100% Learner-centred: Introducing 70:20:10

You may not know this, but you have already experienced 70:20:10. In fact, you’ve always been using it, ever since you were born.

You were taught how to recognise letters of the alphabet and have spent every day since then practicing and testing these out in words and sentences with teachers, parents, friends, colleagues and strangers. You judge which are ‘right’ by using them in different situations, by observing reactions, discussing with and listening to others.

When your boiler broke and you had no money for an engineer you went online and joined a forum — a community of practice — and got advice and a free manual to download, and you fixed it. 10 years after moving house, you still remember how you fixed it and why it worked.

You asked your grandmother to teach you how to bake her scones and she insisted you learnt by watching her and then making your own, because she had never written down the recipe herself. After several batches, you now know that ‘about this much’ will do the trick.

The examples are countless, and there are so many ways of learning that it’s likely that you haven’t encountered them all. Research shows that we best learn through experience.

70:20:10 is a flexible model that groups learning into 3 types that express how we learn. The model is simplicity itself, but the interactions that it describes are rich and varied. The model suggests that 70% of our learning should be experiential, 20% represents social learning through interaction with others, and structured learning such as training courses is the 10%. The model is supported by established learning theory such as Kolb, and Social Constructivism.

The beauty of the model is that this is not a linear path; your learning could start with any type of interaction which, through reflection or trial and error, could lead to undertaking a different type.

For instance, I know that I will read instructions (10) to put together generic Swedish-brand flat pack furniture and if I get stuck I’ll ask for help (20)*. My husband prefers to set-to, placing pieces and visualising to get it right (70), deferring to the instructions (10) only when he has to**. We both end up with the same result (happily). Our methods are a different mix of the model; it’s just what works for us.

*Absolute last resort. Sometimes I would rather break it and blame the dog than ask for help first.

**He would never, ever ask for help.

Generalised stereotypes aside, why am I interested in this? My role in my organisation is to help change how we talk about and approach learning. This ranges from providing an aligned learning policy for our employees, to ensuring our learning and development team has the right vision and skills to support the 21st Century Public Servant.

The public sector is under considerable strain, and our team has responsibility to get under the skin of the organisation’s development needs and support teams and managers towards success despite the restrictions. 70:20:10 supports the development of our employees into being high-performing individuals, who have an awareness of how to get the best from themselves and work in collaboration with others.

Charles Jennings, co-founder of the 702010 Institute, tells us how this fits with organisations and performance improvement.

High performers are self-directed learners who seek out and take advantage of opportunities to deliver results. High performers are outcome-focused and can recognise what they need to achieve for the organisation. High performers will need the support to learn in different ways and so the model will be reflected in our policy and procedures, our conversations, and our reflections. In this way we will promote an environment of sustainable, continuous learning.

There is far too much to cover in this one post so I’ll be blogging each stage of our journey towards being 100% learner-centred organisation every couple of weeks!

Resources: free, helpful documents available at Sprout Labs and 702010 Institute, and interesting thoughts and great infographics from Tanmay Vora at QAspire.com