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10.06.2008

Diagnosing learning malfunctions

When learning is not happening, there are many possible dynamics in play. In this forthcoming series of blog posts, I'll explore many possible systems that inhibit, prevent or frustrate learning.
  1. Anxiety induced by the current situation: Pressures in the immediate context can incapacitate the brain functions that respond to learning opportunities. Stressors may include every other system on this list -- as well as workload, schedule, budgetary, peer and conformity pressures.
  2. The learner's past history: Past experiences may have convinced the learner to keep his/her mind closed to any contradictions, further developments or new questions. Strategies may have been adopted to avoid risk-taking, fall prey to perfectionism or maintain a false impression at all cost.
  3. The content under consideration: New ideas and approaches to situations can create cognitive dissonance, values conflicts or disorientation which shuts down further exploration. What is being taught can come at a bad time, fail to appear relevant to the users' contexts or seem useless right now.
  4. Instructional design premises: How the learners are getting taught can send a conflicting message, set the opposite example, or get stuck in the talking stage in spite of good intentions to be informative, educational and engaging.
  5. Presenters and presentations: The people, lack of preparations and printed materials can invite contempt, cynicism and disrespect. The delivery can come across as pretentious, shallow, or inaccurate.
  6. Legacy narratives: The underlying story can evoke reactions like "here we go again", "this too shall pass" and "wake me up when its over". An established plot may be unconsciously maintained to "go through the motions", "spin our wheels" and "go nowhere quickly".
  7. The implicit change strategy: The use of new learning to change behavior, outcomes and effects on other people may backfire. The learning may come as "too little, too late", "overkill" or putting the fire out with gasoline".
Each of these seven dynamics run much deeper than the presenting symptoms in this list. There is much we will explore here in the coming weeks.

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