"For some, “learning to learn” is another way of saying learning to self-train. The goal of learning to learn thus becomes an injunction to playing an active role in one’s own training, to take responsibility under one’s own steam to find learning solutions tailored to the learner’s specific needs."
Article written by Antoine Amiel, Co-founder of LearnAssembly, and initially published on the Focus RH’s website.
For the past few months, the term “learning to learn” has certainly been on everyone’s mind. Students of all ages, startups and companies have shown interest in the subject, and all for different reasons.
However, the meanings of the term “learning to learn” varies greatly depending on context. Learning to learn… or learning to memorize?
For some, “learning to learn” is another way of saying learning to memorize. We are thus witnessing the efflorescence of methods that can at times veer more towards cramming than the real development of an ability to learn. Learning to memorize can represent an economic bonanza for some. Youtubers, coaches and gurus of all kinds—self-proclaimed specialists of learning methods that are “scientifically proven”.*
Of course, with no time to review all the content on the subject, I have absolutely no authority to attest to their validity. Yet, it’s fair to say that there are good sides and bad, and that the contribution of cognitive sciences has been hijacked for commercial purposes.
On the other hand, scientific popularization by researchers like Stanislas Dehaene have helped add substance to the debate—which is important, considering the subject can quickly slide into unfounded beliefs, even in light of the serious empirical studies that have been carried out.
For some, “learning to learn” is another way of saying learning to self-train. The goal of learning to learn thus becomes an injunction to playing an active role in one’s own training, to take responsibility under one’s own steam to find learning solutions tailored to the learner’s specific needs. This definition is therefore primarily intended for adults and relates to the development of skills. The term “learning to learn” in this case addresses the question of employee development against a backdrop of uncertainty for many sectors and employment areas.
Finally, another meaning of “learning to learn” is developing learning agility, as theorized by the CCL and Korn Ferry, among others. This vision of learning agility consists of encouraging individuals to develop the “muscle” of reflexivity and viewing issues with flexible perspective. The individual is encouraged to transform life experiences into learning experiences. Learning agility is both a mindset, a position, and a set of practices that allow you to learn from your own experiences.
Often analyzed through the prism of the individual—specifically to detect high potential—learning agility is well regarded and varies greatly depending on context and environment. Indeed, learning agility is not solely the responsibility of the individual, but is also dependent on the surrounding work environment.
The notion of workplace capacity affects both the organizational and communal dimension of learning. Individuals who are curious, stay open to failure, and revel in learning from their experiences can at times encounter an environment that hinders potential and limits learning experiences.
The practice of determining overall learning agility on an organizational basis is the only way to truly promote the employability and self-confidence of team members.
When learning to learn fosters a taste for curiosity and critical thinking, helps break down the negative associations that can accompany learning practices, shines a light on skills and professions, and popularizes cognitive science in the service of educational engineering, it can only be viewed in a positive light. When the term is tantamount to spurring paradoxical injunctions, covering up more serious social ills, or falling into a facile stream of scientism, the outcomes are clearly more disturbing.