How to tell your learners aren’t learning

by John Hilton22 Jan 2016
If an employee is working on the same tasks all of the time they are likely to be very good at what they’re doing, said Stephen Billett, Professor of Adult and Vocational Education in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University.
However, the catch is that they are not likely to be learning much.
On the other hand, if they are regularly completing different activities they will learn about a whole range of things.
Therefore, the kinds of activities that people engage in are going to be important for the quality of learning that arises through their work, he added.
Billett offered the example of a taxi driver who is driving the same route every day.
“They will not learn too much about the layout of the city or the customer’s needs. But if they are going all over the place, they will learn a lot about the roads, distances, customers, traffic lights, etc,” he told L&D Professional.
“Consequently, their knowledge will be far richer than if they were just doing routine routes backwards and forwards.”
Billett added that there are certain forms of work which involve people engaging in a lot of problem solving and responding to a wide range of particular tasks.
“They are the kind of activities which are really going to be conducive of a lot of learning,” he said.
“For instance, there are people like doctors who diagnose patience, run checks, and then compare the outcomes of those checks against their initial diagnosis of the patient’s condition.
“Those kinds of activities are likely to lead to rich learning.”
Therefore, if employers are interested in their workers having a thorough learning experience they might want to think about the combination of experience they have, Billett said.
“They might want to give them opportunities to do new things or give them opportunities to engage in activities that they need to learn about in a structured and organised way,” he said.
In particular, Billett said it’s important to recognise learning occurs all of the time because it is part of human cognition.
However, the kinds of activities and interactions that people have in the workplace, or in their work will deliver a different and potentially effective kind of learning, he said.
“So if you want people to learn a lot from their work, engaging them in tasks, problem-solving, different projects and doing new things will all be conducive of rich learning,” he said.