In the latest instalment of ‘Take 5 with Stella Collins’ Stella explores the concept of Learning Agility.
What does learning agility mean?
Put simply, learning agility is an individual’s ability to learn. It allows us to adapt to change and new things, while also to develop and grow throughout our lives. Learning agility is innate, we’re born with the ability to learn how to learn. But we can improve that ability to help ourselves truly excel.
Let’s look at an analogy
In her ‘Take 5’ video, Stella gives us a great example about her passion for running:
I really quite enjoy running, and clearly I’m naturally able to run. However, due to having really quite short legs – I’m never going to be as fast as Usain Bolt. But, I can practice techniques, regularly train and try out different ways of running – to improve the level of running for me. And it’s the same with learning, we can all improve our ability to learn. And I think that’s vitally important to help us throughout our lives, careers and with everything we do.
But learning agility is actually complex. It’s not one skill, it’s a set of multiple skills. And there are different types of learning – so lets explore this more deeply.
What are the key mindsets of learning agility?
Firstly you need to have the right mindset to learn. The concept of having a ‘growth mindset’ has become hugely popular, and this is essential to effective learning. It’s the ability to believe you can learn is paramount to actually learning.
In addition, being curious is a great mindset for learning. Curiosity release dopamine and helps us feel good while learning. Although, there’s a paradox with curiosity, because sometimes by becoming curious and finding out more – the more we realise there is to learn. And that in itself can be challenging.
Another mindset that is really important in learning is grit and resilience. The ability to keep going when learning can feel tough or challenging. When learning it is completely expected that we’ll need to practice and repetition to make the learning ‘stick’. And with that we’ll encounter challenges that we’ll need to push through and overcome. Sometimes this means learning from failure and accepting that we’ve made a mistake. But understanding that we can learn from that mistake and grow.
What skills do you need to unlock your own learning agility?
As we’ve already explored, learning agility isn’t one skill, it’s an amalgamation of a range of skills. Firstly, to unlock your own learning agility you need to have the skill of motivation: to be able to encourage ourselves to actually partake in the learning at hand. We then need investigation and research skills to discover the knowledge we do not already have. And we need the ability to analyse the information we discover. We also need memorising skills so that we can easily recall the information we’ve discovered.
Once we’ve master all of that, we need to apply the learning. And this brings with it the need for other skills. We need to be able to accept and request feedback on our application of the new knowledge, and carrying on and trying again if we fail. And the last skill that makes a truly agile learner is reflection. The ability to review what you’ve learned, and how far you’ve come is paramount to effective learning.
And what counts as ‘learning’?
One thing many people do not realise is there are a multitude of events that are in fact learning experiences. There are some easily recognisable learning experiences, such as learning if you need to take an exam, or if you’re on a formal course. These are conscious forms of learning – you know they’re taking place. But alongside this is ‘unconscious’ learning. This is less formal training, and is often learning by doing – by actively training our new things, meeting new people and embracing new experiences. These instances may not always feel like learning, but they truly are. And to enhance your own chances for success, you must learn to learn from those experiences too.
So, how can I learn how to learn?
You learn and adapt to change daily – particularly in the last year, we’ve also adapted and learned new things. Right now you are using new technology, working differently, learning independently, handling complex information in a volatile environment, studying for qualifications, and yet still expected to perform at your peak.