learning mindset

Highlights on Adult Learning and Mindset based on Research with Career Switchers

Lifelong learning mindset

I am very curious about one’s learning mindset and process. In the webinar organised by Institute of Adult Learning, I spoke about the insights I gleaned through the qualitative interviews of 25 career switchers. In particular, the questions I ask are:

1) Is learning mindset just Carol Dweck’s notion of growth mindset? 

2) Does 70/ 20/ 10, the default framework used in organizations, really guide learning? 

3) What are the workplace conditions that cultivate a learning culture? 

4) When we talk about lifelong learning, are we really only referring to acquiring skills only?

I went in-depth to better understand the psychology of career-switchers and here are the highlights of my findings: 

Learning mindset is multi-faceted, it includes:

    1. Openness to experiment: try new ways before deciding if it’s useful
    2. Determined persistence: yes that means spending weekends learning and not giving up
    3. Curiosity & challenge: having mental space to play with ideas and ask new questions
    4. Humble courage: it’s hard to admit “I don’t know” as an adult with our expertise and job titles
    5. Proactive initiative: driving one’s own learning

In conclusion, learning mindset goes beyond the growth mindset, the popular concept now in the L&D field.

70/ 20/ 10 only tells us the types of learning activities.

It does not tell us how to string together a series of learning activities to continuously deepen one’s learning. That’s why learning is organizations tend to be organised around events, and not PROCESS. 

Instead, I found the learning process of successful adult learners can be encapsulated as “Input/ Reflect/ Apply”. Input refers to an experience, content, coaching by someone, observation and feedback. Inputs without reflection are useless. We need to make sense, connect to prior know-how and question or change our own assumptions. Finally, the output is to apply through executing, sharing, writing or teaching. Stringing together the cluster of learning activities help us go deeper and broader in our mastery. 

Learning culture

A learning culture has these dimensions – bosses, mentors and role models, organization resources, processes and norms (it’s perfectly fine to reach out to someone you don’t know in the organization to ask qns), opportunities and challenging projects and learning in a team with rich feedback, challenge and ideas. 

How can L&D professionals see their role in shaping a learning culture, beyond organising the training and content? 

We are more than a bag of skills.

Skills are only means. The true joy in learning is in expansion – of our perspective and how we see the world, our identity and sense of possibility of who I can be in this world and finally feeling happy, empowered and comfortable with ourselves.

After hundreds of hours of interviews, transcribing, coding, analyzing and writing, I am truly thankful for these insights. More to come on this front! Wish me luck in my upcoming qualifying examination! If you want to participate in this research effort, pls send me an email!


Written by
Wendy Tan
22 Sep 2020


  Wendy Tan   Sep 22, 2020   Lifelong learning   Comments Off on Highlights on Adult Learning and Mindset based on Research with Career Switchers   Read More
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