Support the horse

2 white horses by a river bank, drinking

It’s a saying so common that it’s become one of the biggest clichés. But in so many areas of life it is true:

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

Forget that this line of thinking will lead me to equate people (learners/employees) with horses, but, hey, it’s just a metaphor.

I started thinking about this after blogging the other day about the need for people to improve their ability to learn. I think we do all naturally develop some kind of metacognitive skills that mean we become more proficient at learning as we get more mature, in whatever field we work in, however we live, and however we learn. And we probably all become better at monitoring our own performance while recognising what it is we need to do and to know to keep that up.

But that isn’t to say that our skills in this area can’t be improved. And in terms of designing learning experiences, whether in-company or elsewhere, this is something always worth bearing in mind.

As learning designers, teachers, coaches, content developers, we can spend as much time as we want (restrictions permitting) creating learning experiences and instructional content, but everything depends on the ‘horse’.

Good learners can learn despite bad teachers or trainers, regardless of the way in which material is presented. Anyone can learn from any input at any opportune moment; any learning moment, or trigger. Sometimes this will be very naturally, because of the attention or emotional commitment at the time, or it will take effort and metacognitive skills to make the best out of the learning opportunity.

So, all in all, supporting any learning experience goes far beyond the presentation of material. Realistically, if a learner reads a 400-word article, watches a 3-minute video or runs through a 5-minute micro-learning lesson, or a branched scenario from Storyline, does the outcome not rest — for the most part — on the learner’s capacity to learn from that opportunity?

So my conclusion is that if employees in a business are better primed to learn and have more sophisticated self-directed learning skills, they are far more likely to learn from the experiences and content made available to them, and, in fact, from any learning moment they encounter, at any time.

What do you think? Please join the conversation and add any thoughts below!

Featured image from Pier52 on Pixabay.

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