Why we’ve all been getting it wrong about learning

Posted on August 29th, 2019 in E-Learning, Information, Learning & Development.

I keep reading posts and articles about, ‘the next big thing in learning’, or how we’ve all been doing learning wrong and actually should be doing it another way. Often these articles and posts are written by people promoting their own content, such as, “The future of learning is micro-learning and all other methods are out-dated and useless. Oh, and did I mention, we’ve just created some micro-learning products?” Other times, it’s just someone who has attended a seminar on the ‘next big thing’ and wants to let everyone else know that they have the ‘best’ solution and that everything else is wrong. The opinion that one approach is better than another, or that the ‘next big thing’ will solve all learning problems while dismissing everything else is, in my opinion, insincere and quite harmful to the industry.

Social media has given everyone a chance to voice their views, which is positive in so many ways, but it can be hugely damaging too; if we use that opportunity in the wrong way. Opinions on learning and development are often posted as fact and anything that does not fit into one person’s narrow view of how learning is achieved is dismissed and sneered at. I’ve lost count of the number of posts where the comments section has turned into an ‘I’m right and you’re all wrong’ trail of rude remarks with a huge waft of superiority.

We need to be more positive about learning and what it can achieve. We should celebrate the many different methodologies and concepts that exist and are being developed. We should embrace new ideas and identify ways of utilising new concepts, but not by throwing out everything from the past. Most of all, we should be more accepting of each other’s opinions and experiences. Just because something didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it isn’t working for someone else. Too often, opinions are posted as facts.

Here’s a few ‘facts’ about learning of my own…

1.     Learning is not an ‘either, or’ thing.

Different solutions will suit different purposes and different audiences.

2.     There is no silver bullet.

Learning is a constant thing and depending on the development need, the delivery method will likely need to alter to suit the current requirement.

3.     What worked yesterday, may not work today.

Yes, last time you wanted to embed principles; your training event worked well, but maybe this time an e-learning product is better suited. It pays to be open-minded to the best developmental approach.

4.     Everyone’s opinion is valid.

It amazes me that the trainers that are so quick to tell people in a classroom that their opinions are valued, and all ideas are useful, are also the trainers that are so quick to dismiss the thoughts of their peers. We really need to be more accepting and open to differing opinions.

5.     Your ‘product’ is not the only good ‘product’.

As a provider of training resources, I would love it if I had the only good learning product. However, there are loads of good products and ideas out there and we should not be dismissive of these. Putting down someone else’s approach, does not make your approach look better.

6.     New ideas should be embraced, but challenged too.

Sometimes a new approach comes out that really changes our way of thinking. It can be hard not to get caught up in a tidal wave of excitement and all rationality goes out of the window. Try to be realistic about the limitations of new ideas.

7.     When something’s not right, it’s not always all wrong either.

Sometimes we realise a model or approach is not what we thought it was. That doesn’t mean there are no good ideas within it, and it should be dismissed completely. Look for the diamonds in the coal.

8.     Learning is a very personal thing.

There will always be someone that does not like the method of learning that their organisation has chosen for them. That doesn’t mean the method was wrong, just that it was wrong for that person. How else can you get the message across to them?

In summary

The fact that the landscape is always changing is one of the great things about learning in my opinion. It gives us the opportunity to develop interesting and varied products and take different approaches to new challenges. These changes shouldn’t make us dismissive of other interventions and we should learn to embrace new ideas, while building on original concepts.

Learning and development would be all the better for an inclusive approach where ideas are encouraged and accepted in good nature. Where we can take what works for us, without being dismissive of what works for others. And, if we are selling an idea, concept or product, we shouldn’t do it to the detriment of others.

Most of all, we should take a positive approach to learning and development. Creating networks where we can share ideas and concepts with like-minded people who are happy to share ideas and work together to develop and grow.

Ok, the title of this article might be a little misleading, but that’s kind of the point. I’m no better placed to say why ‘we’ve all been getting it wrong in learning’ any more than you are. However, one thing we can get right is to listen to each other without prejudice in the hope that we keep developing learning interventions that push the boundaries and get results.


This article was written by Andrew Wood, the MD of Trainer Bubble Ltd. Got an opinion on it? Get in touch.