Another classification of learners!

Often, when speaking to sets of participants attending learning programs, I find myself share a ‘classification of learners’. I wish I could remember where I had read it, for me to cite reference here.

The classification in itself is a rather telling and usually elicits some shifting of feet, muted laughter, smirks, smiles and sometimes,  guffaws!  Broadly, this is what I say.

There are four classes of learners who come to attend a ‘training program’

a. Prisoners : Participants who have been ‘sentenced’ to a few days of training. Who would much rather be doing m(any) other things, but who are there in the room, because they have been forced to ‘attend’ the program. Left to themselves they’d much rather be doing other things.

b. Vacationers: Self explanatory, isn’t it?!? A training program seen as an opportunity to stay away from work, get paid for it and yet enjoy the best of venues / food and generally catching up with long lost friends and colleagues. A meta coffee machine of sorts, to catch up on all whats happening in the organisation.

c. Experts : Participants who consider themselves as ‘experts’. With ‘expert opinion’ at the expense of leaning something new. Sometimes that may be well founded. Many times not so! Perhaps its their background, the colleges that that they have gone to, the experiences that they have accumulated, the seniority in the organisation. Past learning inhibits future learning !

d. Explorers : Explorers are those that are possessed with a sense of curiosity and discovery. People who know a few things, but are always seeking for learning something new. Building on what they know, treating it as an adventure, taking risks, assimilating experiences of all in their line of sight and daring to go where they havent gone before. For those reasons, explorers are all great learners. Learners are also ‘explorers’ in their contexts !

This classification applies to all of life too. For learning is a life long event. Nay, journey! True learners are those that are filled with curiosity. Those that approach every moment with a sense of possibility and with a spirit of exploration. For that is the spirit of life. One look at our children teach us that. Filled with questions, playfulness and armed with a surfeit of curiosity.

Somewhere along the way, as we grow up, we become ‘experts’ or vacationers of life. And sometimes prisoners too. Perhaps its time to unleash to the child in us. To be real explorers to get to be good learners.

“Learning is a journey” is a much abused and clichéd phrase. One could go through that journey as any one of the above and yet up going to a completely new land or not traversing any distance at all.

The key to the ‘Journey’ must be realisation that journeys always involve change. A change of scene. A change in speed. Many times, new eyes too. And change is inherently uncomfortable. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is so key to learning. So key to life.

Life & growth !

I was on a walk with my four year old nephew last week. As any other four year old would be, he was brimming with questions. An inquisitive mind and an extremely curious thought process meant a battery of questions fired with a tenacity of a quiz master on a rapid fire round.

We were exploring many subjects. But the subjects that stuck for the longest period of time was ‘What is a living thing ?’

We explored different objects of his interest and held them up under the light of his ‘living’ or ‘non living thing’.



Toy gun.





He was getting almost all of it right on his own. And the rest on some basic prompting.   Out of curiosity on what his mind map was around this,  I asked him how he came to conclusions. Teasing him with statements like ‘oh, but chocolates are wonderful. Why are they non-living’.

His prompt and clear response : ‘Chocolates are wonderful. But they don’t breathe. They don’t grow’.

Which brought a smile on my face. For with a simple answer to define life, he had brought to life, its defining essential : Growth !

Technically, he could have been speaking of physical growth and changes. My mind leapt to the other growth that has potential to happen till a human being is lowered into a grave. Growth that is deeper, taller, wider than that which is merely physical.

Development is an integral part of ‘possibilities’ for the future.  Development is anchored around ‘change’.  Change in knowledge, skills, attitude, behaviour !

Change when sustained, brings about development. Development that lurks and becomes part of a being, brings about growth !

Growth is the great sustenance for life in itself.

That airy morning, with a four year old clutching an outstretched hand, this lesson seeped in !

Life !