Formal education + self-directed learning
The further we move into the 21st Century, the clearer it is that this century is going to be unprecedented. Already it's awash with amazing new technologies and startling new scientific discoveries. Each of which is fraught with demanding challenges. as well as scary new opportunities and responsibilities. Phenomena like globalization, automation, genomics, and cyber warfare, to name only the most inspiring or scariest headline grabbers, are bringing into our lives the proposition that everything we've learned at our mother's knee may be wrong. As well as the suggestion that many of this century's most radical ideas about how the world works may actually suggest much better ways for us to see and understand ourselves, our relationships, and the world we're a part of than anything we learned while we were growing up.
Put simply, it seems that every day there are more and more reasons why each of us needs to seriously question the fundamental belief systems that we inherited from our families-of-origin. Reasons why we need to dismantle and rebuild the very architecture of our homespun, school-bread worldviews. Here at Transformational Learning Opportunities, we believe that, at this point in time, it's almost inevitable that each of us, in three distinct aspects of our lives, has essential work to do:
1. We need to improve the essential personal and professional skills we already have,
2. We need to develop the new personal and professional skills we need to succeed at work and in our lives, and
3. We need to reframe the outdated modes of thinking we have about ourselves, others, our work, and our lives in ways that help us respond more effectively to the toughest, most complex challenges we face.
Moreover, it's becoming clear that, to do this work successfully, each of us needs to learn how to take the knowledge and the insights our educational accomplishments have given us and use them as resources to leverage our everyday experiences into effective self-directed learning apprenticeships. We, experts are saying, need to see our college education as the “front-end” of all our learning efforts, and the subsequent self-directed learning experiences we create after "graduation" as the “back-end” of outlearning efforts. Essentially, the learning equation we all need to be familiar with and capable of implementing is this:
"Formal Education + Self-Directed Learning Experiments = Successful Personal and Professional Development"
This equation highlights the knowledge, the skill building and the learning how to learn work we need to pursue if we're going succeed in today’s complex and rapidly changing world.
Formal Education As The Front-End
According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities, a formal education includes all the knowledge development efforts you pursue that are designed to help you understand to how to deal with the complexity, diversity, and change that’s now shaping and driving the various worlds of work and life that you find ourself in. A high-quality liberal education provides you with knowledge of the world as well information about specific areas of personal and professional interest. Most particularly, it provides you with insight and perspective about the kinds of complex thinking and problem solving skills that are useful in today’s real-world settings and why you need to develop a sense of social responsibility. In short, an effective liberal education, whether it’s pursued through a traditional bricks and mortar institution or virtually through an on-line learning program, helps us acquire the knowledge we need to perceive and comprehend the diversity, complexity, and fundamentally unscripted nature of the world we seem to be living in today.
Self-Directed Learning As The Back-End
Forty years ago, with his book, Skill in Chess(1973), Herb Simon launched the self-directed learning movement. In this book, Simon offered what has become one of the most famous learning propositions ever published: “There are no instant experts in chess--certainly no instant masters or grandmasters. There appears not to be on record any case (including Bobby Fischer) where a person has reached grandmaster level with less than about a decade's participation with the game." With these words, Simon opened our eyes to the idea that mastery in any endeavor is always going to be a matter of trial and error. Experiential skill building is the heart of all 21st Century learning. In 1984, David Kolb elaborated and concretized Simon’s ideas in his book, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. The big step forward that Kolb offered us with this book is the idea that experiential learning necessarily involves four iterative steps; personal awareness, deep reflection, conceptual model building, and real-world experiments. Every adult who’s interested in personal or professional development must move through this sequence over and over and over again if they want to develop the kinds of personal and interpersonal skills that Simon hinted at in Skill in Chess.
The Essential Point
At TLO, we know that a liberal education, whether acquired at a university or online, offers you the kind of front-end knowledge acquisition opportunities that each of us needs in today’s world. We know that experiential learning efforts are the kinds of life experiences that offers you the kind of back-end skill-building opportunities that facilitates and accelerates your efforts to leverage your new knowledge into relevant 21st Century competencies. We also know how to integrate your front-end and back-end learning efforts together in ways that magnify your new competencies so that they amplify your ability to react and respond to the 21st Century's newest challenges and inspiring opportunities. Learn more about all this just below.