As part of a learning academy at my workplace, we provide more than 35 hours of mandatory training to a group of approx. 100 nominated learners over a time period of 10 months. That’s a lot of training on a complex topic (the science and business of vaccinology and vaccine preventable diseases). While learners are generally happy with the training, I often feel troubled (and a little guilty) of this cognitive overload.
In order to address this, we decided to implement a reflective break in the training program at the 5-month mark. The use of reflection is not new in learning; John Dewey, the great educational reformer, laid the grounds of reflective learning in 1910 when he wrote, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” Since then, there have been several new theories of reflection that we now use in training design: David Kolb’s ‘reflective cycle’ (1975), Donald Schon’s ‘reflection on action’ and ‘reflection in action’ (1983), David Boud’s ‘reflection of learning’ (1985), Graham Gibbs’ ‘reflective cycle’ (1988), Mike Pedler’s ‘reflective model’ (1991), and Debra McGregor’s & Lesley Cartwright’s ‘Reflexivity’ (2010), to name a few.
How does reflection help the learning process? The first benefit of reflection is to institute a pause in learning. Instead of continually intaking new information, this pause is an invitation to the Learner to start thinking back on what they have learned and to try and make sense of it, ie, to convert information to memory.
Second, reflection helps the learner make stronger connections between new and previous learning (ie, scaffolding). In reflecting, a learner makes connections between what they are learning and what they already know, and how they (the learner) plans to use their newly expanded field of knowledge.
Third, reflection helps the Learner make value judgements about their learning. How does the learning make them ‘feel’? If the feeling is negative, what are the causes behind the same? How and to whom can the Learner provide feedback about the negative aspects of their training?
Fourth, reflection helps the Learner plan their next course of action. It helps them identify topics they like and dislike; topics they would like to pursue further and topics they would like to drop. Reflection helps the Learner identify scenarios where they would like to apply their new learning. It also helps Learners plan for questions to ask, further training programs to investigate, additional SMEs to reach out to, etc.
All of these together help the Learner structure their learning, integrate it into their daily work life, and grow in competence and confidence.
In Part 2 of this post, I will describe the simple reflective resource we developed as part of our learning academy.
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