I talked last time about self directed, self paced learning and how true learning that creates behavioral change takes place over long periods of time with much repetition. But just knowing how people learn and apply information is not enough. Why do people make the effort to learn something? There may be several reasons. They may find joy in learning. They may like to be “in the know”. They may want to impress people with their knowledge. They may want to acquire skills that will enable them to be more successful. They may want to get ahead in life. But I think as teachers and trainers, it is imperative that we ask this vital question, “Why are you here? Why do you want to learn?” The answer will be different for different people, but they must understand why they are putting forth this effort. In the Bible, before healing him, Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?”
So, before starting anything new, before embarking on that road to learning and creating change, ask yourself that vital question, “Why?” Once you know why you want to learn, the rest becomes easy. You will have the intrinsic motivation to learn. And intrinsic motivation is much better than any kind of extrinsic motivation. You can make people go to classes. You can offer learning credits. You can offer incentives that encourage people to learn. You can set a good example as a leader. But if you don’t get at the individual motivation for learning and creating change, you are banging your head against the wall.
Our academic world has lost that sense of learning. Most students ask the same question: “What do I need to know for the test?” When I told some professors that I wanted to our final session to include how to create lifelong learning, they declined to participate. They said, “We’re giving them a test.” Regurgitation of information without the “why” will not stay with students for very long. They feel such pressure to perform, they have lost the joy of learning and the real reason they are in school.
So at the start of every class that you take or every class that you teach ask the participants, “Why are you here? What do you hope to get out of this? How will you apply it to your life and work? What changes do you hope to create?” Have them write these down as a way to solidify their motivation. Then, when you start the learning process, you will have a room full of motivated folks who truly want to learn.