As learning and training professionals, our job is to continually think about the learning objectives of others. It can be tough to make time for our own learning, yet we know that our own professional growth depends on it, and we crave it.
How many times have you scanned through a blog and thought “I’d like to learn more about that.” And then what happens? Nothing. We get caught up in all our to dos and requests from other people, and we don’t carve out time for our own learning.
Our time to dedicate to our own learning is limited. Even if we are super disciplined and block off time on our schedule for our own learning, or squeeze learning into our lunch breaks, commute time, or when waiting to pick-up the kids, it is hard to make a lot of progress.
When our time is limited, it’s even more important to be strategic and prioritize how we use this time to improve our own practices and keep up with learning and development trends. So, not only do we need to make our own learning a priority, we also need to prioritize our learning needs. We need strategies to sustain our learning efforts.
Here are three strategies to help us stay engaged and committed to our learning goals. These are derived from successful gaming mechanics that keep players engaged. Gamification makes prioritizing our learning objectives more effective. The secret is to keep learning meaningful and fun.
Strategy #1: Make sure learning is relevant to you
The journey of many steps to coordinate personal skills development and learning is to start with our learning goals. All games start with a goal. Game players know the goal and what they need to do to achieve it.
You can start prioritizing your own learning by articulating your desired learning objectives instead of just listing topics and skills you want to learn.
For example, "I can design games to engage learners in my virtual classrooms," instead of, "I want to learn about gamification."
- As you make a list of your desired learning outcomes, think short term and long term. In other words, think of what you would like to improve in your current instruction, and think about desired learning outcomes related to learning trends and practices.
- The next step is to select 1-3 learning goals to focus on. Anything beyond 3 learning goals may prove cumbersome.
- Select learning goals that have personal relevance. Even approaching a subject from a different angle may make it relevant to your learning objectives.
Strategy #2: Recognize and seek learning experiences that you enjoy
This next strategy focuses on identifying learning experiences that you find the most rewarding. In game design, player types, which are closely related to personality types, are used to design and improve experiences for players. Bartle identified four player types that correspond to gaming style and preferences: Killer, Achiever, Socializer and Explorer. If you are interested in discovering your player type, you can take the Bartle Test.
Amy Jo Kim adapted the Bartle Player Model to reflect how players like to engage in social and more collaborative games. Kim’s Social Action Matrix identifies four key activity patterns:
- and Collaborate,
and maps verbs to each preference to help identify activities that are motivating and engaging to each type.
After you have confirmed your learning type, keep your preferences in mind as you seek learning activities related to your learning goals. Here are some examples:
If you are a socializer and like to collaborate and share with others
Join a community of practice.
Make efforts to comment or ask questions on blogs.
Participate in workshops and other learning events.
If you are an achiever/creator type
Look for or create your own project-based learning opportunities.
Seek hands-on opportunities to use the skills you want to learn.
If you are a killer/competitor type
Look for or create opportunities to test your knowledge and skills.
Set your own learning challenges.
If you are the explorer type
Look for curated knowledge magazines, or consider using content curation tools to continuously receive content related to your areas of interest.
Strategy #3: Motivate yourself to stay engaged in your own learning
In game design, achievable challenges are key for learners to stay engaged. Game designers leverage the “winner effect” strategy that is based on the neuroscience of success and failure. The strategy boils down to creating a loop where the player continuously experiences a sense of success by completing achievable challenges. Achieving success creates an appetite for more success and motivates learners to take on a new challenge.
So how can you incorporate this strategy in your own learning?
Start by setting achievable challenges for yourself. Write immediate actions that you can take to move towards your selected learning goal. As you determine your next move, keep in mind your learning style preferences. If you are not the social type, for example, you may put off consulting with someone else.
According to the winner effect strategy, to create ongoing engagement, you need a feedback loop that acknowledges when a challenge has been successfully achieved and provides a clear path to engage in your next challenge. You can use a journal or design a scorecard to create your own feedback loop. Keep track and reward yourself for each challenge you meet, no matter how small, and continually set new challenges related to your learning goal.
Engaging in your own learning needs will increase your energy, creativity, and will likely renew your passion to help others.