Personal or career development are ongoing processes and can start from an early age. Learning doesn’t stop when one reaches a certain age or achieves a certain role within an organisation.
With the rate of technological and social change the desire to maintain and update work skills and to develop personal skills is never more pressing than at the present time.
This image from someone’s recent tweet provides an illustration of the difference between previous concepts of learning and how we need to adapt to current trends in the work place.
We have often thought mainly of formal education, within a school, college or university setting, yet the opportunities nowadays to continue to develop are quite staggering. Being made aware of the range of opportunities and how these may benefit an individual in a work or personal setting is often a significant barrier to engaging with continuous, or also called lifelong, learning.
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is often practiced in forward thinking organisations, but maybe this should be considered more as Continuous Personal Development which emphasises the importance of the individual in all of this and the benefits are focused on the individual person, with them taking control of their destiny: these may be professional or personal enrichment, but maybe a rethink of wording may better engage people into lifelong learning and the process of continuing to develop.
Raising awareness of different types of learning can also help to increase the engagement with learning, it doesn’t have to be formal education, but informal or non-formal which need to be better recognised as contributing to continuous development because “People are constantly learning everywhere and at all times.” : these terms are contested but a useful starting place for a definition is given below.
The Council of Europe have explained that “Education, as a lifelong process which enables the continuous development of a person’s capabilities as an individual and as a member of society, can take three different forms:
formal education– the structured educational system usually provided or supported by the state, chronologically graded and running from primary to tertiary institutions;
informal education – learning that goes on in daily life and can be received from daily experience, such as from family, friends, peer groups, the media and other influences in a person’s environment;
and non-formal education- educational activity which is not structured and takes place outside the formal system.”
The OECD, however, sees that “for the majority of authors, it seems clear that non-formal learning is rather organised and can have learning objectives.”
In practical terms I see these as follows:
- formal learning: organised, structured, having a syllabus or course specification, qualification or module achieved, formal assessment;
- non-formal learning: tool box talk; short training course, certificate of attendance or certificate of achievement; seminar attendance; general awareness course; induction training at work; combined reading with note taking and reflection on aspects of the reading material;
- informal learning: discussions with others; knowledge from media; listening to news reports; visiting places of interest; a learning experience of some sort gained outside of formal and non-formal education; reading a relevant book, report, article etc.; being shown how to carry out a task at work; attend a trade show;
Creating your own approach to developing yourself can readily encompass all three different types of learning; basically just jump in and do it, don’t put up barriers as to why you shouldn’t have to learn, but get involved. Developing your own blend of learning, through self-determined learning, will help to enrich your personal development.
With the rate and types of change that are taking place today, and which is illustrated in the image above, having a more flexible and continuously engaged approach to learning will be essential if we are all to stay productive and in employment in today’s society.
This is not actually anything new. The need for a ‘learning society’ was argued for and explored by Hutchins in ‘The Learning Society’, (1968, Pelican books) , emphasising the importance of continuous learning throughout ones entire lifetime so as to fully engage in and get the most out of the concept of a society.
For an individual, especially in employment, what this then means is to reflect on what you have, where you have come from and where you aim to be. What are the changes to technology, legislation and working practices that you need to learn about? What is on the horizon that you can start to prepare yourself for?
Be pro-active (why not carry out a personal training needs analysis or learning and development needs?) and think how best to future-proof your job prospects because at the current rate of things we are all going to be working a lot longer than we had imagined some twenty or thirty years ago.
Whatever you decide – keep learning.
Chris Gray, 26th November 2017