By InterCHANGEpd Associate Catherine Hamilton 

Sustainable Learning: An approach to lifelong learning 

Life is so fast that we rush through our learning sometimes not even realising we are learning and rush straight into the next activity. It’s all “busy, busy, work, work, do, do!” We duly note down what we want to achieve from a training session and duly refer back to it at the end of the session and ask ourselves “has it been achieved?” With enthusiasm and optimism we identify and write down our actions and leave the session on a high. All done…..and forgotten by the next day or if we’re lucky the next week! 
 
We get on with the busy, busy, work, work, do, do roller coaster and forget all our good intentions. And they are just that; good intentions. So what will make them stick? A short answer is: when the learning clearly supports the achievement of individual and business objectives. Establishing clear and joined up learning goals is the first step. 
We use the ‘Sustainable Learning‘ cycle below to help our participants engage with and really take on board practical skills and techniques to improve their behavior and effectiveness at work. 
We Motivate participants to reflect on what they have learnt and ensure we co- create a Memorable experience that is then Triggered in the future when a situation arises that could benefit from the learnt skill/behaviour being used – this is a sign that the learning is being sustained. 
 
Sustainable Learning: The power of emotions 
Emotional memories are among our strongest and easiest to recall. The stronger the emotions connected to an experience, the stronger the subsequent memory. Learning experiences become more memorable when social-emotional memories are part of the learning event, which is why co-operative learning is such a powerful memory-enhancer – read more 

Sustainable Learning: The power of Reflection 

The power and value of Reflection cannot be underestimated. We need it to assess what we are doing. To do this we need to be conscious of what we are doing well and not so well so we can create a meaningful action plan. This is obvious and of course we know it – it is common sense – yet we have to make a deliberate effort to reflect and not rush onto the next task barely taking breath. Finding the time may be as simple as being present in the moment and observing your behaviour. For instance, you may clock that you’re feeling stressed and talking quickly – busy telling a staff member what to do – when your intention was to pause, listen more and ask open questions to help them find their own answers! Sound familiar? Or it could mean on the way home from work jotting down an idea, your reaction to a conversation, the impact you had on someone, some feedback you received – a wealth of information surrounds us every day and often is wasted as it gets lost in our busyness. 
 
All our interventions strengthen a learners’ ability to observe, reflect and continually improve – to become sustainable learners. 
 
“Both the physical act of writing and the process of reflecting have been shown to have significant impacts on retention and ability to apply learning” 
 
The success of an event is really gauged by what happens when people return to their daily work and interactions with colleagues. 
 
We’re passionate about helping participants truly embed a discipline of continuous improvement and learning. We adopt a blended learning approach to achieve this, encouraging personal responsibility throughout: 
 
Pre-training activities 
 
Relevant tests or self-assessments (e.g. Implicit Association tests for unconscious Bias Training) 
Simple “confidence check” to gauge how participants feel (both before and after the workshops and help them to action their learning) 
Helping them to prepare by working through challenges and opportunities to formulate clear realistic objectives 
During the training / coaching programmes 
 
Participants logging learning points throughout the session so there is a raft of ideas and triggers to draw upon to create a personal action plan. 
Steering participants to identify specific actions to take. These may be organisation-wide practices or may be personal actions with specific timescales, support required and impact expected. 
It is often small things which make the difference and we will encourage participants to identify small steps they can take which collectively make a big difference. 
Setting up and encouraging buddy or small action learning sets to really share and support their learning journeys 
After the Workshops 
 
Feedback is collected on the events and actions identified and shared. These can be emailed back to participants up to 3 months later as a reminder of their group commitment. 
Participants committing to and attending action learning sets to reflect on progress, receive support for dealing with specific challenges / dilemmas etc. 
Simple “commitment to action postcards”, self-addressed, are completed and sent out post event to individuals as a reminder. 
Participants should also be encouraged to share with their line manager or follow up with their direct reports’ action plans 
Phone or f2f 1:1 coaching to support implementation of actions 
We can also, as required: 
 
Provide weekly/fortnightly follow up nudge emails for 6 weeks that remind participants of the workshop and keep the take away actions front of mind, as well as providing new insights. 
Support you with the learning sets if this is an option you take, to follow up on actions agreed and reinforce the learning. 
Support you to run focus groups sometime after the workshops to identify what changes have been made and the impact they have had. Sharing these success stories will be key to keeping the momentum going to change attitudes and behaviour 
Run Alumni sessions to bring together the learning and impact, refresh the skills through practise and add on some newly identified skills. 
We can support you to: 
 
Learn formally. Embed learning from doing. Embed learning from others 
 
Make the next course, workshop or training be a Sustainable Learning experience. 
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