At the end of June, Chris Cooper-Bland and I will be running a session at the SPA2014 conference called “When will we ever learn“. The main objective of this session is to identify blockers to making learning part of business-as-usual in a software development environment and to come up with some approaches that people can take to remove these blockers. The session is positioned as a Think Tank which looks to produce concrete outputs. In order for this to succeed, we need to make sure that it focuses on working through the blockers and potential approaches rather than acting as a 101 tutorial about learning. This is particularly important as we only have 75 minutes to work with. To help avoid it becoming simply a tutorial, we are asking people who are interested in attending the session to do a little pre-reading to make sure everyone starts at a minimum level. If you are thinking of attending the session, please could you read and reflect on at least some of the articles linked to on the topics below.
The information about each topic is split into two parts: “Please read” and “if you have more time”. To read all the “Please read” material should take about an hour. The “if you have time” materials are more like 3 hours (or more if you follow all the downstream links!).
How we learn
- People learn in different ways, which is recognised as a set of different learning styles.
- Please read http://www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/
- …and, if you have more time, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles
- Surface and deep learning – you need to construct something with then knowledge or you forget it, such as creating a mind map, ordering the information, applying the information
- Growth vs fixed mindset. Having a growth mindset implies that you need to embrace failure/risk taking as part of a learning cycle. By avoiding opportunities where you might fail limits your ability to improve.
- Please watch this brief video (1:15s)
- …and, if you have more time, read this article http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/
- Learning as a structured process – learning things, linking them then applying them in different contexts than that in which you learned them (the latter aka Transfer of Learning)
- Please look through this presentation on Transfer of Learning
Assessing what you know
- Bloom’s taxonomy provides a way of making statements about capabilities using a pre-defined set of verb phrases to make the statements more focused and less vague, and classifying these verb phrases into levels that reflect increasing capability. These statements are often used to create Learning Objectives (LO’s) in training and education
- Please read this article on Bloom’s Taxonomy http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Bloom%27s_Taxonomy and this one on Learning Objectives http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/heres-an-easy-way-to-create-learning-objectives/
- …and, if you have more time, this presentation has a slightly different approach
- There are structured frameworks for particular roles and professional areas, such as the BCS SFIA Plus framework. The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) is an international skills and competency framework that describes IT roles and the skills needed for them.
- If you are particularly interested in this then you can download some information about SIFA from the BCS http://www.bcs.org/category/17784
- Solo taxonomy – knowing what you are trying to achieve and know where you are, and knowing how to progress
- Please read this short blog post on the principles http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2012/08/solo-taxonomy-giving-students-a-sense-of-progress-in-learning.html
- …if you have more time then you could follow the links in it to other information or read this presentation on English language teaching http://thelearninggeek.com/2013/08/introducing-solo-in-english/)
Learning in an organization
- The idea of a Learning Organisation has been recognised over the past 20 years. However, do they really work for hands-on software practitioners? Did anyone successfully learn software development practice as part of a learning organization and, if so, what made it work in that organization (and/or for that person) and not for others?
- Please read this article for some background http://www.clomedia.com/articles/what_are_learning_organizations_and_what_do_they_really_do
- …and, if you have more time, this article for some useful analysis including the four elements of organisational learning http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_challenge_of_organizational_learning
- Google is renown for its “Google time” or “20% time” where its engineering employees get 20% of their time to pursue topics of their own interest rather than their day-to-day job
- If you are unfamiliar with Google time, please read this article http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/jobs/21pre.html?_r=0)
- …and, if you have more time, there is this article on using Google 20% time for learning purposes (but in an educational environment) http://www.centerdigitaled.com/news/Googles-8020-Principle-Students.html and this one on a wider perspective than google http://lifehacker.com/5932586/make-work-feel-less-like-work-with-the-8020-rule
- Lean learning. What are we trying to learn? One of the lean software development principles is Amplify Learning but much of the literature seems to focus on the learning of the problem domain rather than of learning new techniques and technologies in the solution domain. However, teams often use learning spikes around problem domain topics (how do we replicate data using the type of database we have chosen?) as well as solution domain topics. Can we adopt other solution domain approaches to gaining skills and knowledge (e.g. fail fast)?
- If you are unfamiliar with the Lean principle of Amplify Learning then please read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_software_development#Amplify_learning
- …and, if you have more time, there is this article on applying the principles of lean directly to learning as suggested here http://www.clomedia.com/articles/how-to-create-a-lean-learning-environment
And finally, if you feel really inspired to find out more about how we learn, you could do worse than start with this 26-page Word document here (http://www.macalester.edu/academics/geology/wirth/learning.doc)
20140807 – The slides have now been posted on slideshare.
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