Although we may be well established in our professional roles, constant changes in the workplace influenced by such aspects as new technology, demographics, and adoption of new ideas or new structure, require that we engage in a set of activities or experiences that lead to learning. This concept of being a continual learner is referred to as beginnerhood (Wolf, Winter 2005, p. 66).
Beginnerhood in Adulthood
Beginnerhood in adulthood is common and, more importantly, valuable. In order for beginnerhood to be construed as valuable, however, it must be received with a non-judgmental opinion. In other words, beginnerhood and its acceptance into the workplace create an environment in which all are beginners regardless of longevity and experience.
Often, one’s status of beginnerhood can be attributed to advances in technology. Learning how to maneuver new software programs often requires the completion of a software training course. Though the learners attending these training courses may be well established in their careers, the training requirement offers employees the commonality of beginners. Learning experiences such as this can initiate the cohesion that is so essential to the success of a workgroup.
The initial challenge for any group with well-defined goals is to create cohesion within the group and foster commitment to those goals. Cohesion is the force that brings the group together and creates a sense of commitment to other members of the group and to the success of the group as a whole (Cannon & Griffith, 2006).
Learning is Change
Learning can be generally defined as change. Learning is natural. It is how we mature and progress. It is how we conform and become accustomed to the constant changes in our everyday lives. Beginnerhood then, presents countless learning situations that allow us to continually grow.
We learn in a variety of contexts. These contexts include both formal and non-formal learning experiences that take place in work settings, classrooms, in the community, and life in general. Adapting our experiences, good or bad, into learning or competencies is essential to assure future positive learning experiences.
A Foundation for New Learning Experiences
Our personal, professional, and educational learning experiences shape the way we view the world. The knowledge and beliefs we have are consequences of our experiences. They form a foundation for new learning experiences where we once again enter beginnerhood. We can learn valuable lessons from our best and worst learning experiences. We can reflect upon our best learning experiences and identify the positive beliefs and feelings involved. We can reflect upon our worst learning experiences, eliminate the negative beliefs or feelings, and concentrate only on the positive aspects. In doing so, we are left with a new, positive prospective on our experiences, which gives us the knowledge and skills we need to insure that our future learning experiences will also be positive.
Most of us fear change. We are often firmly opposed to change in our personal and professional lives. Nevertheless, today’s social environment is affected by many factors that result in the need for impetuous adjustment and offer life-long learning opportunities for continued growth.
Cannon, Mark D. & Griffith, Brian A. (2006). Effective groups: Concepts and skills to meet leadership challenges. Issaquah, WA: Allyn & Bacon
Wolf, M.A., Ed. (Winter 2005). Adulthood: New terrain. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development