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Personal Responsibility for Learning September 28, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in Informal learning, Learning.
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As the month of September comes to a close, I thought I’d squeak in my response to the Learning Circuit’s big question on To-Learn Lists. I started by spending some time reading everyone else’s responses, and I learned a lot. Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and lists.

To-Learn lists can help shorten to-do lists
Like everyone else I believe that knowledge workers need to learn continuously to stay abreast of their industries and that to-learn lists are a good way to do that. I also think that to-learn lists can help us shorten and better target those long to-do lists.

In the old paradigm, managers were responsible for an employee’s learning
Tony’s questions on to-learn lists got me thinking about the whole idea of personal responsibility for learning. In the old paradigm, much of the responsibility for a worker’s learning was on the corporation or the worker’s manager. Human resources and/or managers came up with employees’ learning development plans and decided what learning opportunities to make available: Which classes would be approved for next year?

We should be responsible for our own learning
But those who move up in their careers ultimately realize that the responsibility for learning rests on themselves. And while they may work with their managers to make that learning happen, they no longer rely on their managers to plan their development. In many cases, they guide their managers: Here’s the training I’d like to take this year.

Today’s technologies make it easy to develop a personal learning plan
Today’s technologies have enabled informal learning so that it’s easier than ever to develop and act upon a personal learning plan. The first step, and possibly the hardest step (for me anyway) is to set clear learning goals. But once you know where you’re going, development options are many and mostly free. Based on your goals, you can set up your to-learn list. Then venture out to the wide open Web for blogs, social networks, articles, Webinars, colleagues, wikis, videos, tutorials, and all kinds of resources to help you meet your goals and check off items on your to-learn list. Many people are creating their own Personal Learning Environments to help capture their learning and share it with others. Michelle Martin at the Bamboo Project Blog has a whole section devoted to PLEs, with lots of useful advice for setting one up.

Your personal learning plan is not complete, however, without personal measures of success
In The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni makes the case that managers need to help employees come up with personal measures of success so that they can objectively know for themselves when they’re succeeding. Taking that a step further, I’d say that those who want to move up in their careers need to develop their own personal measures of success. They may want to share those with their managers so that they can be sure to align with their organization’s requirements. But at the end of the day, as managers come and go, organizations change directions, new technologies arise, and industries transform overnight, each of us needs to have our own standards and take the steps needed to meet those standards.

So, here is my to-do list, inspired by the Learning Circuits Big Question on To-Learn Lists: 

1. Define my goals.

2. Make a to-learn list based on those goals.

3. Identify ways to check off the items on my to-learn list.

4. Define my personal measures of success.

5. Set up a Personal Learning Environment to capture and share what I learn.

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