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Fiona Pollock

Zostera Ltd

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock

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Invest in your people: teach them how to learn


I sat the other day watching my 1 year old son playing with his duplo blocks.  He was trying to build the biggest tower known to man (well, in his eyes anyway!).  But being only a baby and fairly uncoordinated, he wasn’t always managing to get the blocks to connect straight away. He kept at it and after a few tries he was able to connect one block to another only to start the whole process all over again with the next block.

But he was happy so I left him to it.

Another few minutes passed and he was on the move.  Some of the best blocks were on the sofa and these were (of course) the ones he wanted.  He tried to climb up, but couldn’t quite manage, so off he toddled, back to the duplo box.

“He’s given up” I thought, but as I watched he pulled his box from the center of the room over to the sofa and tried to use it to stand on to give him a “leg up” as it were.  No joy unfortunately as the box had no lid on he just ended up standing in the box.  No problem for him though and off he went again for the lid.  This time, having put the lid on the box, then climbed on the box he was able to get on the sofa and get the prized blocks for his tower.  Very pleased with himself, he climbed down and went back to building.

This kind of story is repeated by children of all ages all over the world, several times a day.  They naturally undertake single loop (not changing their approach, but carrying on trying) and double loop (adapting their approach to achieve their goal) learning without any prompting or fanfare.  It’s intuitive.

Somewhere along the way though, it seems we lose our natural ability to learn in this way and we seek to be ‘taught’.

I would go out on a limb and say that our current education system is at least partly to blame.  Traditionally this is based on a pedagogic relationship between the teacher and pupil where the teacher determines what the pupil needs to learn and how they are going to learn it.

Although changes have taken place in education over recent years, the generation which make up majority of the workforce experienced this more traditional model, and many now find themselves waiting for the same spoon-feeding in the workplace.

Even the youngest members of the workforce, those dubbed Gen Y, with all their technological know-how struggle to apply the knowledge that they gather with such ease.  They have a surface level knowledge of many things, but don’t necessarily have the in-depth knowledge of a subject to truly understand it.

And yet, we all have this in-built ability to teach ourselves using a variety of methods.  It may have been pushed to the back of our minds with everything else we’re trying to cram in there, but it strikes me that if we invested time in showing people how they learn, that they would be able to learn many other things without our intervention.

By becoming truly self-directed in their learning, individuals will feel accountable, empowered and engaged – all great things for any organisation…. but can we as Managers/Facilitators/Trainers let go?  Are WE ready to cut the apron strings?

One Response

  1. Well, I never understood

    Well, I never understood people who are just following the given instructions. That isn't a way to get good at anything. Even during my educational period when all of my mates were just getting their essays on the internet, I couldn't hold myself from getting few of them from any resource, for example, reading them along with other articles and info, and then coming up with something of my own, rather than just mindlessly using ideas of some other person. What I mean is we shouldn't deny experience of those who came before us, but unless we think outside the box, there's no real development or improvement to what we do.

Author Profile Picture
Fiona Pollock

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock

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