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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

One Third of Adults "Not Learning" - BBC - We Need a Better Definition of Learning

I found this via Donald Clark's blog. It pointed to an article by the BBC - Third of adults 'not learning'

The study defines learning as being not only taking formal courses but also practising, studying or reading to develop skills, knowledge, abilities or understanding of something.

This can even be part-time at home. It does not have to have been finished or to have led to a qualification.

The survey found that 20% of adults said they were currently learning, with more than 42% having done so in the past three years.

What I really found fascinating was how the study authors defined learning and then how it was interpreted by people who answered.

  • They left out any mention of TV or the radio and the word "listening or watching." I guess people don't learn anything from watching or listening to BBC programs.
  • They used the word "to" in their definition which I would interpret to mean that you are only including "intentional learning" not including "unexpected learning." In other words, if I learned something by reading, but I hadn't set out to learn that thing, then it really doesn't qualify as "learning" in terms of how the question was phrased.

I guess I believe that even someone who might not sit down "to develop skills, knowledge, abilities or understanding of something" might still watch the occasional Sports Center and find out a bit more about how the Heat's offense.

My point is that it's somewhat dangerous for all of us to call ourselves "learning professionals" and to work in this field if the common definition of learning excludes informal and unexpected learning.


Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Serendipity learning accounts for a lot of the things I know... and I am one of those awful people with a mind full of trivia which get served up at the slightest provocation. Most of these I learned by accident while seeking after some other piece of knowledge. In some cases I accidentally learned them without actively seeking anything at all.

I can remember my sister in her early teens wailing (there is no other word for it) at my mother and me: "How do you guys know so many things?". My mother answered it perfectly: "We read. We listen. We pay attention. We are nosy. We want to know."

A year or so ago, my younger son wailed at my older son and me, "How do you guys know so many things?". I served up my mother's perfect answer, except I added one more thing: "we Google" (which, were she to be asked the same question today, my mother would probably add, too).

I don't understand how anyone could not learn stuff. Information has a way of mugging you in broad daylight.

Tony Karrer said...

Great comments (as always Karyn).