Wednesday, 20 May 2009


I just got through reading Jay's post and article (with Clark Quinn) around Become a chief meta-learning officer – one of the hot list items from two weeks ago.  It's a great article, definitely worth a read.  It discusses the needed transition in focus of a CLO

The scope of the job of the CLO is mushrooming. CLOs will neither prosper nor even survive if they fail to take responsibility for the overall learning process within their organizations.

Your charter as Chief Meta-Learning Officer is to optimize learning throughout the organization, not just in the pockets that once belonged to HR. This takes a broader perspective than what you deal with day-to-day. You’ve got to rise above the noise to see the underlying patterns, and then optimize them.

The reality is that this equally applies to Learning Organizations and Learning Professionals.  The broader perspective he is talking about is to look beyond formal learning to informal learning, social learning, collaborative learning, and personal learning. 

What was particularly interesting about his article was the use of the term meta-learning.

Wikipedia defines meta-learning (in education) as:

The idea of metalearning was originally used by John Biggs (1985) to describe the state of ‘being aware of and taking control of one’s own learning’. you can define metalearning as an awareness and understanding of the phenomenon of learning itself as opposed to subject knowledge. Implicit in this definition is the learner’s perception of the learning context, which includes knowing what the expectations of the discipline are and, more narrowly, the demands of a given learning task. Within this context, metalearning depends on the learner’s conceptions of learning, epistemological beliefs, learning processes and academic skills, summarized here as a learning approach. A student who has a high level of metalearning awareness is able to assess the effectiveness of her/his learning approach and regulate it according to the demands of the learning task.

Jay's article is really using metalearning in a different way – take responsibility for learning across the organization.  Look at all the different ways learning can occur.  Close the training department.  Etc.

Still, when I read the title, I couldn't help but think that Chief MetaLearning Officer was particularly apt, especially when you take "metalearning" according to its definition above.  Metalearning is really about:

being aware and taking control of one's own learning

It is a critical element to success moving forward.  And it's exactly what I've been talking about over the past few years.  The only way to handle long tail learning is to focus on providing the tool set and personal learning and working skills (work literacy) that are central to concept work.  Where work and learning are not separate, metalearning is really the focus of performance improvement. 

In Learning, Extended Brain and Topic Hubs, the focus is really on a new process for learning.  Being aware and in control of the process is metalearning.  Nancy Devine in a comment suggested "schema building" which is similar to pattern identification.  But all of this is really about metalearning.

Way back in 2006, I wrote Improving Personal Learning - A Continuing Challenge for Learning Professionals, that also cited a CLO article on Implementing Learning How-to-Learn Strategies (which doesn't seem to exist anymore).  Three years later, we recognize the increasing importance, and the need for greater metalearning development opportunities and the role of learning professionals and learning organizations in this.

Is metalearning a good term to encapsulate what we are talking about?

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