Your learning mirror

Your learning mirror

“Self-awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.”

As the American business guru, Larry Bossidy, makes clear, we need to be self-aware if we are to develop. It involves checking yourself in your ‘learning mirror’ and acknowledging what you see. The ‘learning mirror’ lets us see what we already know but it helps identify those things we can improve upon.

Mirror, mirror…

Do you remember the Wicked Queen in Snow White? Her ruthless approach to being named the most beautiful woman in the land, led her to try to murder the incumbent. Whereas, she would have been better off finding ways to improve herself. But that’s villains for you!

The analogy works with learning too.

So, let us ask you a few questions:

Q: To what extent do you encourage your learners to understand themselves? How do they find out what they’re good at? How do they focus their attention on their self-development?

The danger is, rather like the Wicked Queen, if learning is imposed by other people, who have their own learning metrics, it can cause learners to react to external validation only. They’re encouraged to measure themselves by what everyone else thinks.

Whereas, when learning addresses internal needs, it brings personal satisfaction. It enhances motivation and goal setting.

Of course, every organisation needs to provide training to achieve company goals. We’re not suggesting you forget those compliance courses everyone needs to complete. What we’re saying is that training should include personal development – and it should have equal status.

Here are some more questions to consider:

  1. How much value is currently placed on your learners knowing their personal strengths and areas for development?
  2. To what extent do they have a say in developing these areas? If the answer to that question is “none” – are you in danger of imposing entirely external validation?
  3. How do learners feedback to you about their training?
    1. Do they only respond to questions about the course itself?
    2. Can they suggest perceived needs in an open forum?
    3. Can they suggest perceived needs privately to managers?
    4. Is there a representative panel which consults with the workforce?
  4. Is training always geared to ‘hard’ goals (such as company targets) or are there opportunities for ‘soft’ goals – such as the acquisition of things like leadership, types of communication or even resilience?
  5. Are all learners treated the same or do you consciously differentiate? In other words, not all learners are the same, they think/learn differently. Do you accommodate this?

Reflection is a skill. As the famous American dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp once said, “No one is born with skill. It is developed through exercise, through repetition, through a blend of learning and reflection that’s both painstaking and rewarding.”

Useful resources

Knowing how to build it into your training programmes is vital. Here are a few theoretical models that are worth exploring. The article suggests advantages and drawbacks to each theory so you can select the one that fits your training needs best. https://lifelonglearningwithot.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/different-models-of-reflection-using-them-to-help-me-reflect/

If this is new to you and your organisation, we’d suggest the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle which, as its name suggests, is a simple 6 stage approach that focuses entirely on self-reflection: https://skillsforlearning.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/preview/content/models/03.shtml

Our final point responds to anyone who says that there isn’t time for reflection in a busy training schedule. That view rather misses the point of what we’re saying here. Self-reflection is a skill, an action. It is a process a learner needs to go through in order to understand how learning applies to them. The “What’s in it for me?” approach. Remember what we said earlier; when learning is imposed externally, it will only provide superficial external validation. It’s the Wicked Queen’s approach.

Self-reflection personalises learning. It helps you look in the mirror and ask – “How is this going to help me?”

And isn’t that what all learning should do?

Phil Parker, Learning Development Consultant, Nimble Elearning 


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