Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to school at TWU

Life Strategies is blessed to have a diverse team of consultants and staff. Laura Jensen, our 2011 summer student, shared a few a reflections on the diversity she experiences as a student at Trinity Western University.

I’ve been going back to school every September for as long as I can remember. Entering my third year at Trinity Western University, I am blown away at the diverse groups of people that surround me on campus every day.

Trinity Western University (TWU) is Christian Liberal Arts University in Langley, BC. There are countless denominations of Christianity present resulting in many different views and opinions on similar issues. As such, it can be easy to feel frustrated when talking with others; however, I’ve learned that disagreeing with someone’s ideas doesn’t presume a dislike or distrust of that person.

This concept doesn’t only apply to theological debates; there will always be people whose ideas differ from my own. Some of them will be stubborn about their ideas, expecting me to come to “their way of thinking” rather than us agreeing to disagree. When dealing with these strong-minded individuals, it is good to remember that the only person I can control in the situation is myself. According to Kathryn Munn, it is important to “make sure you are not the difficult person for them” [emphasis added]. Munn offers timeless advice for dealing with difficult people in the 2002 summer edition of Common Ground. Click here to read the entire article.

Although you might think a particular group of individuals are the same, Laura’s reflections highlight an important point: not everyone in a particular “group” will think, feel, and/or act in the same way. A first step in managing diversity appropriately is to avoid stereotyping. It’s important to recognize that diversity is a multi-faceted concept with multiple levels of complexity (e.g., age, gender, race, religion, socioeconomic background). Dealing with those who are different, and perhaps strong-willed occur not only between groups, but within groups as well.

Share your comments about the complexity of groups – how can you manage diversity without stereotyping individuals?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Returning to School: How to Prepare for Learning

Even though it may seem like summer has just arrived; the fall is looming with September just around the corner. For many children this marks the dreaded return to school; however, for adults, it can mark the very same thing. Recognizing that lifelong learning contributes to success at work, many adults will also find themselves returning to school or planning upcoming professional development.

If you’ve made the decision to engage in professional development, these tips will help you prepare for learning:
  • Reflect on your learning goals. Make your learning experience more meaningful and personalized by considering what you hope to accomplish and what it will take to ensure success.
  • Assess fit with your preferred learning style. Seek out professional development opportunities that work for you – e.g., if you thrive on group discussions but have selected a self-study program, this mismatch may negatively impact your learning experience.
  • Make learning a priority. Once you’ve decided to engage in learning, you’ll need to commit to it. Look at your life roles and responsibilities to identify what you can shift; determine what supports you need and who can help you out.
  • Get organized. Plan ahead and block out time in your schedule for studying. Pay attention to important deadlines and make space in your life to accommodate them.
  • Be open-minded. You’ll likely learn with people who have thoughts, feelings, and opinions which differ from yours. Interacting with and learning from diverse groups will enrich your learning experience.
  • Take orientation/information sessions. Many institutions offer orientations for new students to learn more about the school, the program, the instructor(s), and learning format. If you can’t find one, you may want to look for information on the website or schedule an appointment with a student advisor.

Although not all learning occurs in a formal setting (i.e., classroom), many adults feel anxiety when returning to “school.” Non-traditional ways of learning (e.g., online) can be a great way to re-engage with learning may provide a better fit with work/life roles. In our own LearnOnline programs and courses, we often have students who have been out of the traditional classroom setting for quite some time.

If you’re considering online learning, be aware that not all programs are created equal. Some are more self-directed whereas others take a facilitated learning approach. Our Online Readiness Quiz can help you assess whether you’re ready for learning in the online environment. For more tips on online learning success, see 10 Tips for e-Learning Success.

Interested in taking courses with us? Check out our back to school sale for discounts until September 2nd.

Share with us your own tips for preparing for learning? How do you know you’re ready?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Back to School: Accelerate Your Learning Success

I’m definitely a lifelong learner. I recall, as a preschooler, setting up my friends on apple crates, around a shiny blackboard that my Dad had painted for me to write on with chalk. I joined the future-teachers’ club in high school, then got a teaching degree in university. Now I teach university myself – and continue to learn from my students, colleagues, clients, and research projects (and, of course, from my kids and grand-kids!).

My third degree was in Educational Psychology, so I also know a bit about how people learn. It may surprise you to learn that not all “smart” people do well in school – nor are many of those who do excel measurably “smarter” than their peers.

So – why are some people so much more successful at learning than others?

Successful learners work to their strengths. They understand their own learning styles and, where possible, find learning opportunities that fit. For example, “morning people” may struggle at night school; on the other hand, “night people” may find it impossible to absorb anything from an 8AM lecture. Extraverts prefer learning with others, in an interactive community; introverts, however, typically prefer quiet environments with time to reflect before responding to questions. Auditory learners do well when they can listen (podcasts, and recording lectures instead of taking notes, can reap huge rewards). Visual learners, on the other hand, may benefit from charts, graphs, photos, illustrations, and mind-maps. Kinaesthetic learners learn as they “do”; practical workplace-based training, hands-on demonstrations, and making physical models facilitate learning success for these folks.

Successful learners also set goals. In formal education, most courses have learning objectives posted as part of the course outline. Strong students, however, also set specific learning goals of their own. These goals help them focus their energy and spend their time wisely. If marks are important, they pay attention to the specific grading criteria of the course and ensure that they follow assignment guidelines closely. They make use of the instructor’s office hours and check in early to ensure that their assignments are on track.

Finally, successful learners take care of themselves. They integrate lifelong learning (whether formal or informal) into their other life roles. They realize that they won’t achieve their learning goals if they burn out; nor will they achieve their other life goals if they focus exclusively on learning. They strategically give learning activities exactly the amount of time they are worth – no more, no less.

If you’re heading back-to-school soon, take time to learn how you learn – identify your learning style and strengths. Set specific measureable goals – and track your own progress. Build in rewards for achieving milestones and small successes – and structure your life such that lifelong learning is sustainable in the midst of your other important life roles.

Click here for a special Back to School offer for Life Strategies’ LearnOnline courses and in-house customized training.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dancing with Digital Natives - Book Review

Dancing with Digital Natives is a new, and interesting, book edited by Michelle Manafy and Heidi Gautschi. It is a must-read for anyone interested in generations in the workplace, especially Gen Y, and how this generation, and their exposure to technology, is changing the way business does business. That being said, the editors are clear that digital natives might not fit nicely into a specific generation – instead, this term relates to “early exposure to digital technologies” (p. xiii).

The editors and authors cover a wide range of topics including social media, intellectual property, and marketing to, hiring, and educating the digital native. There is also a very interesting topic related to digital natives in policing.

A few tidbits I found interesting
  • Editors echoed what I first heard, with some surprise, from Jason Ryan Dorsey during his keynote address at the 2010 NCDA conference – don’t expect this group to know how to use technology. As Dorsey points out – they are more tech dependent than tech savvy"
  • Managers don’t need to embrace social media or digital technologies personally but they do need to understand it as an “emerging work practice if they wish to maximize the digital native work force” (p. 17) 
  • The ethics chapter mirrors many of the discussions we, as career practitioners, have with clients including how prospective employers can probably find those “wild weekend photos” posted to a Facebook page and how we as consultants, recognize that intellectual property in a digital age is different 
  • As a parent of a 12 year-old exposed to digital technology at an early age, the section on educating the digital native was eye-opening. The final chapter Native Knowledge: Knowing What They Know and Learning How to Teach them Best is a must for any educator. Would it be inappropriate to purchase a copy for my son’s teacher?
Overall I highly recommend adding this book to your library. Dancing with Digital Natives is available at Amazon , Chapters , and other retailers.