How passive learning sabotages leadership

By William Seidman Unfortunately, most learners have been socialized into being passive about their development. The two dominant forms of learning in most organizations—instructor-led classes and e-learning—drive much of the passivity. While a great course taught by a skilled instructor could theoretically create more engagement, the very structure of most formal courses drive passive learning. The instructor leads and the learner responds. In this model of learning, the learner is given a task and expected to do it, or an idea and expected to remember it. It requires little thought and produces little or no change in the learner’s attitudes or behaviors. Research has shown that when learning is passive, students retain only about 10-15% of the content. Simulations that include responding to case situations or class designs that include planning for applying the learnings expect more learner participation. But simulations are controlled by the instructor, and these exercises rarely lead to anyone owning his overall learning experience. Most e-learning courses aren’t much better. While gamification of e-learning (which is making e-learning more like a video game or competition) is presumed to increase engagement, e-learning is still passive. People review screens presenting static content and take tests on it. Overall, people are passive about owning their learning because the structure of the most common learning experiences puts the learner in passive roles with only rare opportunities for engagement. People can cruise through most classes without exerting much effort, and nothing more is required of them. The training itself teaches students to be passive learners. Passive learning is particularly poor for leadership development, yet most leadership training programs use a passive learning process. Among the most important aspects of being a leader are being proactive, energetic and taking responsibility for your own and the organization’s growth. Passive learning and media teach leaders to be passive, which is the opposite of the attitudes and behaviors shown by great leaders. Passive learning can’t teach proactive leadership, nor can passive learning teach realistic leadership. Leadership is so buffeted by uncertainty, variation in conditions and change that it is impossible to design a “one-size-fits-all” leadership development program. Yet this is just what most leadership development programs try to do. That’s one reason they are consistently ineffective.  ]]>

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