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Self-directed learning (1)

The drive to learn and achieve seems to be hard wired, even though developing new job skills or studying for a degree is rarely easy. Challenges can range from exciting and liberating to frustrating and stressful. Learning expands personal horizons as a result of mastering difficulties, experimenting, making mistakes, and adapting one’s ways of functioning in the world.

In self-directed learning, people proactively choose what they want to learn. Often they are in charge of the process from beginning to end, and there’s a better fit between personal motivation and learning activities. Employees are more inclined to value what they’re doing and to appreciate feedback to help them improve on self-directed learning tasks. It can inspire eagerness, optimism, creative ideas, and high motivation. Self-directed learning is a very effective way to engage and teach adults.

Workplaces are suited to facilitating learning from experience, as employees are potentially in a self-directed learning lab each working day. How well people handle the challenges of learning depends a lot on three factors: their mindset, goals, and motivation.

A learning mindset
Psychologist Carol Dweck refers to whether a person’s mindset is oriented towards growth or is fixed from childhood. A learning mindset minimises anxiety associated with change and growth.

A growth mindset believes it’s possible to expand capacities and qualities by applying personal effort to develop. People with a growth mindset are more likely to reach their full potential. They have the capacity for perseverance and resilience.

When employees believe that intelligence and personality are fixed from childhood, developing their potential is harder. People with a fixed mindset spend a lot of their time convincing themselves and others that they are already good enough, and avoiding situations where they might fail.

Goals to ‘get-better’
Social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson found that the kinds of goals people set affect their outcomes. Setting ‘get-better’ goals is a more successful strategy than setting ‘be-good’ goals.

‘Get-better’ goals help employees develop the ability and knowledge to master new skills, to grow and achieve. Benefits of ‘get-better’ goals include more freedom to: explore new opportunities, adapt, put emerging ideas into action, take risks, reflect on mistakes or failures, and refine skills while learning. Employees with ‘get-better’ goals are more courageous in asking for help, because they view themselves as learners rather than experts.

Employees with ‘be-good’ goals aim to prove they already have the necessary ability and knowledge. Therefore, stretching, changing or adapting to unfamiliar goals creates more anxiety for employees with ‘be-good’ goals.

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