How can we better support learning in the flow of work?
This blog is inspired by the third episode of our Learning Science Unpacked podcast, with neuroscientist and Sponge partner, Professor Paul Howard-Jones.
What is “Learning in the flow of work”?
Learning in the flow of work means providing resources or prompts to someone during the performance of job tasks. Instead of taking time out of daily tasks to learn, staff learn actively ‘on the job’. Whilst people have been doing this for centuries, learning in the flow of work has recently become a popular term in the learning and development industry, as learning leaders attempt to make this process more deliberate and targeted. As it turns out, there is a strong neuroscientific reason to encourage this style of learning...
Learning in the flow of work supports recall
When we learn something new, the information may be represented in the brain, but is not yet consolidated. In this state, information is difficult to access: it’s not useful, and if it’s not being rehearsed it can be lost.
Imagine it’s the first time you need to apply your partially learned now knowledge. How do you make sure you’re applying it correctly? Prompts are very helpful to support recall of previously learned information as and when you need it. Using prompts regularly means the information will gradually become more accessible and automatically available until the need for the prompt (or scaffold) eventually falls away.
Learning in the workflow frees up working memory
When applying knowledge in context, there are often lots of other things going on. Thinking through procedures that have been learned some weeks back and considering that there may be a reliance on old information that isn’t wholly relevant to this situation is occupying working memory, making it hard to pay conscious attention to the job at hand. Using a resource helps free up working memory to get the task completed.
Prompts for learning in the flow of work improve accuracy
How many times have you thought, ‘I’ll just do this task my way for now and fix it later if it doesn’t work’? It’s really important that tasks are practised and applied 100% correctly because, if not, we set up habits that are difficult to break. Prompts help improve the accuracy of our work, both in the moment and over the longer term.
Rolling out programmes of learning in the flow of work in your organisation is a complex but hugely rewarding process, and here we only scratch the surface of its benefits.
If you’re interested in exploring how learning in the workflow could work in your organisation, get in touch with our Learning Experience Consultants. Experts in the learning science that underpins all our learning design, this team will guide your programme design, roll out, and impact measurement to help you demonstrate the efficacy of your upskilling, reskilling, and behavioural change initiatives.
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