Friday, November 14, 2014

Oh to learn like a child!

Today is when India celebrates children's day, on the occassion on the birthday of its first Prime Minister, Nehru, who was so fond of children that he was called Chacha Nehru by everyone! (Chacha in Hindi means paternal uncle)

I only thought it apt to post this thought today. As teachers / trainers / coaches, can we make learning enjoyable? As enjoyable as it is for a child? Can we ensure that everyone learns like a child?



A child is continuously learning. It learns to rollover on its tummy, then rollback, then turnover and rollback from both sides, then crawl, then stand, then walk, then run!

All of us would have heard the term continuous learning or lifelong learners, but how many of us are indeed lifelong learners? The most important aspect in continuous learning is the presence of milestones. And each milestone should be something that has tangible benefits associated with it. As trainers, we must ensure that our learners are aware of the milestones and what benefit will accrue on achievement of the milestone.

This is where terminal objectives and enabling objectives come in handy.

What is also noteworthy is that a terminal objective will be an enabling objective to some other complex task that the learner can move on to. Once the child learns to run, locomotion does not stop, there is the whole array of jumping, climbing, hopping, somersaulting etc.


A child is honest in its learning, in both effort and intent.

How many times as both learners and trainers have we experienced people who are at a training (either attending or conducting) for a reason other than to ensure learning.

Without honesty, even the best-designed training will not fulfill its ultimate requirement - that is to ensure learning.

So, when encountered with situations which go against this basic tenet (we just want to reward our employees by sending them on an offsite, and to make it look official, we want a training conducted during that time), what do you need to do? You need to follow your heart and list down the learning implications and ensure that the program being designed is honest and ensures learning.

Remember, every situation can be converted to a learning situation, but not every learning situation doesn't require training!


A child learns because it wants to from within. It doesn't need any outside stimulation, although that always helps. It wants to crawl and walk because it knows that once it is able to move from one location to another it can get to whatever toy it wants without needing to depend on someone else.

How can we as trainers ensure that what is being taught is grabbed by the learners with an open and eager mind? We need to ensure that the benefit is clearly articulated in a manner that is appealing to the learners. And in order to do so, you need to have a very good understanding of the learners - not just their demographics, but their entire past (how did they get here, what all have they done), present (why are they here) and their future (what do they want to do / achieve).

Here is where audience analysis, complete with environmental conditions come in most handy and if done comprehensively, learners will come seeking learning, which obviously is a wonderful situation to be in.


Have you ever seen a child who learns something but does not use it? Precisely... Learning has to be lived! Remember the good old school days when subjects were taught just because they were prescribed as part of a syllabus?

Unless, you live what you learn, i.e. you are able to put into practice the knowledge or skill you have gained, it will be very ineffective. Which is where it becomes extremely important to ensure that what is being taught is related to real-life and that the learner is given an opportunity to practice what has been learned immediately.

In fact, what works best is if in real-life the learner can practice what has been learned. In order to achieve this, we need to ensure that we are not mere trainers, but we are completely aligned with the operations teams, where we are able to time the training such that real-life practice is available just after the training.


And above all, the learning needs to be enjoyable. And to a large extent, if you have ensured that above four points, a large part of learner delight would have already been achieved.

Learners enjoy learning when they learn new and relevant things in a safe environment. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you are imparting new knowledge or skills, that these knowledge or skills are relevant and of interest to the learner. It is also important that these are imparted in an easy-to-understand manner. So, the language used, the examples given, the interactions used are all pegged at the level of the audience.

The most important point is to ensure that all of these are directed towards ensuring learning and not for any other purpose. What is the point of having a tough assessment, just to prove that the topic is complex? Wouldn't it be better to ensure that the complex topic is clearly understood by as many learners as possible?

Wish you CHILD-like learning!

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