L25 -12 Types of Learning, Part 2

Collaborative learning is a strong incentive towards inter-communication within a group. This is the incentive behind the rapid growth of inter-communication among:

  • Scientific researchers in numerous disciplines
  • R&D teams in innovative corporations
  • Professional associations
  • Guilds among craftsmen, artisans and artists.

Last Thursday in Bangkok, as part of a 3-day KM training program for UNISDR, UN ESCAP and various international and regional non-governmental organizations, I asked participants to “Estimate what percent of your total knowledge now came from your formal education/training?” The participants were international development professionals, and many of them have had KM experiences.

The average answer was only 15-20%. We observed that we learn from work and from life much more than we learn from school, yet we devote MUCH LESS resources, planning, tools/technologies and systems/institutions to get the 80-85% than we do to get the 15-20% from school! We are missing out on something important here. What is it?

For learning from work, we need tools and technologies of Organizational Learning.

I also asked the participants to write down their answers to the question “How Do I Learn?” The 84 answers were clustered. The two biggest clusters that emerged were: (1) learning from work or learning by doing or practice, with 21 answers, and (2) learning by interaction with others, with 18 answers. If so, the next question then is, what is the technology (and art?) of collaborative learning?

This is where Indigo Learning Practices come in.

In a previous blog post, I proposed a way to classify and clarify how we learn (see “12 Types of Learning”). The “12 Types of Learning” follow naturally from the simple KM framework developed in the earlier F Series of blogs, with the addition of Experience as a prior factor in the causal chain:

Experience -> Knowledge -> Action -> Results
E -> K -> A -> R

In short, learning happens when we individually or collaboratively examine and communicate what happens across these four elements.

12 ways we learn

Here is a short summary of the Twelve Types of Learning. The numbers refer to Person 1 and Person 2 who are engaged in communication for the common purpose of learning. The KM framework provides a way of seeing and understanding how knowledge flows between two people. Because Beliefs and Values also affect Action and are also affected by Experience, I place these two items with Knowledge. For similar reasons, I place Statements with Action. The causal chain then is: Experience -> Knowledge/Beliefs/Values -> Action/Statement -> Results.

  1. Type 1: Comparing notes to learn what works better (R1 and R2)
  2. Type 2: Communal validation and reframing is the type of learning powerfully demonstrated by the scientific method (R modifying K and E). It consists of a group of practitioners testing and revising knowledge and reframing beliefs against what works.
  3. Type 3: Reflective practice, where a practitioner does “conscious learning by doing” (individual study of K -> A -> R)
  4. Type 4: Presentation and discussions (S1, S2)
  5. Type 5: Criticism, praise or passing judgment on another (K1 or V1 applied to A2 or S2)
  6. Type 6: Debate is a two-way exchange of Types 4 and 5
  7. Type 7: Learning from exemplars, models, benchmarks or best practices (A1 or S1 leading to K2)
  8. Type 8: Learning through study of each other’s assumptions, mental models (mutual study of each other’s K, B or V)
  9. Type 9: Conscious living or study of one’s assumptions or beliefs in relation to one’s experiences (individual or group study of E -> K and new K reframing E)
  10. Type 10: Storytelling and story listening, or knowledge from others’ experiences (E1 leading to K2)
  11. Type 11: Insight or intuition (birth of new K through ill-understood internal processes)
  12. Type 12: Generative dialogue is productive communication that combines Types 8-11.

From my experience, Type 5 learning happens mostly if one person (the one exercising value judgments) has more power than the other person. Between equals, Type 5 easily leads to Type 6 but learning happens with difficulty in both cases.

Learning is more likely when members of a communicating group practice skills in Types 8-12. To me, the most powerful skills are story listening and generative dialogue. The set of Indigo Learning Practices is a contribution towards the systematization of technologies of collaborative learning.

“The shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.” – Anthony de Mello



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