The desire to learn is not an easy trait to pass to others and while I have many of my own approaches to learn new things, there are countless other methods for learning that others use as well. None of those can simply be taught to anyone you cross since everyone learns with their own methods. Not only that, but the desire to learn is something that has to come from an individual and cannot be expected without that person accepting to learn new things. I believe that anyone who is a strong learner in life has great advantages in creativity, perspective, knowledge and many other areas. If you can empower just one other person to become a learner themselves, you have given them a great gift!
This articles covers some of the methods I’ve learned to help empower others to become learners themselves.
Lead By Example
One of the most obvious and important ways to inspire others to learn is to ensure that others know you are learning yourself. Make your actions speak for themselves when it comes to learning. Talk about the things you learn and how you learned them. Ensure that people know when you’ve learned something new by reviewing it with them or by presenting it to them. Spend time studying and practising new methods and processes that you see. Volunteer to teach new people in your work area everything about the job and make sure they know some of the resources you use for learning yourself.
Keep books on hand and talk to others about books they read. Spend some time everyday reading books as it is the best resource for new material that exists still. The internet is certainly an option as well but if its in the workplace, the internet is still often considered as a time waster, not a learning tool, so you should make other methods of learning more visible in the workplace. Take some action with these as examples in your life and ensure that you are leading by example. Doing this automatically attracts others to do some of the same things or use the same resources even without you hinting or asking them to. People tend to copy others and if they see you learning, they will likely commit some learning themselves.
Demonstrate the Value of Learning
Sharing your success stories and failures is a great way to demonstrate the value of learning. Take away from all your major activities something learned and share that with others. Whether it is some life experience or project you have been on, look at what the things are that you learned from that and share that with others. Look at how the mistakes you’ve learned from have improved you or helped you avoid such mistakes again or look at how you’ve repeated successes and learned to excel in those areas. Demonstrating these type of results as a value of learning will help to inspire and motivate others to take learning more seriously themselves. People value what impacts them and those they love so if you can demonstrate how learning something will improve their lives or those they love, you are much more likely to influence them into becoming a learning in that area.
Motivate with Rewards and Measures
If you are working to empower a friend, child, colleague or direct report, you should closely examine what kind of rewards and measures you use to encourage them to learn on their own. Noticing new things learned is the easiest but often overlooked. People want to be recognized so simply telling them what you noticed they were doing to learn more impressed you, or say thanks to them to encourage this type of behavior. You may want to look at offering something for those who learn something new, or solve a problem by studying it or perhaps simply reading a book or fixed number of books. Simple rewards can be very effective here especially for children.
The best kind of reward to give is one that is given without any prior promise or intent. Do not tell someone you will give them a reward if they go learn something. Instead, challenge them in different ways and then when they do learn something on their own, reward them for that spontaneously. You don’t want someone to only learn if there is a reward at stake so its important that the rewards be random and spontaneous.
Measuring progress towards a goal of learning or self learning is also very helpful, especially if you have someone who you know is already working on becoming a more active learner. Put some metric into place like the number of hours spent or the number of books read or the number of new things completed each week. These types of measures can be highly motivating if you are a friend, parent or colleague with the intent to improve and help that person. Don’t make it a person favor or competition, simply encourage them to become a more active learner.
Make resources Available and Easy to Access
Some people don’t know where to start when having to learn something new and this is where resources come in. You can help provide the tools, people, training, courses, material or whatever else is needed to encourage someone to learn and empower them by eliminating any roadblocks. You want to get as many things out of their way as possible so that the learning is easy. Once there is a habit of learning and a desire, you can help them to get obstacles out of their way themselves. These obstacles are things like having access to the learning materials, money to attend seminars and courses, lists of books and online sources for information, public library access, a network of people and friends who you can discuss and learn from and any other resources that would help someone learn. Share any resources you’ve used for learning and lend out books and trade content. Join a club that does this or look for used material or items to trade. Introduce people to others with similar interests and learning habits so that as many resources that a person might need to learn from are readily available.
Let People Learn With Your Own Style
With all those resources listed above, not everyone is going to use them all or even like the idea of them all. Find out how a person likes to learn and let them have their own style for content and practice. It doesn’t matter how someone learns or even what they learn if you can empower them to become a life long learner. Someone who learns today will continue to learn tomorrow and they will stimulate themselves to explore new areas and branch their learning experiences into new and different topics with various methods. You should allow others to learn by their own tools and methods. If you look at all the other headings from this article, they can each be accomplished while still letting a person learn with their own style so don’t push them into your style of learning and let them discover what works best for them. There is certainly no problem with giving them suggestions or explaining what has worked well for you to help empower them, just make sure it is their own choice as a learner needs to have their own style of learning if it is to last.
Empowering someone is a difficult task to accomplish so you should always start small. You don’t want to make any massive changes or expectations on someone that overwhelms them and discourages them from being engaged in new learning activities. Begin with simple straightforward things that you already know they can handle and build upon that to have consistency and repeatability in learning actions. Ramp those activities up over time and make sure that you don’t accelerate too fast. Keep in mind that you likely have a much higher ability to sustain a learning mindset and workload than someone you are looking to empower with that attitude so you need to ensure you allow them to grow and learn at their pace. Make sure you recognize any and all progress since you want to encourage more learning and any increases in learning focus is valuable.
Set Goals and Plans
Goals and specific plans should help you to empower someone to become a learner as well. Work with to set a specific goal that they can accept about their level of learning and ability to learn. Something that is measurable and demonstrates an ability to learn and willingness to learn instead of a specific learning task. Don’t teach or look for facts, content, or knowledge in these goals, instead, teach them HOW to learn, how to think, how to approach things. Give them space to become an individual with their own creative mind and an ability to find solutions to problems and a desire to hunt down that solution themselves. Set the goals to help focus them and use them as a guide to review progress and help them get to a level of ability they are happy in achieving. Continue to expand those goals over time as they are accomplished and look for new ways to complete each goal to help expand their learning capacity and ability.
Keep them away from the systemic teaching systems (like classic schooling and courses) that do nothing but spoon feed information, training memorization instead of thinking and ensure that every distraction and control is bound around a very rigid and non-flexible teaching style. These methods are failing now to build students with individual minds and are producing less and less people with the ability and willingness to learn throughout their life! Make sure to encourage “out of the box” thinking since thinking has become so conditioned in today’s schooling that few people ever come to realize the dangers of that system.
If you empower a person to learn, they become a learner and teacher for life with an immense ability to take on and excell with any new challenge!
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