Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 5, no 1
Knowing how to learn effectively is essential for career success as a professional. This article describes 3 ways to develop your learning mastery.
The 3 steps described here are drawn from the work of learning expert Phil Race. He asked 100,000 people about their personal experiences of times that learning worked and when it went wrong. Based on this research, he developed the model of effective learning in the diagram below. Get more from your own learning by taking these 3 strategies and applying them to your next learning experience.
If you like this article, click here to get future issues by requesting a FREE subscription
to Career & Work Life Matters (ISSN 2150-6299).
1. Ask Why
There are many reasons to begin learning something new. Stopping to think about the “why” of your learning is the first step to learning mastery. The impetus to learn begins with a want or need, or a combination of both. Maybe you need to know how to use a new technology. Maybe you need to shift from doing things yourself to delegating because you have new responsibilities in your job. Maybe you want to follow a new interest. Get more by asking what you want to get from your learning.
According to Phil Race, your learning need or want is like a pebble thrown into a pond. Sometimes the ripple gathers force and creates a series of ripples in the water. Sometimes it just flows out and merges back into the surface of the water. Taking the time to get clear on why is essential for mastery.
Learning can be fun and exciting. But it is can also be frustrating or even boring at times. How do you stay on track?
2. Create your Own Process of Active Engagement
There will always be distractions and competing demands on your time. Say for example you decide to learn how to delegate effectively. You begin by reading a few articles about delegating. At this point, you are taking in new information. But to learn you need to do more.
According to Race, some form of doing is essential for effective learning. Active engagement is needed to “get your head around something”. He describes this as the difference between “taking notes” and “making notes”. Making notes is a process of converting the information into a new form that you create. Through this you are taking ownership of your learning.
Think about a current learning project or one that you are planning to do soon. What one or two steps will you add to not only gather information but also begin to make sense of it through processing the information?
3. Prepare for a Plateau
In the beginning of a learning project, there is a lot happening. There is a lot of new information. You feel as if you are making progress. But how do you continue to deepen your learning? What do you do when you encounter obstacles and things slow down?
At times, you may feel as if you’ve stopped learning or that the demands outweigh the benefits. For example, if you’re learning how to delegate, training and supervising someone else takes longer in the beginning than doing it yourself. This may be a good time to rekindle your motivation by reminding yourself why you are investing in this learning.
As you’ll see from the diagram of Race ‘s learning model, you can enhance your learning by monitoring your own understanding and by finding ways to communicate with others about what you are learning. How does your understanding compare with other sources? Where are the gaps? Sharing what you are learning with others through explanation or demonstrating helps you to quickly identify questions that you still have and gaps in your understanding.
Learning mastery begins with knowing what you want from learning. Identifying and using proactive learning strategies enable you to take ownership of your learning. You can monitor your progress towards your desired outcomes, handle obstacles and adjust as needed. This proactive approach puts you on the road to learning mastery.