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When I was younger, I've always imagined that going to school and listening to what the teacher had to say about the lesson was the only time that I would be truly learning something. Maybe it's because I didn't have much of a choice. After all, it wasn't like playing sports or playing with my friends which was a lot more fun and easy even though these activities were part of my learning education as I was growing up. Likewise, I also thought that attending school was a duty that I had to commit myself to; just as my parents were committed to their jobs. And just as my parents got up and went to work, attending school was part of a daily cycle that I had to endure until the mid afternoon before I could do the things that I really enjoyed. At least throughout kindergarten and middle school, this is what I thought.
But to truly understand how learning is achieved and why it is such an important aspect in our lives, we have to look at into some detail and explain the characteristics of the behaviorist and cognitive approaches to learning. According to Buchanan & Huczynski, learning in its simplest form is "the process of acquiring knowledge through experience which leads to a lasting change in behavior" (2010, p.139). Hence, it is in our experiences through the attainment of knowledge that our behaviors alter and accommodate to our given surroundings. I know for me and throughout the 4 weeks of this class, I've been pretty fortunate to have been challenged with ideas and concepts that I would never have thought to have experienced. And it seems right to say that through this newly found knowledge, I've been a better and more efficient student as well as a better manager to my co-workers. So how then has my learning experiences influenced my behavior towards this class and to my co-workers at work? Here's a break down on my learning experiences throughout the 4 weeks:
Looking back at week 1A, I felt a little daunting and nervous as it was the first time in many years that I was back in school. The thought and notion that 'I'm a student' was scary, but what was even scarier was how to juggle work, family and school at the same time. I've always been a pretty good multi-tasker at work, prioritizing things and getting things done. Even in college, my time management skills were pretty good to some extent. Taking on the challenges of week 1A, I began to actively experiment with myself by reading the articles and listening to the audio lectures. Buchanan & Huczynski calls this "procedural learning or knowing how" (2010, p.140) type of learning whereby it "concerns your ability to carry out skilled actions" (2010, p.140). I took turns in reading the articles first then listened to the audio lectures and then read the discussion questions. I then changed the order of sequence in order for me to find the best suitable method of study. Through experimentation, I found that reading the discussion question first, then listening to the audio lecture then the articles helped me understand and grasp ideas and concept a lot quicker.
Week 1A continued throughout week 1B whereby the learning process was still all about experimenting. As I practiced honing and perfecting my newly found learning skill, I found that the amount of information and understanding of the articles slowly began to increase. Discussing concepts and ideas with my peers became easier and many of the experiences that they've encountered, I could relate to them in my own work and home environment. From the looks of things, although I was writing the thoughts of my own personal experiences, I was also on the other hand learning from my fellow peers at a distance; listening and watching what they had to say about their own personal experiences.
Having practiced and found my new 'learning niche', I applied those same principles to the learning process for week 2. But in week 2, a different type of learning process slowly began to develop for me. With the newly found concrete learning experience, I began to reflect these concrete experiences into my own workplace. For example, not out of deliberate cause, I'd sometimes without thinking change old habits and did things a little differently. Other times whereby I'd just let go of a problem, I'd think about it and reflect my thoughts on it a little longer. But for whatever reason, this new learning experience that I was feeling was positive and truly enjoyable as it made me want to learn more in order to better influence myself and my coworkers.
As in week 2, week 3 had a video clip that we had to watch. Like they say, 'a picture is worth a thousand words'; a video is worth twice as much. Visual context as I've known since college has always been a real help in understanding difficult and abstract information. Drawing, scribbling down arrows and questions marks, and drawing flow diagrams all helps me unravel something abstract into a logical and systematic format. With the videos in particular, they helped me to relate to those people. Declarative learning as Buchanan & Huczynski states, "may not be evident until we are asked the right questions" (2010, p.141) and in my case, the video was answering the questions that I had long queried about. And because my learning experience with the video had a great impact on me, I consistently feel that these influences will forever change my behavior over time.
The learning phase at week 4 is one of accommodating. Through the articles and audio lectures, I process these new found knowledge and accommodate them into my own personal experiences. Likewise, my thoughts and emotions are deeper and philosophical at times. Simply put, instead of simply doing or watching what others have done in their experiences, I execute and relate my new knowledge into my own life and workplace.
Kolb & Kolb states that "learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes" (2005, p.194) and for me, I think this best describes how I'm learning right now. In the beginning, everything was new and experimental with many trial and errors. Hence, the learning process was slow. Besides, what seemed important during this early stage of learning was not so much the actual material - although they were important - but the process of how I was learning and synthesizing myself in reflection to my own personal experiences. As reinforced by Kolb & Kolb, "all learning is relearningâ€¦is best facilitated by a process that draws out the students beliefs and ideas about a topic so that they can be examined, tested, and integrated with new, more defined ideas" (2005, p.194). It may be that the materials that I read and the audio lectures that I heard throughout the weeks were at one time or another heard someplace else. Or maybe these newly found information were already packed inside my brain and needed some 'jolting and knocking' around before I could these them again. Whatever the case may be, the process of relearning no doubt helped to find new insights as well as make me a better person to myself and to my co-workers at work.
I think overall, the learning process for me is two-folds. Firstly, through experimentation and assimilating, I synthesize the abstract knowledge in a logical and systematic way so that I can understand and relate it. And secondly, once these have been grounded, I accommodate this newly found information and explore it in my own experiences as well as trying them out in my own environment. In Buchanan & Huczynski, the book talks about the performance level of a typical worker - it increases at a steady rate through time until it levels off (p.140). My understanding of learning as well as leadership coincides with this thought, although I believe that leadership can never be leveled off any time in one's life. That's because in leadership, one can always achieve to better himself or herself through new methods of learning. Learning accompanied with leadership is a holistic approach whereby we adapt to the world, not vice-versa. As such, the learning process involves the integration of the total person (the thoughts, perceiving, feeling, behaving) and through maturity and experiences, one can continuously set to become a better leader (Kolb & Kolb (2005), p.194).
When they say that the first steps are always the hardest, learning in many ways follows that approach. And for me, what seems to work the best is by me following the 3P rule - Preparing (through experimentation), Planning (through synthesizing and logically assessing the abstract knowledge into order) and Proceeding (relating to my experiences through feelings and emotions).
Buchanan, D.A. & Huczynski, A.A. (2010) Organizational Behaviour. 7th ed. Harlow, England: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.
Kolb, A. & Kolb, D. (2005) 'Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education', Academy of Management Learning and Education, 4 (2), pp.193-212.