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Engage Passive Learners
Those who soak up information but do little with it are common. To initiate and sustain behavioral change, motivate these learners to engage with their learning environment in a deep and personal way.
Passive learners quietly take in new information and knowledge, but they typically don’t engage with the information they get. They may not interact with people, share their insights or contribute to the conversation. These behaviors can negatively impact the learning experience for even the most enthusiastic participants, and an estimated 60 percent of people are passive learners, according to a 2009 presentation from leadership development firm Lominger.The prevalence of passive behavior has made increasing and facilitating active learning one of the learning leader’s biggest challenges. Only about 10 percent of people are active learners, according to the same Lominger presentation. The remaining 30 percent are blocked, closed off from even hearing about or trying to learn something new (Figure 1).
The rationale behind active learning is simple: Active learning focuses on changing behaviors. People who actively engage in learning do so intending to change their behavior, unlike passive learners, who may learn the right words to say but do nothing to actually alter how they work.
For learning leaders, having engaged employees who actively seek to learn how to change their behavior is an enticing proposition. Yet Debra Clawar, global head of talent management, leadership development and staffing for Novartis Pharmaceuticals AG, issues this caveat. “The more global experience I’ve gained, the more I’ve realized that expecting everyone to be an active learner is simply not realistic. We need to understand the cultural imperatives in a particular place that play into learning styles, and then meet those employees on their terms.” Clawar suggested learning leaders use different approaches and methods for different audiences.To accomplish this, learning professionals need to construct learning environments, events and processes that encourage active participation and speak to employees in ways that trigger an innate need and desire to learn. People must be engaged in the learning, not just signing up and showing up. Participation is not engagement.
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