I’ve been reading some tremendous posts recently about learning – what it is, how it’s changing, and how it feels to learn.
In ‘The application of psychology to L&D’, Sukh Pabial describes learning as “self-discovery, reflection, sharing of thoughts insights”, and suggests that people need “safety, respect, to be acknowledged”.
In ‘#rawthought: The Beauty of Backwards Learning’, Amy Burvall picks up on the psychological, how-it-feels, thread in a wonderful post that makes an impact from the off. She asks “Have you ever thought yourself to be a fraud in some respect? Have you questioned your so-called “expertise” in your field?” Er, yes. All the time.
Referencing the Talking Heads song, she asks “How did I get here?”. Amy concludes her post by saying that “perhaps the best things happen by way of the backroads”. I can’t tell you how much I love this post.
In ‘Learning is in the struggle’, Steve Wheeler reflects on learning being in the struggle, not in the teaching. He points the reader to James Nottingham’s video about creating ‘learning pits’.
This is where children can “question, challenge, and wonder together”. He wants them to experience a “cognitive wobble”, an intellectual dilemma around concepts (more than facts). For example, Paris is the capital city of France. Fact. But what is a capital city? Concept.
These posts all got me to thinking about learning. In particular something that is beginning to niggle at me, and that is the need for performance-based learning to be both fast and slow.
Amy talks in her post about “learning on the spot – or else!”. It’s emergency, sink or swim, needs-driven learning. Yep, like all of us, I imagine, been there done that. And it has sometimes been painful.
I’m sensing gathering interest in workplace learning linked to performance support. This is summed up by a shift from courses to resources, where learning that takes place all the time – in the flow of work – is supported by resources created from capturing what successful people do.
I’m a big fan of fast, in-the-moment, performance-based learning. It’s partly what my Tiny Triumphs learning experiments are about. Do something, and learn from what you do. But they also include elements of slow learning.
This is deliberate, time-out, reflective learning – like James Nottingham’s ‘Learning Pit’. Maybe call it a Thinking Pit for business focus? Or Time-Out Pit? Strategy Pit?
I think there’s a danger in over-looking slow learning in the rush to focus on in-the-moment performance. I’m not suggesting interminable navel-gazing – that’s a danger. (I could do with learning to learn a bit more quickly). I am suggesting making time for quick check-ins: Did it work? Why? Why not?
And there is a definite need from time to time to step back and ask question like: Are we still doing the right thing? How do we know? What’s happening? How’s it affecting us? Do we need to adapt? How? What are our options? Where are the conflicts / paradoxes? What can we do about it? What are the risks? What are our criteria for deciding? And so on.
Thinking and Doing
The 12-week Tiny Triumphs learning experience that I’ve been developing incorporates thinking and doing, fast and slow. My mantra is Diagnose, Do, Develop.
Diagnose is slow (but not too slow): What do you want to do? What skills are you going to need? What resources do you think you’ll need?
The Resource Grid is a work-in-progress. It’s a combination of two check-lists – themes linked to what you want to do on the vertical, and five high-level skills you’ll need to do it along the top. The grid squares expand to capture thoughts about resources, people, information etc.
Do is fast, including on-the-go reflections about what’s happening and what to do about it.
Develop is what’s next? This is reflective and back to slow again – but of course, not too slow.
My big learning in writing this post is that I really need to practice fast doing and learning. I’m reminded of Jacques Tati’s postman in Jour de Fête, who is trying very unsuccessfully to copy American fast methods. He rides around slowly, and hopelessly ineffective, saying ‘rapidité, rapidite’. And just because it’s the weekend, here’s a clip.
* The title of the post is blatantly influenced by the title of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s best-selling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.