This sounds Incredibly simple, and you ay even be thinking, “so what does the tutor do? ‘ Unfortunately learners in our care rarely take on this responsibility and, therefore, it is the role of the tutor to make a subtle change happen. Donaldson (4) has suggested that knowledge becomes understanding when things matter; so in terms of learning it is the role of the tutor to enable learners to understand that it does matter and that therefore they need to take on that responsibility. Sometimes this task is earlier said than done! The learning style which AS uses is based on the following simple principles:
People learn best from experience; their own or sometimes other people’s. People learn things differently. People need to learn deferent things. The best learning happens when we feel in charge of it, when we have responsibility. People cannot be forced to learn. How can people become self-managed learners? While It Is wrong to generalize, It Is true to say that most people regard development as something done to them rather than something they do for themselves – so how do people become responsible for their own learning? There Is much In Donaldson’ statement about making things matter – so how does this happen? Fortunately, to misquote a well known proverb, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it gather moss”! The difficulty has been that developers have tended to assume that it would be easy. To achieve self-managed learning. Early in the relationship learners are dependent on the developer and take low responsibility for their learning; in this ‘infant stage’ learners look to the developer to provide structure and context. Ultimately, in a mature relationship, this should reverse, with high learner responsibility and low dependency on the developer.
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Before this point is reached, however, there is a transition period, in which learners start to take on the responsibility while tutors let go. This ‘adolescent’ phase can be challenging for both parties – difficult for learners as they find their feet and hard for the egocentric tutors to ‘let go. I hope this sounds familiar s it is the same challenge which developers face with managers – I spend a lot of my time trying to help managers ‘let go’ of their traditional roles, delegate responsibility and empower their staff.
This continuum is shown in Figure 1. Self-managed learning can be related to Ravens’ (5) famous equation.. L = P + Q’ or, Learning = Programmed knowledge + Questioning insight. Ravens defined ‘programmed knowledge’ (P) as the information that we are taught, often in an abstract way and generally using a fairly didactic style. ‘Questioning insight’ (Q) is the additional element that represents the learner challenging and questioning the ‘programmed knowledge’ to create real learning (L). The advent of the ‘Q’ represents the factor of what ‘matters.
So by relating this equation to the above continuum it is possible to interchange tutor dependency for ‘programmed knowledge’ (P) and the ‘responsibility for earning line for ‘questioning insight’ (Q). Hopefully, this will help to make more sense of Ian Cunningham earlier quoted statement about self-managed learning. [picture] What about the practice of self-managed learning? In practice, it is the role of the developer to create an environment in which people can take on the responsibility for their own learning.
Elements of this environment can include: helping learners to isolate what they really need; changing perceptions on learning; giving the skills to learn and to take on that responsibility; providing support and creating the ‘right’ atmosphere. On short programmer, creating the right atmosphere – one which embodies all these components – is a tremendous challenge. As a management developer, the primary element within my control is the relationship which I create with the learners and, if there is a fundamental honesty and atmosphere of equality, then I will be able to engage more effectively with those in my care.
These elements are strongly linked and represent an open admission that I bring with me different skills, ideas and experiences and am offering them in the hope that those sitting at the same table will do likewise. I am currently doing more research into the nature of effective developmental relationships and engaging – so watch this space! An example of a short programmer in which we have used the concept of self- managed learning is that which we have developed with for some of our clients on culture change under the banner of ‘The Way Forward’.
This initiative aimed to enable people to take on increased responsibility for their Jobs and to liberate their energy and experience. Working with all levels of the organization, a series of workshops was run which focused on responsibility and personal development. One of the most difficult elements in the programmer was helping people to understand that they themselves were responsible for defining and developing the new culture and not a third party – this realization was a shock to some and caused a little unease!
However, it must surely be one of the life’s conundrums that in the early stages of creating an empowered culture, and one that is presumably self-managing, people expect to be told what to do! The workshops provided a safe practice ground for individuals to take on responsibility for their own learning, responsibility for others and, ultimately, the lute of the organization in which they worked. Cultural impacts Now you may be thinking that this has the potential to be a somewhat anarchic solution causing an organization to fragment without a unified culture.
In reality, the culture which was defined was surprisingly uniform. In answer to the question, “How do you like to be treated? “, the responses which shaped the culture were common- sense and based on everyday notions of humanity, if nothing else. About throwing the baby out with the bath water’, but built on the successes of the past and everyone’s shared aspirations for the future. In the workshops, the tutors structured the early part of the programmer, before helping the participants to define their own agendas.
Ultimately the programmer, and meeting the needs of the learners, became the responsibilities of the participants, with the tutors becoming one of the available resources. In the 18 months since the start of the programmer, there has been considerable success, both individually and organizationally (performance improvement being clearly measurable) through individuals becoming self managing and taking on greater responsibility. Applications of self-managed learning
There is, no doubt, a feeling that self-managed learning is a somewhat fringe activity and unrelated to mainstream development. It was this that prompted AS to develop it into a process which would link initiatives, such as MIMIC and competence-based training, with individual development needs. Our experience with groups is a workshop setting enabled us to developed self-managed learning as a longer term relationship in the form of a BITE-accredited Certificate in management Studies.
On longer programmer, the luxury of time can enable s deeper, more effective relationship to be developed between learners and developer. Using the MIMIC framework for managing people, the programmer commences by establishing clear learning contracts between participants and tutors. The process which has probed most successful is to establish learning sets, with a trained set advisor, drawn from within the organization and using the whole of the organization as a learning resource.
Preferably the set advisor is a senior manager who, once trained, can enable individuals to appreciate their role in the organization and the difference they can make. It is crucial that people in the organization become the principal learning resource as his ensures that all the learning is appropriate to the organization and builds links between departments. It is ironic that most people on SMS or DMS course lean about the finances of another company, when the learning resource is readily available in their own company!
At Sun Valley, the approach has been linked successfully to performance improvement, with huge attributable benefits. The approach, because of wide- reaching scope and strong company focus, has become as much about organizational development as it is about manager development. Finally cutting exercise in training – although this is undeniably a beneficial side effect! The commitment that individuals and organizations need to make is considerably ore than it required by traditional methods where training and development are viewed essentially as a sheep-dip process.
If the requirement is for individual to take responsibility, then it is equally incumbent on the organization to do the same. Self-managed learning is undoubtedly a useful and effective approach to learning but should be seen to complement other methods rather than replace them. While the theory on the subject is mature, the practice is still coming of age. One final thought – as a developer of managers I believe our profession should be ladled manager development and not management development; our role is to develop the manager; they then develop their management skills for themselves.