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Learning to Learn


Bill gates went to visit a Seattle-based charter school called Summit Sierra which he thinks could be the future of learning. In this school, they adopt a learning model called personalised learning. In Bill Gates blog post, he further explained how the learning works. To start with, students need to set a goal. For example, "I want to get into Harvard". Working with teachers, students develop a personalised learning plan in the software. They can see all the courses they need to meet their goal, how they're doing in each class and what it will take to get a given grade. They set weekly objectives and note their progress in the software. Teachers at Summit get matched with students who they'll mentor.

I do belief that this is the way to learn in this volatile and changing world. This got me thinking how we can adopt personalised learning in the workplace.

1. Individuals want to learn and grow In Sierra, the students decide on what they want to learn based on their goals. This is a pre-requisite for personalised learning to be successful. Individuals in the workplace must have the motivation to do a better job or achieve greater performance. You have to set a clear goal as to what you want to achieve first, knowing what specific areas for growth that you would like investigate. The driving forces are mostly intrinsic. They may include a need for achievement, a need for power over others, even a need to do good in the organisation. Once an individual find out the "why" of learning, then the "what" of the learning goal can be emerged from performance assessments, competency maps and guidance provided by coaches, your managers or mentors.

2. Invest in coaching practices Like the school teacher's role is to shift from teaching to coaching. Caring organisations should consider building internal or hire external coaches. This is to support individual employees who want to develop but unclear about the goals, how to turn the goals into actions or those who might have a low self-efficacy in achieving what they want. Coaching can also help high potential managers to move to the next level much quicker by understanding their true or perceived limitations. This is a powerful way to support individuals who get stuck somewhere in their goal achieving process.

3. Encourage experienced managers to take up the role as mentor I am a very big advocate for the mentoring relationship because i have seen how powerfully it works to guide people. The manager mentor uses his or her knowledge and experience of the job, and can say specifically " This is how it works here". When people understand what they have to do in order to advance, they are motivated to learn, excel and serve as role models. They can also guide employees as to what they need to acquire and can give feedback as to their progress. Employees can choose to participate in this mentoring relationship as they see fit.

4. Provide practice opportunities We all know that performance comes from practice. Assigning relevant project based learnings, taking up acting roles, designing practices on certain job tasks are a few examples that a manager/mentor can think of providing in order to support the development of the individual goal. Don't underestimate the power of these deliberate practices, the continued practice not only enables individuals to maintain or elevate the required skills set of individual but also raised standards of performance of organisation capabilities over time.

5. Build a Learning Community One of the distinctive components of the school personalised learning is that they learn from each other. They form a community of teachers and students and thrive to contribute and learn at the same time. Many companies have also built " Communities of Practice". People who are either of the same job functions or interests coming together to hear how others in their regions are engaged and to create new work practices or documentations that they feel are missing from their profession. The shared work, stories and artefacts give their meetings a sense of purpose.

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