Last week I wrote a short post about 'Social Learning' and as luck would have today I came across an excellent article published by McKinsey on another aspect of learning. This one about 'Intentional Learning' focuses on the core individual aspects of learning which appear so relevant in the current environment. 

The article got me thinking about how I learnt and how intentionally I did this.  Of course I recognised that there was much that I did intentionally, but what made it effective was down to some other attributes that this article framed in a coherent sense.

The first of the two foundations was mindset, which of course needs to be open, as Carol Dweck pointed out in her excellent book on the subject first published nearly 15 years ago. An open mindset switches from a reliance on ability to focusing more on opportunity and need.  

For me this is about being cognitive and aware of learning opportunities, being receptive to them at any time, and finding ways to capture them effectively - for use in the future, the sooner the better.  Ultimately there needs to be a drive and desire to do this.  

The second foundation in relation to curiosity also strongly resonated.  As a coach one mantra of mine has been 'move from judgement to curiosity' and this is equally relevant in the L&D space, as the article states, 'curiosity, the engine of intentional learning'.  This is where real learning can take place as it pushes one away from those cosy beliefs and assumptions that we hold and challenges them - we become a bit more Columbo and a little less Sherlock. 

Greater curiosity can allow us many opportunities, to confirm what we have previously learnt and to embed it further, to provide an ability to build on and improve a concept or idea, or presents a chance to see something in a completely different perspective and therefore move our understanding into a new space.  

The final part of the article proposes five core skills recommended for Intentional Learning, with the one relating to reflection resonating the strongest for me. Learning reflection was broken down into three main steps, before a learning event, during and after.  In this era of blended learning such an approach is not necessarily new, however with greater migration towards virtual learning, and with less time in the moment for reflection, it highlights how this needs to be considered in the design within any learning pathway.

This in turn leads back to the learning model of 'affective context' lately outlined so passionately by Nick Shackleton-Jones in his book, 'How People Learn'. This approach highlights the fact that we tend to learn best when we can make an emotional connection with the content which we are studying.  If reflective practice can help us to think more deeply about the subject, and time and place in which we are experiencing it, then we are more likely to be able to retain and use it.    

For most of us learning is something natural, that happens on a daily basis, however with a few adjustments it is worth considering how much more effective we could make ourselves.  With an attitude of openness and curiosity and an ability to reflect more in the experience it is possible that with a bit of practice we can make this a reality.