. For the organization, a competency model is developed that can be used for training, selection, career development, and performance appraisal.
Harness the Power of Self-Directed Learning Strategies
In its simplest definition, self-directed learning allows the learner control over multiple options for learning. To further increase the value of a learner-guided approach, the following self-directed learning strategies are prescribed:
Allow Self-Paced Learning. With employees becoming more diverse in the workplace, self-pacing recognizes that learners differ in how they learn and in the length of time it takes them to learn.
Advantages of self-pacing include:
Strive for Mastery Learning. In the Mastery approach, those who have difficulty in gaining mastery are given more opportunities to gain mastery. Typically, learners decide on the amount of practice needed and are responsible for requesting evaluation of competency completion.
Allow Individualize Instruction. Individualized instruction represents a process of custom- tailoring training to fit a particular learner. In a learner-guided system, individualization can be done at the beginning of training, with an assessment and then during training by allowing learners to by-pass elements of a program if they can demonstrate mastery.
Allow Learners to Self-Manage Their Program. With a learner-guided approach, employees decide how to organize training guides. They plan their time, schedule learning activities, select resources, and arrange performance evaluation. In essence, they practice management skills to successfully complete their training program.
Make Technology Helpful. The learner-guided approach views technology as a tool. In this capacity, technology serves two roles. First, as a resource for acquiring information through ubiquitous tools such as e-mail, Internet, and sources for information that support job-based learning. Second, as a tool to manage and facilitate learning outcomes for the learner and the organization.
The following are important ways technology can support a learner-guided system:
In summary, real accomplishments result when a learner-guided approach is implemented. On a personal level, learner guided training projects I've been involved with not only produced significant reductions in training time and costs, they also had a big impact on employee retention. Organizations that are working hard to make changes due to economic pressures, employee demographics, or a desire for their employees to assume more responsibility for their development should take a hard look at applying a learner-guided approach.
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