Friday, February 8, 2013

Next Generation Learning Roles and Human Behavior

Moving to a learner-centric, competency-based, system of learning requires changed attitudes and behaviors. It is not enough to layer innovative models or tools on top of existing behaviors, people must change what they do. One of the most interesting challenges we face in the next few years has to do with the adoption of new roles, professional practices, and learner behaviors required by next generation learning models. We are at the beginning of the learning curve on figuring out what new roles and practices are needed.  The greater challenge will be scaled adoption of these new roles and practices.

This is a good time of year to ponder the topic behavioral change as many of us are trying to better our lives by keeping New Year’s resolutions. Knowing what to do is not enough, habits of practice are difficult to change.  Some observations about the knowing-doing gap:
1.       A change in behavior often requires a change in belief.  Habits of behavior are captive to habits of belief. A new behavior is constrained by what people believe about the problem, themselves, and their ability to overcome the problem. 
A first step is to provide a path and conditions leading to “aha moments” in which people to learn, often by experience, that:
  • It is in my best interest to change what I’m doing.
  • I have the ability to change what I’m doing.
  • If I do this differently, my life will be better, more meaningful, and/or I will better fulfill my calling. 
2.       A change in behavior often requires multiple points of motivation.  It usually takes more than one “aha moment” to adopt new habits of belief and behavior.  It takes a change in priorities over time.  Something needs to become more important and/or less important.  Each person may have a different set of motivators that drive the behavioral change.

Motivational factors include:
  •  Purpose, Meaning, Calling
  • Accomplishment
  • Ownership & Possession
  • Feedback / Course Corrections
  • Social Pressure
  • Scarcity 
  • Impatience
  • Curiosity
  • Avoidance of Loss
Simulations and online game based learning experiences may be designed to include all of these motivational factors.  However, some motivations may be more effective if sources from the real world, e.g. social pressure leveraging a person’s real social network may be more effective than from a simulated peer group. 

3.       Feedback loops are critical for learning and adopting new behaviors.  It is easy to slip back into old habits without long-term, ongoing supports.  Even painful habits are “comfortable” because they are familiar and people will slip back into a destructive habit without continuous feedback loops.  The most effective feedback will be just-in-time, provide the right level of challenge (within the zone of proximal development), and key into the individual’s interests and motivational “hot buttons.”  For example, an automated reminder to exercise may not be as effective as a friend waiting for you at the gym or even sending a private message via Facebook to ask if you exercised today.  Even more effective may be a social network of 20 people working on a goal of 1000 hours of exercise due to the peer pressure for each participant to contribute to the collective goal.

Bringing next generation learning models to scale can be supported by scaled infrastructure, the right economic conditions, technology, and policy enablers.  However, more is needed to help educators and learners to change what they do.  A path to new roles and practices is paved in part with redesigned professional training and development programs for specialized educator roles that develop proficiencies and practices optimized for new learning models.  Effective programs will likely take advantage of digital learning and social networking technologies, and designed to incorporate individualized motivational feedback loops.

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