3.1 LEARNING: ‘life skill’ and lifelong imperative as lives and livelihoods become driven increasingly by global phenomena

In the 2020s, and as never before, our willingness to learn and to absorb new conditions and experiences determine our quality of life in the ‘here and now’. This is much more than taking life’s chances and making appropriate choices as we become global citizens of a world in which there are no frontiers as technology, diminishing natural resources and humanitarian and environmental  disaster dictate the immediacy and challenge of change.

The socio-economic conditioning of citizens of every age, colour and creed is not only dictated by the performance of national government but by individual responsiveness to a plethora of invasive influences, among them …

  • Public health, COVID-19 and pandemics without warning or antidote
  • Climate change, global warming, environmental extremes
  • Displacement of entire communities, political and economic migration, resettlement of refugees
  • Management and disposal of toxic waste
  • Depletion of natural resources and the implications for food production and distribution
  • Progressive poverty
  • Data insecurity and invasion of privacy
  • Information overload.

PURPOSE: to create Lifelong Learners that are

  1. Resilient, confident and independent
  2. Ambitious and capable
  3. Enterprising and creative contributors to society
  4. Healthy, ethical and informed

 

LEARNING POWER  is found to have 7 basic dimensions or building blocks and is measured and tracked by on-line completion of the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI). ELLI is sensitive to change, doesn’t ‘trait-cast’ and is responsive to both the ‘learning’ environment and personal circumstance. It has been research-validated, both academically and operationally, over 20 years of rigorous testing among more than 100,000 people globally drawn from all walks of life and across households, educational institutions, workplaces, indigenous and displaced communities.

THE METHODOLOGY

Every organization, whatever its purpose, is unique! Its DNA is created by its people, who in combination, cannot be replicated by another. They are its fabric. They may aspire to be as another but the actions of their stakeholder complement, their decision-making and the history and geography of their communities combine to provide a unique footprint.

Similarly, no methodology can have universal traction and provide the same results wherever it is adopted. It will merely provide direction and a starting point. Nonetheless, ELLI’s ability to assess Learning Power and to track change means that learning is quantifiable and that interventions can be prescribed to meet an organization’s aims and objectives. In addition, ELLI is sensitive both to the quality of the learning environment and to individual circumstance.

This methodology provides a well-trodden pathway but its outcomes reliant on the spirit and purpose, engagement and enterprise, commitment and culture of the organization within which it sits.

1. UNLOCKING LIFELONG LEARNING

SMT introduction to ELLI

The challenge facing the Senior Management Team (SMT) is to determine what ‘learning’ means for their organization, its purpose, its identifiable and visible features:

  • the outcomes for its staff and customers
  • the balancing of the ‘how’ and ‘what’
  • market positioning
  • competitive advantages
  • critical success factors
  • measures of stakeholder satisfaction
  • managers and staff as learners
  • ‘a comprehensive and repeatable elevator pitch’ with which everyone can be armed

how will the organization’s learning journey be managed and by whom?

2. CONDUCTING THE ‘LEARNING’ AUDIT

Finding the starting point among leaders, managers, and staff. How do they learn? What is the organization’s present learning culture? To what extent does SMT preference match the reality on the ground?

  • SMT roles and relevant profiles … perception v. reality; individual profiling; acceptance, habits and behaviors; demonstration of how they learn, personal levels of understanding; willingness to engage the wider business community by sharing outcomes
  • Elevator pitch and Introduction to ELLI for managers and staff, preferably provided by a member or members of the SMT
  • Profiling of managers and staff across the hierarchy
  • Profiling of a pilot group of mixed ability staff to determine their knowledge and understanding of how they learn; review of present interventions, ways of working and potential relevance to the delivery and content of CPD curriculum
  • SMT workshop to interrogate results and provide the strategic aims and objectives for the forthcoming planning process and the plan’s delivery over the coming 36 months

The audit will bring with it a confidence that its messaging will not fall on deaf ears. It will be incumbent on the SMT to ensure that this confidence is not misplaced and to capture the traction it has created to bring about change.

3. STRATEGIC PLANNING

Planning that is truly strategic is rare in many commercial organizations as the majority become pre-occupied with the immediacy of the urgent that results in a tactical and short-term plan. However, as business  has necessarily had to become more fleet of foot, learning as a ‘skill for life’has taken center stage, strategic and longer-term planning become an imperative.

The strategic plan will provide:

  • An Executive Summary crafted when the rest of the plan is completed and capable of wider distribution to stakeholders;

It will address in no more than 15-20 A4 pages:

  • Purpose of the Plan: context for future problem-solving and decision-making;
  • The Vision: a brief but documentary picture of the organization as it is planned to be in the coming 3 to 5 years and what will characterize it;
  • Mission: primary positioning strategies, aims and objectives often underpinned by a SWOT analysis;
  • Environmental Analysis: national and global circumstances with which the plan will need to contend over its time-frame;
  • Product: character, personal values and educational outcomes of student alumni, standards of achievement, opportunities for personal development;
  • Markets: changes in catchment that will influence future intake, socio-economic change and necessary implications for provision;
  • Marketing: communication with stakeholders, obtaining and maintaining competitive advantage;
  • Operations and Delivery: ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘doing things right’, changes to ways of working, process route map including Learning Quality and Management Framework, appointment of Learning ‘Champions’ and Learning Development Workshop;
  • Accommodation;
  • Organization: structure, people and their development;
  • Objectives, strategies and action plans;
  • Financials;
  • Critical Success Factors;
  • Key Risks and Contingency Plans;
  • Monitoring and Updating.

5. CREATING LEARNING RELATIONSHIPS

One of the most efficient learning methods is the open exchange of knowledge and experience between colleagues. Managers and employees. Nonetheless, whilst junior staff are usually uninhibited and a balance has to be drawn between dependence and independence, this is not so among their elders. It often takes time to overcome ‘ego’ and a desire to keep learning discoveries to one’s self.

Sharing and knowledge exchange can, however, be facilitated by:

  • Adding New knowledge exchange to SMT and Heads of Department meeting agendas;
  • Creation of managerial groups/workshops when agendas can address differing learning capacities among year groups, mixed ability classes, coping with English as a second language, management of workplace culture, balancing the ‘how’ and ‘what’, sharing good and bad experiences, exploring different ways of working and the introduction of instructive observation;
  • Pooling of staff with similar strengths and weaknesses and introducing these groups to peers with significant spikes in the pool’s areas of weakness;
  • Productive use of the ELLI Champions among all groups. Their responsibility is to promote and provoke a sharing culture where sharing becomes an attribute and sharing processes can be added to the CPD curriculum;
  • Resilience may be an essential attribute within the most powerful learners but its presence as a strength is not always a positive … it can mask, and detract from, the development of learning’s remaining 6 dimensions.

7. MANAGING TRANSITIONING

ELLI is an invaluable tool in the effective management of transitioning at the 4 pivotal points in a student’s educational journey.

  1. Primary to Secondary schooling (Years 6 to 7)
  2. GCSE to 6th Form (Years 11 to 12)
  3. Choice of career, further education and the all-important CV
  4. School to university, college, apprenticeship and the world of work
    • Primary to Secondary

    As every teacher and parent knows, the move from one school’s learning environment to another, challenges a student’s ability to absorb change. Secondary schools are increasingly asking their feeder schools to profile the Learning Power of Year 6 at the beginning of their final term and following that up with a second profile at the end of their first term in Year 7. This has helped enormously in managing student and parental stress, reduced the settling-in period and enabled teachers to make better use of the first few weeks of Year 7.

    • Transitioning between Years 11 and 12

    It is here that a student’s understanding and ownership of the way in which they learn begins to tell its own story. It defines their ability to move through the transition from instruction towards self-direction and observation.

    ELLI profiling is used to build the confidence of those students who come out of Year 11 with examination results that fall short as a measure of their ability.

    • Career, further education choice, CV

    Understanding how a student learns is a critical guide not only to career choice but to the choice of a future learning pathway, be that the practical or the academic.

    The introduction of an ELLI profile to a student’s CV adds a dimension that informs the recipient.

    • Education to the world of work

    ELLI and its assessment of Learning Power will be a passport for life if the student has been given  ownership of it and the confidence to use it.

9. INFORMING RECRUITMENT

Elli has long been used as a tool in recruitment at all levels from Chief Executives to apprentices and graduate trainees.

It is used most particularly …

  • In selection for interview from a shortlisting of applicants, especially at the more senior level
  • To create an appropriate ‘person specification’
  • During the interview process for more junior appointments

To determine the potential Resilience of would-be Team Leaders.

11. STAKEHOLDER MODELLING

Every organization is characterized not only by its DNA but by the manner in which it addresses and engages its community as it seeks to obtain a reputation for building powerful learners.

Employees will need to be encouraged to talk about and to demonstrate their experiences as learners. Working with employers and volunteering will showcase their resilience, confidence and independence and give them the opportunity to contribute to the modelling of a Learning Culture recognizable beyond the workplace gates.

Resilience … encouraging those with whom they come into contact also to take ‘ownership’ of their learning;

Promoting learning as a lifelong endeavor;

Creativity … proving that with a little imagination even the most challenging problems can usually be resolved;

Critical Curiosity … you don’t have to believe everything you are told. The dangers of  perpetuating rumor, fake news and misinformation;

Meaning Making … every new piece of knowledge or experience can speak to us through what we already know to be a fact if we let it;

Learning Relationships … learning can come from even the most unexpected sources;

Strategic Awareness … fear and uncertainty in a troubled world can be overcome by understanding how we learn and taking ownership of the part we can play in making it a happier place;

Changing and Learning … learning drives our ability to change destructive habits and behaviors.

4. TURNING TALK INTO ACTION

In the majority of organizations the audit creates heightened expectation of change with leaders listening to their stakeholders and distributing an outline action plan. It therefore becomes important to:

  • Implement some ‘quick wins’ to demonstrate that the plan is ‘for real’!
  • Begin to dismantle some of the barriers to change identified by the audit;
  • Engage stakeholders at an early stage;
  • Manage communication and regular progress reporting.

6. RE-EXAMINING CURRICULUM

In an ideal world, the development and management of Learning Power would become integral to every organization so that mastery of the ‘what’, or subject matter, is driven by the ‘how’.

Attention is paid to each employee’s understanding of how they learn and the very real influence that this understanding has on their performance, both socially and in the workplace. It is essential to their capacity to take advantage of life’s opportunities and to make the most of the choices with which they will be presented. Every member of staff should be enabled to have the capacity, courage and confidence to take ‘ownership’ of their learning, to use their strengths productively and to learn how to address their weaknesses.

 

  • Of course each organization’s performance is judged publicly by its financial results BUT those who develop a learning culture in which staff use their understanding and ownership of their Learning Power to drive their mastery of their roles will have transformed their performance;
  • Managers who do not make such a significant change to their way of working easy to accommodate will not challenge established conventions and habits. If they become resistant to change they will put demands on their personal Creativity and Critical Curiosity that is not always welcome;
  • The students’ learning journeys begin with their ELLI profiles and their progress as learners dependent in no small measure on the quality of the supporting interventions and the manager’s commitment to sustaining them and to tracking progress;
  • Again Resilience takes center stage. However, understanding of the meaning of this dimension in the context of the overall ELLI profile is the key to unlocking the performance of those whose who are failing to meet expectation. The rewards are beyond measure.

8. CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The development and management of the Learning Power of the staff compliment but its adoption also puts demands on the learning habits and behaviors of their managers. The development of a learning culture is built on the confidence to share knowledge and experience and, importantly, to welcome classroom observation.

Observation is so often viewed as an invasion but in an environment committed to learning, becomes the platform for a partnership between colleagues.

  • Evaluating the CPD Curriculum

Elli is often used to track the ‘value added’ of external courses and prescribed internal interventions. 

  • ELLI provides the platform upon which training plans are built and becomes integral to the appraisal and review processes

    Strategic Plan

    Departmental Response leading to individual   roles, personal engagement, projects and action plans

  • 360 ° Feedback

Well-developed learning cultures involve their staff in the development of their managers. This is found to accelerate the acceptance of learning as a way of life and to motivate staff to improve their own understanding of not only how they learn but their application of that understanding to their studies.   

10. BECOMING A COMMUNITY ‘LEARNING HUB’

Many schools aspire to becoming established as the  center for learning throughout their communities but come to recognize that there is much more to it than simply the offer of a wide range of programs.

The key is in ‘community’ in its widest possible definition and the bringing together of education, employment, entertainment and events that both inform and challenge.

The building of relationships with feeder schools and colleges, the sharing of teaching staff where specialists are at a premium, engagement of new parents and such as hobby, arts and crafts and evening classes already play their part. However, little attention is often paid to the potential role of employers and the therapies that enable the elderly and infirm to move painlessly from independence to dependence

SCHOOLS and EMPLOYERS

What’s in it for the employer?

  • Business surgeries
  • Planning workshops
  • Development and sharing of in-house/hosted training programs including qualifications
  • Business advice, culture change and change management methodologies
  • Managing downturn
  • Supplier Quality assurance
  • Addressing skills shortages
  • Market research
  • Resourcing of projects
  • Training of trainers

What about the school?

  • Employer visits and careers advice
  • Project work with specialist supervision
  • Work experience and certificates
  • Guest speakers
  • Introduction to volunteering
  • Application of emergent technologies
  • Young Enterprise

SOCIAL CARE

  • Creative programming for the elderly and infirm
  • Dealing with such as isolation, loneliness
  • Prompting recall among dementia sufferers
  • Challenges of moving from independence to dependence and developing trust in strangers

12. REAPPRAISAL and REDIRECTION

However robust the process of planning and implementing a Learning Culture within an organization’s wider fabric has been, it will only be as successful as the seriousness with which progress is monitored and changes in circumstance accommodated.

Plans should be updated every 6 months with a thorough and substantial review made annually.

 The trap into which many organizations fall is to file the plan as a job well done and successfully completed. Plans should be working documents with all stakeholders encouraged to have their say on a regular basis but most important of all, they should be the framework for problem-solving and the taking of all major strategic decisions.