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What's the best seasonal gift you could give your team?

Why metacognition would be a great gift for anyone!

15th December 2023

What's the best seasonal gift you could give your team?
It’s a question I often read around this time of year, and it inevitably provokes responses from extremes of opinion. There are those who go full-on consumerist and suggest expensive cars, jewellery, homes etc, ideas that are balanced by those who reject these ideas and suggest good health, happiness, close family etc.

So, as I’m writing a blog on learning design, let’s narrow the question:

What’s the best seasonal gift you could give someone who wants to learn?
Not a question you may have thought of, but, in this gift-giving season, maybe you ought to give it some consideration?
The answers you come up with may demonstrate a similar polarity. You might think that a powerful laptop or tablet loaded with versatile software might be the best gift; maybe a subscription to an appropriate learning platform (this ELT platform might be the very thing!). Alternatively, it might be unlimited access to a great learning coach, or a focused learning retreat somewhere inspiring and beautiful. I’m sure the right gift to the right learner would be hugely appreciated.

Yet technology wears out or becomes obsolete, a one-off experience of learning is just that – a one-off. My answer, and I’ve given this a lot of thought, follows the old proverb, ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’
Tweak that saying toward learning and you get something like

Give a learner some knowledge and they are one step further on their learning journey. Give a learner a knowledge of their personal learning processes and they can plan and negotiate their learning journey for the rest of their life. 

I’ll admit it isn’t quite as snappy as the fish proverb, but it’s potentially just as empowering.

We’ll be entering a new year soon and, being one of the world’s great optimists, I always think in terms of the wonderful opportunities that 2024 might bring. Not least among these is the opportunity to use my professional skills to positively impact people. These days that’s mainly through offering them the experiential learning tools we create through RSVP Design and digitally at Experiential Learning Tools, but I still think that I’m making a difference out there in the world of learning. In 2024, if I apply the learner proverb to my own work what am I hoping for?

I’m hoping that what everybody gets from using our tools is a better developed knowledge of how they learn.

In professional terms this is called metacognition, the process of intentionally thinking about one’s own thinking and learning, and I believe that if a facilitator using experiential tools and processes isn’t building this into their sessions they’re missing out on a hugely important set of benefits. I rarely see programme objectives that include things like “Participants will seek to define and understand how they achieved their learning”; I rarely hear reviews that conclude with participants being asked to consider not only WHAT they learned, but HOW they learned it. The opportunity to develop metacognitive skills is largely being ignored.

Yet what a great asset to individuals and organisations this could be. Imagine a workforce who had a well-developed understanding of how they learn best. Imagine a workforce who knew what they needed to know and could make their own choices about engaging with learning resources on a timely basis. Imagine a workforce who were active partners in their own learning contracts. If this sounds idealistic, I’d say that perhaps you need to think about what’s on offer when you embrace the potential of metacognitive initiatives.

So, going back to my earlier question:

What’s the best seasonal gift you could give someone who wants to learn?
I’d say it’s giving them the tools and understanding they need to leverage their own learning competences.

And here’s a clue as to how to make this happen; it’s available to every facilitator every time they deliver an experiential learning session. Just allow it some time in your reviews, ask the HOW question to your learners. At first you can expect some blank faces, it’s not a familiar thing to be asked about, but keep asking it, keep prompting and coaching this line of thought. Most people are curious enough to give the question some consideration and, with a bit of encouragement, will eventually develop their own answers.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season, and best wishes for 2024!

If you would like to try some of our innovate remote learning activities you can book a demo today.

Geoff Cox @experientialLT

Learning Design Director at Experiential Learning Tools

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