Colin Milligan, Anoush Margaryan, Pia Fontana, George Littlejohn and I carried out a study exploring how finance professionals self-regulate their learning through day-to-day work. Professional learning is a critical component of ongoing improvement and innovation and the adoption of new practices in the workplace. Professional learning is often achieved through learning embedded in everyday work tasks. Yet little is known about how professionals self-regulate their learning through regular work activities. A detailed analysis of the ways finance professionals learn through routine, daily work has been published in Vocations & Learning (Littlejohn et al, 2015).
Our analysis focused on three sub-processes of self- regulated learning that had previously been been identified as significant predictors of good self- regulated learning at work (Milligan et al, 2014): interest and value in learning, the strategies used when carrying out learning tasks and self-evaluation of learning.
Professionals who perceive themselves as having low interest and value in learning tasks tend to align their learning with immediate work performance and ‘getting the job done’. This reflects the individual’s wish to be known and understood by others as a ‘professional’, in line with their own beliefs and feelings about themselves. Professionals who are self-regulated tend to be concerned with self-enhancement – behaviour that helps them feel good about themselves and maintains self-esteem – since they find interest and value in a broad range of learning tasks. They link current learning to past experience and consider how learning might improve future performance, viewing learning as a form of long-term, personalised self-improvement. Positive emotions (for example, pride in work or satisfaction associated with learning) or negative emotions (such as dissatisfaction or disappointment) appear to influence self-regulation.
Professionals who perceive themselves as poor at task strategies carry out activities to learn the knowledge they need for their immediate work task. They tend to limit their learning to what they – and their colleagues ? need to know to complete an immediate task. In contrast, those who are self-regulated implement a range of qualitatively diverse learning approaches that support work and self-improvement. Professionals who are not self-regulating may have difficulty recognising when they learn. They align their self-evaluation with self-assessment through professional development planning or other similar forms of benchmarking. Those who are s good at self-evaluation understand learning as an integral part of work performance. They tend to distinguish between extrinsic self-assessment and intrinsic self-improvement, comparing their personal achievements with expert performance. The ability to self-evaluate helps them recognise the limitations of training and to complement education with on-the-job learning. Poor self-regulators s have difficulty recognising when they learn, whereas those who score high view self-reflection on learning as an integral part of achieving work tasks.
Although this study was contextualised within the Finance Sector, there are key messages for all sectors, particularly where professionals are building new knowledge or innovations. Self-regulation is a variable capability and there are complex inter-relationships across sub-processes of self-regulated learning. Some professionals understand how to regulate their learning, yet choose not to self-regulate. Overall a key marker of good self-regulation is viewing learning as a form of long-term, personalised self-improvement.
We would like to thank George Littlejohn, Senior Advisor with the Chartered institute for Securities and Investments, London, for his input and support, without which this work would not have been possible. The research is available:
Littlejohn, A., Milligan, C., & Fontana, R.P. & Margaryan, A. (2015) Professional learning through everyday work: How finance professionals self-regulate their learning, Vocations & Learning
Milligan, C., Fontana, R.P., Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2015). Self-regulated learning behaviour in the finance industry. Journal of Workplace Learning, 27(5), 387-402.
Fontana, R.P., Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A. & Margaryan, A. (2015). Measuring self-regulated learning in the workplace. International Journal of Training and Development, 19(1), 32-52.