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11 Ways to Enrich Your Learning Experiences

December 15, 2010

11 Ways to Enrich Your Learning Experiences

Have you ever thought about how you can teach yourself to learn more effectively and robustly? Adults learn differently from children. To advance our own personal development effectively, it’s important to understand how we, as adults, actually learn. Then we can identify, pursue or create experiences that will help us achieve personal skill and knowledge development objectives. Our personal growth, and ultimately our ability to flourish and feel fulfilled, is bound up in our ability to learn and being self-reliant learners when we need to be.

The set of strategies by which adults learn is called andragogy, largely based on the research and theories of Malcolm Knowles. Pedagogy is the process by which children learn, and somewhere in our teenage years our learning orientation transitions from one to the other.

Have you ever watched children teach themselves a new software program? Most of them begin clicking on everything they see that might be a link or could make something happen. It may seem like there is no rhyme or reason to their process. It is often purely curiosity driven. They are exploring and figure things out without a set objective. Their approach has great breadth but may lack depth.

Adults, on the other hand, teach themselves how to use software and just about anything else with an objective in mind. They are usually interested in specific applications to accomplish tasks or achieve goals. Adults seek to learn for immediate use, therefore their focus is narrow. They want to learn selected applications well and usually don’t concentrate on other potential learning opportunities. For example, I know certain parts of Word and PowerPoint very well and other parts not at all because I don’t need them, or more likely don’t realize how they can be useful in my work. A child’s the task orientation frequently follows a wide exploration process, and they often seek to learn things they may never use. That’s one of the differences between how adults and children learn. Here are some others:

  • Adults need to understand the purpose for learning something. Children usually do not question that until older.
  • Adult learning is problem or task focused. Child learning is mostly content focused.
  • Adults respond effectively to intrinsic or internal motivators. Children respond more to external motivators or incentives.
  • Experience, including trial and error, is a critical component of adult learning.

With all of this in mind, how do you enrich your learn experiences? Here are ten suggestions:

  1. Know why you are learning whatever it is you wish to master.
  2. Understand the benefits of acquiring the knowledge or skills.
  3. Take responsibility and accountability for your own learning. Plan the process.
  4. Identify how your learning objectives build on your strengths, past learning, and prior lessons learned.
  5. Structure your learning experiences so they connect with or intrinsic motivational needs. This may entail breaking the task or learning objectives into bite-size pieces, and tackling them successively as you develop competence in earlier steps. Interim or incremental successes are usually intrinsically reinforcing. You may also find that working with a partner is enriching and reinforcing, especially if you enjoy working together and your strengths complement each other.
  6. Make the process fun and have fun.
  7. Experiment with new techniques and ideas. Discover what works well and what does not. Strive to continually improve.
  8. Identify safe opportunities or experiences for learning, so when you make mistakes or have setbacks the consequences are as insignificant as possible. The idea is to pilot test your emerging skills and knowledge before applying them when it really counts.
  9. Assess how mistakes occurred and identify specific steps to improve. Seek feedback and coaching for an outside perspective.
  10. Remain flexible. Be open and prepared to making mid-course corrections. Find your niche and remember, to paraphrase Voltaire, pursuit of perfection can be the enemy of the good, and lead to a lot of unnecessary frustration.
  11. Celebrate your successes, even if just with yourself.

Have fun learning and growing, and finding new ways to flourish and lead a fulfilling life.

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If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in “Acquiring Wisdom from the Lessons of Life”

We post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Friday’s post is about how a homeless man became a Facebook champion for the homeless, and how it enriched his life.

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Copyright © 2010 F3 Forum, LLC. All rights reserved.

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