Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Personal Learning Strategy

In becoming a leader, or a self-directed learner, one must be able to learn effectively.  Learning effectively not only requires learning in a classroom setting, it also entails learning from experience, learning while doing, learning from others, and being able to teach or mentor what you have learned. Thomas (2008) identified a personal learning strategy as: "something to be owned and enacted by an individual, driven by his or her personal vision, tailored to his or her learning style, aimed to extract insight from the broadest possible range of experiences, and dedicated to achieving meaningful results" (p. 86).

Personal Vision
Identify what your own vision is. This requires asking hard questions such as: why you want to do what you are doing (ex: why you want to lead), what type of leader do others perceive you to be, what type of leader do you want others to identify you as, what does a day as a good leader look like, and how do you get from where you are today to where you desire to be?

Thomas (2008) listed McClelland's individual motivation assessment to help one determine how best they are motivated to lead.  McClelland's types of motivation, based on an individual's specific needs, include achievement, affiliation, and power. An achievement motivated leader would be motivated by achieving excellence and doing things well, with an emphasis on performance. An affiliated motivated leader includes one who is concerned with social relationships, wanting to be liked, with preferences to being part of a group. A power motivated leader wants to influence relationships and be in charge. This exercise in determining your own personal motivation is first to identify your own personal type. Next you want be cognizant of the other types of motivating forces so you will be able to recognize them. By determining a person's needs you will be more capable to influence that individual.  Further information on McClelland's, and other motivational theories (Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors, McGregor's XY Theory, and others) can be found at and

Persoanal Learning Style
Thompson (2008) highlighted the importance of what he called adaptive capacity. Adaptive capacity refers to "an individual's ability to adapt and his or her ability and willingness to learn" (p. 103). Understanding how you learn best, and how you learn best in differing situations, will aid you in developing your personal learning strategy.  There are a number of learning style tests available.  One familiar test is Kolb's Learning Style Inventory consisting of four types of learners: converging, assimilating, diverging, and accommodating. Converging learners prefer practical applications and solving problems, assimilating learners focus on planning and creating models, diverging learners are more imaginative and open to new ideas, while accommodating learners use trial-and-error and are more prone to taking risks.  More information on Kolb's learning styles can be found at Clark's web page; other types of learning styles are also available such as the Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learning Styles (VAK), and the Learning Style Survey. Each of these learning style theories are designed to be used as a reference point for the individual, one's type of learning style should not direct the way one approaches learning. Rather, concentrate on the different types of learning styles, know your own style, and work on building your abilities in those styles that you are weaker in.  Broaden your learning spectrum.

Extract Insight & Learn from Experience

Developing a personal learning strategy also includes being able to extract meaning and purpose from your experiences. Being honest, having integrity to do whats right, taking the lead, or allowing others to lead, and engaging others through shared meaning provide opportunities to extract insight from experience. Thomas (2008) emphasized not only learning from experience, but also to learn while doing: "when you don't have time to practice and yet you seek to improve your performance, you have to learn how to practice while you perform" (p. 62).

Providing a personal learning strategy helps to provide one with a guidebook for their journey.  A personal learning strategy can be changed, it is not written in ink. Actually, a personal learning strategy should be malleable, allowing one to change it as they grow. One other benefit for having a personal learning strategy is that it helps prevent one from becoming stagnant: "Skills can stagnate from underuse; they can be blunted through misuse; and they can be superseded by advances in the field. They must, therefore, be renewed" (p. 222).


Thomas, R. J. (2008). Crucibles Of Leadership: How To Learn From Experience To Become A Great Leader. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
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