In focusing on the culture of learning, the form of instruction requires particular consideration. Looking at the three key activities of instruction offers insight to creating content and delivery for learning.
- [Instructor] Because this course focuses on learning, let's explore instruction in more depth. For instruction to happen, you need an instructor, and a learner. But they don't need to be together because instruction can come in so many forms. If you think about it, following a recipe is a form of instruction. The chef wrote down all the ingredients and steps for you to learn how to make the dish. And while they're not there to provide coaching or give you feedback, a hungry learner; pun intended, will use trial and error to get it right. Watching an online video is another form of instruction, as is taking an in person class.
While there are many vehicles through which instruction can occur, like books, videos, apps, and classes, instruction itself happens via three key activities. There are overlaps between them. The first is communication. Whether it's through spoken or written word, delivered real time in person, or through a static mode, the instructor tells the learner what to do and when. The second is demonstration. The instructor shows the learner what the behavior or skill should look like.
The brain is actually wired to learn visually. So seeing a behavior done correctly is far more impactful neurologically than reading or hearing the same thing described. This is because an image can convey thousands of more pieces of information which the brain was built to use. Technology has changed the learning landscape forever. Because now many more instructors can reach learners everywhere. Especially with the powerful mode of video. The third is experimentation.
Which is where the learner starts to do the new behavior and skill. Experimentation is where the real transformation takes place. Because until us learners actually try the behavior, we have yet to form a neural pathway in our own body. As we fire the neurons of doing the skill, you start to build that neural pathway. Hopefully, correctly. And that's a crucial thing to consider. Without someone to provide feedback and coaching, a learner can develop the skill incorrectly.
And by the time we get to 40 to 50 repetitions, our brain has formed a habit. Hopefully it's a good habit. But if it's a bad one, it will now take just as many, if not more repetitions to rewire the correct habit. Instruction is a powerful tool for people to gain new skills. But there's a continuum of how developed those skills need to be. At one end, you have learners who only need a basic level of introductory skill. And at the other, you have learners who need deep expertise and mastery. An employee might be fine knowing the basics of budget management, while the CFO will need deep skills.
Do you want a surgeon operating who knows the basics of tying a surgical knot, or who has mastery? What about the engineer who designs an airplane? Is novice level acceptable, or is expert status required? One of the biggest mistakes I see in organizations is that the learning strategy does not clearly identify the level of skill that different roles need to achieve. As a result, learning initiatives may not create a clear path to mastery. Or resources may not be appropriately assigned to get people to the right level in time.
The other problem I see is that learning programs don't include enough practice to actually change behavior. The only way to get from beginner to master is through hours and hours of practice. Dr. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology, studies how expertise is acquired and maintained. In his book; Peak: Secrets form the New Science of Expertise, he defines an expert as someone who can consistently perform at a very high level. Ericsson found that experts had something in common. They regularly engage in deliberate practice and seek feedback and coaching.
They set goals, focus on improvements, and commit to honing their craft no matter what it might be. Consider who needs to develop high levels of performance in your organization. You should offer well constructed learning paths that get them there, along with access to coaching and time to dedicate to practice. This will ensure that people at all levels of your organization are ready to perform at their best.
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- Establishing a growth mindset
- Integrating learning into your organization
- Empowering through knowledge sharing
- Overcoming obstacles
- Addressing opportunities
- Measuring success