As we explore the final stage of my learning methodology, we leave the formal learning and move back into the everyday world. Footsteps is about how we transition from the abstract to the concrete, about how we support performance and change in the real world.
We’ve travelled through Context, where we created the initial disturbance, through Demonstration, where we illustrated our view of the world, then into Exploration and Reflection, where we played with the learning, making it our own, and built a personal narrative, then finally to Assessment, the formal accreditation gateway. For Footsteps, we move out of the learning, we move beyond the space to play and learn and into the space to perform.
Footsteps is a broad terms, capturing performance support tools, coaching, follow up e-learning or face to face interventions and social learning spaces, but it all happens after the main learning experience is complete. Footsteps covers any activity that is based in the real world and referencing back to the learning, rather than being part of the learning and trying to make links into the real world.
Because of it’s position, in the workplace rather than the classroom, we see a lot of potential for mobile and social learning around Footsteps: mobile can be used to deliver materials and tools direct to where your need exists and social gives access to the communities that provide challenge and support.
Designing materials for the Footsteps part of learning involves a different mindset: because we are based in the everyday reality of work, we need highly time and energy efficient materials. This isn’t the place for long contexts or showing people how to do things, and it’s certainly not the space for disclaimers and caveats. This is the space for short, pragmatic, practical and efficient interventions. Things that help you to perform.
Podcasts can work well here: recording interviews with ‘real‘ people describing their experiences of making the learning real, adding layers of conversational reality to otherwise abstract ideas. Similarly, communities can build great case studies at the Footsteps stage, drawing together their experiences and co-creating a story around it. Indeed, we see that social learning communities have a special role here is they have persisted through the formal training, because they can help us to make the links back to the formal parts of the training.
Crucially, because we are now back in the real world, there is no elements of assessment in the Footsteps stage: this isn’t about testing knowledge, it’s about supporting performance. We need to be encouraging people to carve out time to practice new skills, we may need to recreate or refer back to initial disturbance (made in Context) to prompt action, because the hardest step is often the first one. The key skills in Footsteps may be in carving out spaces for experimentation and spaces to fail, so the role of community may be to support that.
This may be a place to implements new workflow ideas: time management and task management, as well as influencing (to help create those spaces) and demonstrating Return on Investment from the training. In the Social Age, it’s as much in the interests of the individual to validate training that helps them in their wider career as it is in the interests of the organisation to validate the spend. If we want companies to continue to invest in our broader development, we need to show value for that investment.
For an individual, Footsteps is also the time to cement new relationships within your learning network: connecting with colleagues from the same cohorts or events, seeing how they broaden and deepen the expertise within your personal learning network, how you can curate greater strength into this.
There is no particular time limit over the activities in Footsteps, although for the more formal parts, such as follow up sessions or e-learning, these are probably best carried out in a 3-6 month period, after which we should close the modules down.
Completing learning is important, just as we have to start the experience carefully, so too we need to end it. Whilst personal learning networks and support tools may persist, the formal aspect of the learning should be formally closed down and the narrative written up (both personal and group). Part of the narrative should include thinking about how the learning has changed us, how we have embedded and internalised the learning and how it may form foundations for future change.
Q: What does it feel like back in the real world?
Q: Who can support me?
Q: What if i have a better idea now that i’ve mastered this?
YES: it’s about really embedding the learning in your everyday reality
NO: taking the workbook home doesn’t count