Many organisations recognise the important of reflective learning practices, and feeding these back into organisational planning as well as sharing this more widely in the sector (see, for example the Admitting Failure website created by Engineers without Borders, Canada).
Learning is central to the delivery and success of the Mobilising Knowledge for Development (MK4D) programme. ILT is working to embed processes which help MK4D staff to critically, intentionally or spontaneously reflect on major activities that they undertake. The aim is that they internalise the ‘lessons’, document the lessons and share them with each other in a bid to improve effectiveness and share good practice.
Examples of the information sources that have supported this include:
Based on Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, "ORID" interviews use Objective, Reflective, Interpretative and Decision orientated questions to identify lessons and support learning from these.
ILT is championing the use of ORID interviews by MK4D staff after major activities. Ten interviews were undertaken and documented in the first year of the MK4D programme, some of which were facilitated by ILT staff. The process documents provide interesting narratives and important reflections on experiences. ILT is analysing the collected data to identify trends and seek ways of turning this reflection into learning at a programme level.
Some of the limitations we found with ORID interviews include:
- they often do not go into detail on issues and so require further in-depth probing to explore issues and go into deeper learning (double loop learning)
- they do not include questions around the interviewees own behaviour during the event/activity which they are being interviewed on. This is an important part of reflective practice.
Further intervention is sometimes needed to ensure the reflection on experience actually turns into action. Nevertheless, ORID interviews make for a manageable reflection tool, and the spread of their use by staff across MK4D is testimony to an increasing awareness about the importance of making time to reflect to improve our practice and reinforce our accountability.
ILT Learning Labs
As a centre of learning within MK4D, ILT is seeking to learn through qualitative observations of stakeholders and external environments. Some of these observations are shared through a team blog, observations are then analysed and cross referenced through monthly "learning labs". Initial indications are that this process is effective at identifying themes and trends. Challenges remain in terms of how to share insights with those outside the team in ways that facilitate learning and uptake.
Lessons so far include :
- Learning is valuable but can be shallow and does not automatically feed into future action, it is most valuable if it is deep and applied
- Learning is often seen as a luxury that is dropped under pressure, it needs to be manageable, embedded within processes and championed
- Documenting experiences and reflections helps to facilitate learning across different experiences, identifying themes and sharing with others