Monday, 17 October 2011

Glimpses of learning

As I develop this blog about learning in practice I thought that I would start by saying something about the nature of how I am learning, my experiences of it and some reflections on what seems to help.  

1) I notice that my learning feels random and messy.  I gather a series of random insights; glimpses of learning that encourage, validate, challenge and so on. For example, I pick up a newspaper or a book and start reading.  As I start reading, something in the text sparks something of interest and I pay attention.  If it is sufficiently interesting I might then do one of several things: I rip out articles from newspapers; or, I make notes in the margin of a book or magazine; or I open Evernote and make some notes. This latter technique is something that I've started doing over the past couple of months and I'm finding it very useful as an aide to memory and infinitely more efficient as I have all my notes in one place, tagged by topic.

2)  I notice the provisional nature of what I am learning.  By provisional, I'm meaning that it's not always apparent how the insights might be applied.  Although I can't always be sure where or how the ideas might be applied, making notes at least gives me some chance of picking up the threads at a later date.

3)  Confidence to follow one's learning interests seems to be important.  But I've found this difficult.  When I was working for my MA in Management Learning between 2006 and 2008 I made the following note on the peer learning site: 

The thing I still find quite tough is giving voice to my own practice ....versus the models and theories that are already 'out there'.  In other words the former is less important than the latter.  To deal with this I have a sense of needing to try and know all that there is to know first - a hopelessly unrealistic task in itself - before being able to bring what I know or have experienced.  I've decided to stop fighting this and to get down first what I'm thinking or feeling about an issue that I've researched, what's important and so on, and then matching this up against what I think I need to find out; the assumptions I might be making.  Listening to my inner voice and letting myself discover things seems to be part of the way forward.”

4) As I've developed my practice interests in management learning, the experiences and activities that seem to have been most important to me are these:
  • being a manager at work and as a volunteer in the Scout Association.  The volunteer role has added a lot of breadth to my experience because when managing volunteers you have to play to people's interests and strengths; you don't have the 'carrots and sticks' of financial rewards and sanctions
  • teaching/facilitating the learning of others
  • parenting
  • my Masters studies.  The assignment writing, commenting on and marking peer's papers, critical thinking and research skills have really moved me on. 
  • reading lots of different things from blogs, books on leadership topics, articles, newspapers ....almost anything counts.
  • making connections back to earlier experiences  
The point about all this is that it isn't structured or contained within a few formal courses.  Things come at me all the time and the learning skill seems to be in noticing what it is that's going on around you and then noting it in some way for later reflection.

And what drives me on in the field of management learning is in shaping practice.  I'm always interested in conversations that are about questioning, challenging and thinking critically about the status quo.   
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