Magazine article Talent Development

Self-Sufficient Learners Make Successful Workers: Teach Employees How to Learn Better and Faster

Magazine article Talent Development

Self-Sufficient Learners Make Successful Workers: Teach Employees How to Learn Better and Faster

Article excerpt

It's easy to see that escalating technical, socioeconomic, geopolitical, and demographic changes are altering how we work and the nature of jobs. Many call these changes the Fourth Industrial Revolution. During previous industrial revolutions, it took decades for people to develop new skills to meet demand. But change at such a rapid rate forces industries, companies, and workers to either adapt (quickly) or fail. Many newspapers and bookstores are gone. New retail chains are going under each week. It isn't easy to succeed when change is this rapid.

Because of these changes, job skills are shifting. We're seeing jobs emerge that didn't exist 10 years ago (for example, SEO specialist, app developer, and information security analyst), and jobs that have existed are swapping skills to adapt to changes in their organizations and industry. Auto mechanics have been working with the computer parts in automobiles for a while now, but these parts are becoming increasingly complex. Warehouse staff work with automation and use computers to control the machines. Medical and legal staff use increasingly complex computerized systems.

How do people adapt to a rapidly changing workplace and quickly changing job skill needs? They learn to learn better and faster. Metacognitive strategies are among the methods used to help people understand and regulate their learning.

What is metacognition?

Metacognition, in a nutshell, helps people become better and more self-sufficient learners. That's because metacognition helps people become aware of and more in control of one's thought and learning processes.

For example, when I keep a list of things I don't understand while I'm learning, that's a metacognitive strategy to help me fill in the blanks. When I put two exclamation points before one of the questions, it's my personal metacognitive strategy to get the answer now. That's because without that answer, I cannot move forward. I'm stuck. So, I ask questions, find help, and use resources. What I usually don't do is wait for a class, because I want to get unstuck now.

People are engaged in metacognition when they want to know better ways to learn, think about the best ways to learn something, use lessons learned in previous experiences to make future learning experiences work better, or analyze why certain topics are easier or harder to learn.

Instructional professionals intentionally use metacognitive strategies to help participants become owners of their learning. As adult learners, we need to own our learning, especially when job skills are rapidly changing. We need to know we can determine what we need to know and find ways to learn without having to wait for a teacher. There is far too much to keep up with for the talent development function to own this alone.

There are four metacognitive steps that help people understand how they learn and regulate their learning:

* Understand learning.

* Plan learning goals.

* Monitor progress.

* Evaluate strategies and results.

Table 1 lists metacognitive questions that support the regulation parts of the metacognitive cycle (plan, monitor, and evaluate). We can use these questions in synchronous or classroom and conference sessions at strategic points. We also can adapt them for use in asynchronous activities.

I regularly use "What doesn't make sense to you?" and "What additional help will you need after this?" in virtual classroom sessions. I almost always add "What specific parts of this instruction will you apply back on the job?" at the end of instruction.

We do people a disservice in making them think they will learn everything they need to know in a class. Adult learners typically learn far more informally (from peers and others, through practice) than in formal learning situations. One of our primary goals in using these questions is to have people internalize them and ask them of themselves. …

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