Learning in Adulthood with Ian McIlwan

by 

Radek Czahajda & Valueships

 in 

Learning in Adulthood with Ian McIlwan

Executive summary:

In this episode of Science of Business Podcast we will be talking about the reality of learning in adulthood.

My guest, Ian McIlwain has more than 10 years of experience in working with adult learners in LinkedIn Learning and FutureLearn and I will do my best to harvest his key insights during our 45-min talk 😊

Some questions we plan to address:

▶ Is it more difficult to learn when we get older?

▶ How to address transfer in self-paced learning?

▶ Is learning strategy different depending what we intend to learn?

▶ Are we all ready to learn autonomously?

▶ How to deal with a stubborn learner?

Join us to explore scientific research and best practices in the field of adult learning together with us.

Transcription:

Radek: Welcome to Science of Business podcast by Valueships. My name is Radek. And together with experts from various industries, we discuss new research pieces and their application in business life. If you're a manager or you want to be up to date with science that can be applied in your work, this podcast is made for you. 

And we are live. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Science of Business podcast. Today, my guest is Ian McIlwan, director of Development and Partnerships at Future Learn and former LinkedIn learning sales director. Happy to have you here. 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, great to be here. Hello, everyone. Thanks for the invitation, Radek. 

Radek: And the topic for today is ‘Adult learning’. And in specific, there is one thing that I really want to talk with Ian about which is, are we more autonomous as learners if there is any difference in our self-directedness? But this will come later on. First, we will have some questions that came from our audience. And even before that, I have one very small question to you, Ian, because I know you have quite a lot of experience with multiple learners that are or have to be in some way self-directed because they attend online courses. And I wonder, over this year, what was your number one realization about learners? 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, well, over this year or let's say, two years, and I think everybody understands the context that we're talking about. Here is this huge digital transformation. Of course, it's been amazing to see what we can do online, what we what we can achieve with learning online, that may have been challenged in the past or if not challenged and already happening but rather happening at a slower pace. But I’d say, within that, what we've seen and there's also this realization that depending on what you're learning, your own personality, why you're learning, learning online can be a bit of a lonely experience. And I can't help but compare this with fitness and training and growing in in that way as well. Depends on who you are. Maybe you want to go for a long run on your own and that's how you reflect but maybe you would be better off in a Zumba class or an aerobics class or with a personal trainer, depending on what your goals are and what you're trying to do. So, yeah, I’d say it's that really can be a lonely experience, unless you have the options, it's not just about putting the things online. 

Radek: So, there is plenty of different things we can do online but they all depend on our context on what we actually… who we are, in some way. 

Ian McIlwan: It can be the moment, can be our personality and it can be what we're trying to learn and for what. We have evidence around this. Whilst it's been amazing to see what can be achieved, as I said in this transformation and migration of a ton of different options online, we also see instances where learners don't or can't engage, not necessarily complete things but we might see in the same company, let's say, or on the same day, a Zoom workshop being created where people got to know that they're going with their colleagues and it's going to be a bit more facilitated or they're going to an online course where there's a… they're going through with a cohort and they know that they can exchange and perhaps exchange outside the virtual experience. And we see higher levels of engagement and higher levels of completion and therefore, better outcomes and better chance of things being transferred into adaptation in real life and being put to use. 

Radek: Yeah, I love it, and… because sometimes what I see is that for instance, people complain that massive online courses have very low completion rate. A lot of people quit when they start it. But I think the conclusion from here is it's not that generally, online courses are bad but just maybe for some people, for those who couldn't make it, maybe there was something missing and we need to address individual learners and what is missing for them to make sure that they learn. 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, almost certainly, there is something missing if there isn't this element of exchange. Because, even if, and go back to the analogy of training and maybe even if I am somebody who prefers to go for a long run and I need that space and time, and I won't do that, I’ll probably benefit from, you know, exchanging my stats at least with somebody on an app, seeing how other people are doing. But most of us, in reality, and I guess this is probably the realization about learners, most of us want to learn together and we need to reflect together or we need at least an option to do that. And sometimes, you know, that's not… sometimes, that's not necessarily us being active ourselves, you know, in the classroom. I might learn vicariously just because of the other conversation that's going on, even if I’m not contributing, but there's lots of different elements and we need to make sure that we have those options because yeah, otherwise it's likely that something's going to be missing. 

Radek: There is a very related question from Oscar that shared it before we started recording, which is how to address transfer in those settings where people are rather self-paced? So, there is no instructor, there is no live meetings. Most often, this would be just online course that you do asynchronously. How to make sure that people do implement their learnings in their life? What are your practices in this? 

Ian McIlwan: Yes, thank you for the question, Oscar. There's three things that come to mind for me, here. First of all, I’m a big fan of smart goals and this seems to be me to apply really well here because if I’ve gone to the trouble of going through the course, I’ve committed to myself and gained the knowledge, it's a shame not to make sure that I can carry it through myself. And a good mechanism is just setting a smart goal for myself, and I imagine that that is a, you know, the final step that's often missed. Related to that, I would say, one of the things that's really important is the immediacy of when I make a change. Even if I just make one change, because of what I’ve learned or what I’ve reflected on, but I make that today, so I come away from the course and ask myself, what's the one thing that I’m going to do different as a result of the course that I’ve taken, but what's the one thing that I’m going to do different today? Tomorrow is most likely today.

Radek: Before you go to the third one, I would ask you something about this. So, once I was thinking about it that we organize a training in a given field and then the participants don't have a chance to implement it in a few months even. Let's say, it would be project management training but no project is to be managed in the upcoming weeks or months. Would you say it's maybe not the best timing for such training to happen or that they still should need to practice even though…? 

Ian McIlwan: I’d say a couple of things. One is, you know, we're quite used to training where there is cases or you bring a particular problem to the workshop, you're trying to solve it right there and then. So, that's like, probably even more ideal in terms of the timing, but yeah, I imagine there are topics where the timing is important but if it's project management, for example, I can practice with my, you know, planning my kid's birthday party or next ski holiday because I’m… we're not saying implement all of it, we're not saying all of the things that you've managed but it's important to get that momentum immediately, so just one thing to practice or one thing to implement immediately, I think that's the important… But I wouldn't necessarily say wait till the perfect moment to take the training, I’ll just say, make sure that you're aware of what's the change that you're going to make straight away and know that it's diminishing over time, the likelihood of you actually making that change if it's months after. So, yeah, I’d say that. And then the third thing, I think somehow related as well, and this is what I would recommend for a trainer. And if this doesn't happen in the course… similar to the second one. If the course doesn't end with ‘what's the one change that you're going to implement today or the thing that you're going to do differently?’ the other thing that I would look for at the end is who's your buddy. And that is… similar, doesn't necessarily need to be someone in the course, it needs to be somebody who you can tell what you've learned and what you're trying to do, and set those check-in moments. And doesn't necessarily need to be every week or two weeks, it could be two months. I had a buddy from a mental health and wellness course, we attended together and we agreed that we were going to implement these certain things. She was going to write gratitude journals and I was going to make sure that I kept up with my regular learning, self-paced learning. Just happened to be that. Now, when we spoke the following weeks, we got in this habit of checking in with each other and, you know, no criticism, no judgment, just a moment to share what we were doing. But we caught up less frequently and after months of not catching up, we had our check-in. And she shared with me that she had kept up really diligently. First, because she built the habit but secondly, because she didn't want to come to that meeting and say that she hadn't kept it up. Even in the environment where… I’m not a judgmental person, I wouldn't criticize her and in fact, you know, it's really her business but that was enough to keep her on the track of implementing what we had learned about. 

Radek: Wow. So, some very concrete tactics. And I really like especially, the first one about learning goals because I got to know when I was exploring some research and how to make sure that people are motivated to learn is that when they set out goals for themselves, it really increases their not only motivation but also attention during the course because they always, whatever happens, it always resonates to the goal. So, if I want to implement it at my work, whenever I learn something new, I look at it from this perspective. So, I think it really gives some framework for the instructors, for the people who design online courses to make sure that those elements are included. Not only the knowledge that you want to share but also taking care a little bit of supporting the learners through. 

Ian McIlwan: I think it's such a great point. So, if I said at the end what I would like to see is a ‘What are you going to do different now and what are you going to… who's your buddy?’ at the beginning, I would like to see emphasis placed on ‘Why are you doing this?’ so, related to the goals. But why is this important and what does it… like, why bother at all? Because, I think you're right. It helps you to connect throughout the course to the overall learning goals. But also, just as humans, we tend not to make good decisions based on future states but we will make decisions, you know, the week following the training or the week after or even maybe in the course, lower engagement, if we're just, you know, thinking about the now. If we can just take that time and think about what's the future state, why bother or what's this really for, deeply, emotionally? Then, we're much more likely to be able to make it stick and much more likely to engage. I think you're right. 

Radek: Great. A lot of concrete insights. And I think we can move on to… because we have two more questions to address before the big topic. One, and I will allow myself to answer this one. There was a question from Mache; if it's more difficult to learn when we get older. So, if, you know, at certain age, especially, because world is changing right now. So, we will need to learn, we will need to risk heal, upskill over our lifespan and is it harder for us if we get older? And the simple answer from research is no, it's not. The most cited research about it is on the taxi drivers from London that whenever they attend the training to learn the map of London to know all the streets, their hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning is actually growing. So, we have this plasticity, we keep on learning. Recently, I also got to know there was a research actually that said older people have lower capabilities. But the problem was that the research was not longitudinal. So, at a given point of time, we asked young people and old people if they… tested them in their capacity but then the longitudinal research, so one person over time, actually did not replicate the results. So, it means that maybe in the past generations when we didn't have that much availability of education, when we didn't really… when we weren’t put in situations to always learn, then maybe our capacity decreased but right now, people have potential to learn for at least until 80s and it's keep on increasing as we get healthy. So, this is answered, I didn't want to bother you with that. But what I wanted to ask you is, do you see this, actually? Do you see this bias if people believe, ‘oh, I’m too old for learning this’. Like, how do you… do you see this and how do you challenge that? 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah. It's… so, first of all, really interesting that some of the science that is coming out of this, and I have to say we're on the Science of Business podcast and my career is much more around business and management leadership than it has been around teaching and science, but where I have come across things in this space, the assumption that children can learn languages at a young age is being challenged at the moment because it's, I think, it's much more about expectation, turns out. But lots of interesting research going on around that. I think that… I think this is also something that's changed over the last couple of years. So, if you think about leadership skills, for example, and let's imagine, the leader who's been in a position for some time and maybe hasn't been challenged to learn and adapt and change as frequently as their career progressed, and maybe, dare I say it, starts to feel like, ‘oh, they've got the pinnacle of their career, they've done it and, you know, they're there and now they're drawing on their experience’. I think that in the last couple of years, what that leader has had to learn about leading in a crisis, authentic leadership, empathy, just all kinds of digital transformation has probably challenged in a really healthy way. But yeah, I don't buy it, I don't think that it's more difficult to learn when we get older. It's a matter of expectation, it's a matter of attitude. I can't help but think about in my own personal life, my mother doesn't like technology and then she doesn't have internet in her house and I know, obviously, that frustrates me because it hampers our connection and communication and I just think about what could she… what could we do? If she possibly had, you know, set her own expectation that she could pick these things up. Not to criticize my mother, but in this example, my mother-in-law, I have a video of her with Oculus Rift, dancing around, fighting zombies in the front room because she's just embraced it and it wasn't hard for her to learn how to use that. 

Radek: I think we will also address that in some way in the upcoming questions about the stubborn learners and this being self-directed but before we jump into that, there is a question from the audience that appeared right now, which is, what changes you've realized between learning process before pandemic and now? What we've learned so far on learning that we didn't know before 2020? And I wonder, because in the beginning, you mentioned a little bit about it and that we realized that it's just like training in the gym, that we have different styles and we need to use the materials, the tools accordingly. Is there some other learning before and after the pandemic that you would add to that? 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, a couple of things come to mind, so, yeah, thanks for the question, Camilla. We did a trends report in Future Learn in the middle of the pandemic and there was some really interesting insights around how inclusive people could find the online learning, which I think that something that wasn't really coming up before. It was around being able to be in a space which is accessible by everybody and whilst you want to engage with others, somehow, there was less judgment. And I’m not sure that we were thinking that deeply about it before the pandemic, so that was a really interesting one to see. Besides that, I think that it would… I know I referred to the pandemic as this moment and I think of it more as a catalyst rather than absolutely changing things. It's… many of these things were happening already, so this understanding that we should be blending the online with the offline, the understanding that we could make an online training experience fit for a lot of different needs just using the technology. It was going slower and it just went much faster. So, I think that's really the point for me. It's, the pandemic was a catalyst, it didn't change things on a U-turn, just like, made us believe because from one week to the next, we solve things that we thought were going to take years. 

Radek: Great. Thank you. And then there is this one I saved for a last one, and I think it's the most challenging. So, let me give you the context behind this question. It was about a specific learner. So, we have some performance review in the company, we have some concrete positions where this person should develop in their field, because it's coming from feedback, from how they perform in comparison with the other team members and then, this person would say, ‘Nope, I don't feel I need to learn this’. There is a… so, this stubbornness or this hesitance comes… it's quite, quite strong as an attitude, and I wonder how do you address such attitudes? 

Ian McIlwan: It's a big question and so, I think there's a lot of dimensions to it. So, let me name a few that come to mind for me, Radek, and I’m sure we can get into a few of them. But first of all, the first thing that just jumps out to me even when I see this word, ‘stubborn learner’ is the concept of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. And so, when discussing with this person, I think that if we keep that in mind, it would help us as a, you know, a coach, a manager, teacher, trainer to understand where this might be coming from. Because, it's probably something fairly, fairly deep. What helped this person to lean more towards fixed mindset rather than lean more towards growth mindset, and it can be that, you know, they were given labels in school even or judged in school in a way that meant ‘I have to be good at this thing and proven and I can't show any kind of weakness or humility by admitting that I need to learn something because actually, my personality is very much connected to that somebody once gave me the label of smart’ or, you know, because it can be quite deep set and we can't stop with just this is a, you know, somebody who's been stubborn because they want to say ‘no’, it can be much more connected to this. After that, I mean, there's definitely a conversation about how quickly the world is changing and maybe, it's about bringing some of their visibility to that what got them to the position where they are now or the success they are now won't get them to the next step or won't… may not even maintain them in the position that they are now because of the speed of change around us, and that's just getting… it's just getting faster. The other thing, two more things, Radek, and you can dive in. The other thing I would say as well is there's sort of a practical example that we have, again, here for… in sports or people who are real masters. If you think about a basketball player, a professional, they stand and hundreds of times do a chest pass to each other, even if they are playing on the, you know, the US Olympic team. They do this because they need to make sure that they're continuing to sharpen their skills and they do it with the other people, so that they start to understand that the other people that they're working with. So, it's not about, you know, I’ve made it to the top and now I don't learn or practice even more. Never mind learn, just even practice. The best do that, so there's probably something to do with a motivation there. Final thing I would say about this is, let's assume that this person is within an organization, a company, like an enterprise company, there's a few stakeholders around this person who will impact their learning and impact their feeling towards learning, their attitude towards learning. One is the L&D team. So, is the L&D team creating tools that are inspiring and, you know, enough flexible and options that this person can gravitate to one and it fits their needs. The other is the executive. So, the leaders of the organization. Are they role modeling the importance of learning themselves? Are they making sure that people understand that they, as the part of their job, they should be making space in their week to dedicate to learning? And are they giving them that responsibility? It's not just the space but the actual responsibilities, right? Your responsibility part of your job is to get yourself ready for, if not the next job for yourself but get yourself ready for what else is coming because the world is changing and we know that. And are they giving that responsibility in such a way that… so, you can deliver on your results today but you're probably not going to be able to meet your responsibility to the company if you don't embrace, you know, the change that you need to do. And then, the final stakeholder in this environment that we're building around this person to support them towards a growth mindset is their first line manager. And I mentioned this really specifically because I think this is so important and it's probably, in a company, the stakeholder group that's given less focus, the least focus and the least support to be able to coach somebody, but that first line manager also needs to role model, make sure that the right motivations is in place. Coach, understand. And so, they need also to be taught how to help somebody to learn. So, it's a big question and probably, all sounds easier said than done, depending on the… depending on who you were. But the one thing I would say, it's not… it can't be accepted because it's not fair to accept it as like, ‘you are struggling’ is just another label which is a disservice to this person. 

Radek: Yeah, I love it. I think the major outcome, the major conclusion for me is that there always is a reason and there could be plenty of those and we need to… we can't give up if we realize it's not about the motivation, then let's search for something else until we find it. And it's interesting that you repeated the influence of manager. Like, I underlined it two minutes ago and then you closed it up with this line manager. I think it's really important to remember that never the instructor or the L&D team should be alone in this. I think we are there to help, also to help the line manager on how to do that but especially, in this situations where motivation is not granted, I think manager is really important to help the learners, make sure that they know why they are actually needed in this process. 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, and we do… we know how influential managers are on our careers, on an individual's career and, you know, we've all had the stats around people leaving managers, not necessarily companies, if they leave and they feel like they're not growing. And so, I have this strong feeling that we need to help the managers, because it's their… it's such a difficult job. There's a lot of deliverables in that management position and they need to be deeply connected with the importance of learning too and be inspired by it and then demonstrate that inspiration, because if it's just a, you know, if it's just for compliance, then that's… it's always going to remain that way. I don't know if that's part of the background of this question. If it's that… like, that's what's going on with the behind the scenes of this question, but I feel like helping the first line manager helping that person who is most influential on a day-to-day, it is probably the first… it's probably the first stop. 

Radek: Yeah, I’m also taking that down as a note for… recently, I’m trying to understand how to better shape the learning culture inside organization. And you mentioned this time for learning, making sure everyone has some learning paths and also supporting the line manager, this is what was missing in my current model, so I will include that happily. Thank you for this comment. And I think we can move to the biggest question for today that I prepared some research for you, which is about learning autonomously. And just to give you the impression of Radek from three months ago, before I started questioning myself is, so, whenever I teach trainers about truths and myths of learning, of adult learning, I always refer to the myth of learning styles. Because, that's also well embedded in formal education that there are some learning styles. And in formal, they say we are visual, auditory, kinesthetic. And then there is training, another model from Kolb that we are more learners by doing, by reflecting and so forth. But the problem with all these models is that there is no research, no proven research that actually, it helps learning. That if you have this style and you learn in this style that you will learn better. Actually, what is proven is that if you mix styles, that's how you achieve better results, so you try different approaches. So, this is Radek three months ago and basically, I would say we shouldn't really pay attention that much to the learner, on their style and so forth. But then I discovered a research from 1991 that was also later on re-discussed by other scholars and it appears it is still existing more in nursing education, in medical education than in adult education, but very interesting read. So, Gerald Grow, 1991, he presented a model that there are four stages of self-directedness as a learner. We are, first, dependent. Then, we are interested. Then, we are involved. And finally, we are self-directed. And he was linking this strongly to Blanchard, to the situational leadership that also our employees are first need a lot of guidance, a lot of direction, but in the end, they are very self-driven as employees. He connected those two models, claiming that depending where the learner is, we should adjust our style, we should adjust the form of education we give them. So, for instance, if the learner is more dependent, we give more authority to learning, so there would be more lectures, there would be more concrete tools, concrete answers. While the more they dive towards self-directedness, we organize more workshops, we invite them to co-create learning and finally, we don't really organize their learning, we rather support them in learning by their own. So, it clicked to me because in some of my training, I do realize my approach is I bring research pieces and then we try to deconstruct it, we try to figure out what does it mean for us. And the very same topic, the very same style, different groups, sometimes it's brilliant, everyone loves it, a lot of ideas pop up. Sometimes I get feedback ‘yeah, but maybe you should give us more examples’. And it's clicked to me that maybe, it is connected to this that we have different attitudes towards learning. And if we do, then maybe we won't actually learn that much from the educator. So, this as the introduction and I wonder if you also encountered such differences in self-directedness among learners? 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah. And the example that you gave there in terms of one classroom plan or one training plan working with one group and not necessarily working brilliantly with the other group, brings the opportunity of personalization to mind for me. So, if you define here autonomously as that I’m just going to follow a set path in a course and I am on my own, no cohort, no stuff like social exchange, even though it's not face-to-face, it's online, and no sort of adaptation to what I need, then this is what I would describe as a lonely online experience. But, if the learning experience or the course that I’m taking has ways of helping me to engage in a different way, so, at this moment, I don't need to absorb all this knowledge, I already got this, I’m much more at the stage of ‘I need to reflect on this and maybe share experiences’, well, then I can, you know, I can jump to that stage. That's an element of personalization, which you're not able to achieve as a trainer in that classroom. You may be able to get some… everybody to the same level outside with some kind of online learning and then have more success in the classroom in a like, a blended way because you've connected the two as well. So, the options for this sort of personalization are really open up. And not necessarily about learning styles though, you know, as you said by kinetic and auditory… so, not necessarily that. I think beyond that, because it's also about my, you know, my previous experience on this topic. And I think the context is absolutely everything. So, it really depends what I’m learning about. For example, you know, if I’ve been a snowboarder all my life and then somebody asked me to go on skis, then it's similar, we're on the hill, we're doing the same type of a job but in this point, the teacher can't be a coach and an inspirer and say, ‘what do you think we should do? How do you think you should put them on?’ and ‘just go for it, I believe in you’. No, there has to be an element of teaching about this thing and that's ‘it doesn't matter if I’m more of a self-directed experienced person on the hill because I’m learning something different and that the teaching has to adapt’. What I think is really interesting about the paper that you just described as well though is the connection between teaching styles adapting to the situation and leadership styles, actually. So, he made some connection with Blanchard, as you said, there. But if you think about teachers as leaders, it's the same type of flexibility that's needed, ‘when will I be a coach? When will I be a just a teacher disseminating knowledge?’ probably, less and less because, you know, knowledge is becoming more and more commoditized. It's available, it's at least out there. ‘When will I be more of a director?’ as in, you know, holding standards and telling but measuring and so on, and when will I be a… yeah, ‘when will I be a coach and a cheerleader?’ So, same thing in leadership actually as teachers and I think, you know, more and more if we think of… I think as, think of teachers and trainers in this context as leaders because you need to employ these similar skills in a very flexible fluid way. 

Radek: Yeah, I’m smiling because last week, on another podcast, I actually discussed a research from military where the trainers who delivered the military program were evaluated and how good of leaders they are and it appeared that is also relevant to the level of learning from their peers and we came to conclusions the same as you mentioned that trainers should be also leaders and should develop in this field. But also, what resonated with me is when you mention that it depends on what we learn. And I mentioned to you before our call that when I was learning Spanish, self-directedness didn't really work when I just started because I… I didn't know what to use. I started to learn some vocab but then I couldn't really put them into sentence, I couldn't speak and I found out actually, there is no better way than to go, to attend to classes or to some instructor, to get the feeling of the language before I get self-directed. So, in this case, I was really dependent learner but in some other contexts, I am fully self-directed and I cannot really go to formal education anymore in, let's say, in evidence-based training because usually, I would be disappointed with not really addressing my very specific needs. That's what I’m taking. And one thing I wanted to ask you is, for the personalization, an idea popped up in my mind. If we asked in our needs assessment, if you included a question, just an open one, how do you prefer to learn? How do you like to learn? And evaluate what people answer. Like, I wouldn't ask it at first because I would expect that someone would say, ‘yeah, I’m a visual learner’, so, then I would just drop those but maybe they would tell, ‘yeah, I really love a lot of examples’, and that's actually this… this could fit into one or the other boxes. 

Ian McIlwan: I would ask a slightly different open question because of the importance of context. And I would say what is the best way to learn this thing? 

Radek: I’m noting it down because I will include that. We talked about how to make sure to implement. This will be my goal, you will be my buddy. 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, absolutely. I’d love to hear the answers to that as well but the problem with it, you know, all of this learning styles and how do people, how do individuals learn, it's just labels. So, you heard me before, I’m a fan of the Carol Dweck and the growth mindset concept, and that's just labels which lacks a lot of other dimension. 

Radek: There is another research piece I also wanted to discuss with you and I’m checking, we still have some time for that. So, building on the model from Grow, these four stages, Maureen Fisher developed a scale to evaluate if people are more or less self-directed. So, we divide now from this context depending and part dependent to more, if right now, in my skill set, am I a self-directed learner, in general? And they underlined three factors. And what I would propose is that we go one by one and maybe figure out how we can embrace those. The first one was self-management. So, if I’m managing my time well, if I’m planning well, if I’m prioritizing well. In general, if I’m some sort of organized person. It seems straightforward to support learners in that. How do you think? 

Ian McIlwan: It seems straightforward. I was also just smiling to myself. The author of the previous paper, Gerald Grow, he has such an apt name. It's just a perfect name based on what we've been discussing so far. So, for this one yet to be organized, I’d say, probably, helpful. It also comes to mind to me though, there's probably something here about teaching people how to learn. So, if it's important to you to be organized with a plan to be able to learn something and to get the outcomes, then probably, first step is to, yeah, teach people the importance of that. Learn how… learning how to learn in that way, if it's important. And I might just challenge that, you know, one person's organized and one person isn't. It's something, it's a skill, something that could be taught. 

Radek: Yeah. Personality has some weight to it but in general, we all can learn how to deal with our chaotic behavior, so I cannot agree more. 

Ian McIlwan: If we want to. Maybe we like it. 

Radek: The second factor isn't that straightforward. So, there is desire for learning. And some of the parts for it… I do recommend to search for ‘Maureen Fisher’ for the full paper because there is, I think, 30 of the items in each of the factors but just three of those in desire for learning is enjoying challenge. Learning from mistakes and the need to know why. 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, secure curiosity. And I’d tell you absolutely that would certainly resonate for me, but I will also say… back to what we were talking about before, not just the curiosity on the topic and the need to know why, this happens. Like, why is the sky blue but why am I doing it? What's the outcome? So, if you had a strong desire to learn Spanish, you would persevere that Duolingo was maybe not the right one but that doesn't mean I’m not learning Spanish anymore, I find my way. 

Radek: Yeah. And also, I think this is challenging in some way. This is… in at least, you know, time for complaining about education system but I think this is something that was forgotten about in formal education in Poland, in primary schools. We never… we weren't really learning from mistakes. Mistakes were to be avoided. 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah. 

Radek: We never were to get to know why this will be important, we just needed to learn by heart and so forth. So, this desire for learning and this pure fun of learning, I think, is something that we need to develop more, especially, to pay attention to this one.

Ian McIlwan: Fun of learning, I really love that. Just the fun of learn… just like, the pleasure of it. You know, filling our energy banks because it's an enjoyable thing. But also, back to the question on the stubborn learner in an environment where mistakes are to be avoided, then learning's to be avoided because you learn from the mistakes. 

Radek: Yeah. And the third one, it's connected to this first. So, first was self-management, the third is self-control. So, even though I’m planning, I’m managing my time, prioritizing, can I… am I feeling responsible? Do I have this grit to actually continue to pursue my plans? And how would you support learners in this aspect? 

Ian McIlwan: Yeah, so, two… I’d say two sides to that. There's a kind of a push and a pull. And the pull is my own grit to my own, you know, I know my motivation and I know that, you know, the hardest times are the ones where I’m learning most. But this is also where it… the teacher can play both, an inspiring and motivating but also holding a benchmark and measuring and yeah, more of a like, director role because that's also of service of the learner. 

Radek: Noting down. Great. It was fast but I think if this will come back… this model will come back fast, fun and just like learning should be, right? And by the way, my last maybe, insight for this one and taking your time to think about your last insight is that I recently realized that those podcasts and the opportunity to talk with someone about something that really triggers me is a great way to learn also. And something to remember about. 

Ian McIlwan: Absolutely, for me too. So, yeah, I appreciate you having me. 

Radek: Thank you very much. Any last insights from you on… 

Ian McIlwan: You know… 

Radek: How we should learn? 

Ian McIlwan: I’m going to reflect on what you just said there, which is this element of fun, and we didn't touch on that but I think that might be one of the most important things. 

Radek: Thank you very much. And for all the viewers, if you'd like to learn more about what Ian is doing and he's doing some great work connecting universities to build some better programs that are based on what people actually want to learn, go to FutureLearn.com Ian McIlwan was my guest. Thank you. 

Ian McIlwan: Thank you, Radek. Thank you, everyone.

Radek: Thank you for listening to this episode of Science of Business podcast. Follow Valueships on LinkedIn and Facebook to be up to date with future episodes and live streams from the recording.

Get in Touch

Want to get professional insights and skyrocket your growth?

Schedule a free consultation
By using this website, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
Awesome