10 March, 2009

Informal Learning Opportunities

By C. Radhakrishnan

Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge, attitudes, or skills from study, instruction, or experience. Learning can’t be connected only with school education or what we acquire through reading books. To be a good learner it is very essential to develop:
• A learning culture: an environment in which opportunities for learning are openly valued and supported and are built, where possible, into all activities.
• Habit of lifelong learning: the process of acquiring knowledge or skills throughout life via education, training, work and general life experiences.

In our day to day life there are plenty of informal learning opportunities. But knowingly or unknowingly we miss many of these opportunities. My objective here is just to introduce every one to different informal learning opportunities. The learning opportunities mentioned below are applicable to students, professionals and all others interested in being life long learners. These are not identified in advance through a plan or scheme, but which you might be able to use.

• Analysing mistakes: Some people learn best by studying their mistakes and overcome them. The person analyzing his mistakes can correct himself and learn to do things in a better way in future.

• Attending Conferences or Seminars: This is an excellent opportunity to interact and share experiences with people coming from different backgrounds and environments.

• Being Coached or Counselled: Through coaching or counselling you get an opportunity to understand and sharpen your skills. It also provides a chance to update and adapt new changes into your life.

• Being Mentored:
You should be very lucky to get a wise and trusted guide and advisor. In this process a more experienced person helps a less experienced person, develop in a specified capacity.

• Budgeting:
Here you get a chance to learn how to prioritise and manage our unlimited needs with limited means.

• Championing or Managing Changes: In the globalised-digital world changes take place every fraction of a second. So each moment in our life can be considered as a learning opportunity. Those who exploit these changes will become real leaders of the 21st century in their chosen field of work.

• Holidays and Outings:
Holidays provide you time to introspect and to find and make necessary changes in your way of living and working. Outings give you chance to expose yourself with the new environment and learn from others through observation and interaction. It’s a wonderful opportunity to develop your interpersonal skills by making friendship with new people you come across.

• Dealing with Colleagues, Subordinates, Peers and Boss: Each and every moment you interact and deal with these people you get plenty of opportunities to develop and improve your interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic and cognitive skills.

• Domestic life and Family Tasks: A person who succeeds in domestic life and satisfies all family tasks can surely be a great success in his chosen work. In our family life we perform almost all kinds of duties and responsibilities and we get lot of experiential learning opportunities to be a successful person.

• Giving a presentation:
Many people are generally averse to take up this kind of opportunity at the work place. But once you decide to exploit such opportunities your chance for experiential learning is manifold.

• Interviewing: Here you get a chance to interact with someone who is an expert in a particular field. Surely his/her words and actions will give the interviewer a lot of opportunities to understand how people manage and react to different circumstances and reach greater heights in life.

• Job Change in a New Function or within Same Function or Same Job with Additional Responsibilities:
Here you are getting an opportunity to learn and adapt to a new situation.

• Job Rotation: If this is the practice in your work place, opportunities for learning and growth are beyond imagination. Whenever you are shifted from one job or function to another you are provided with a chance to learn new things.

• Making Decisions: It’s an opportunity to develop your skills in foreseeing and analysing the pros and cons of an action.

• Meeting, Negotiating and Networking: All these, if utilised in the right spirit can provide you diverse opportunities to learn and sharpen your interpersonal, intrapersonal and linguistic skills and make you greatly successful in your career.

• Performance Appraisals:
This is a time when you can learn how people work in different environments, conditions and pressure situations. By analysing that, you can make necessary changes in your style of leading your subordinates.

• Project Work: Getting involved in a project work is also another great chance to learn a lot of new things and experiment your ideas. When we physically execute ideas that we have in mind, we will understand the practical issues connected with it and we will be able to make necessary changes.

• Print and Visual Media:
Reading habits can take you to new horizons of experience and learning that no one can imagine. The media helps you to update yourself on current events, culture and way of living and even your written and spoken language. These aspects are vital to an individual’s growth and survival in the present context of globalisation.

This list is not complete because the informal learning opportunities that we all receive every moment in our life are innumerable. What else?

Note the additional learning opportunities below and whenever you come across such opportunities grab it and march on to the peak of success, to the roof of the world.

Print and Online References:

1. Beard, Colin & Wilson, P John (2007); “Experiential Learning”; Kogan Page India, New Delhi - High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
2. Munford, Alan (2000); “Effective Learning”; Universities Press, Hyderabad - High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
3. Kyriacou, Chris (2005); “Essential Teaching Skills”; Nelson Thornes Ltd, UK – High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
4. http://www.dest.gov.au/
5. http://en.wikipedia.org