Have you ever heard the saying, “we learn something new everyday?”

This saying holds true to what I see and experience on a daily basis. Unplanned circumstances and experiences are normally the culprits of us learning something new everyday. We are always acquiring new information or skills, which lead us to learning something new without realizing that we are actually learning. This makes us unintentional learners. Mostly, we learn simple, mundane, things such as updating settings on an app we use frequently, a different way to prepare food, discovering a category on a streaming channel we were unaware of, or a better route we have not realized until just now.

Welcome to being an unintentional learner! What did you learn today? Were you an unintentional passive learner or an unintentional active learner? What is the difference?

I frequently listen to public radio talk shows when driving and realized that even though I am not a fan of passive learning, I was an unintentionally passive learner as a result of gaining new knowledge from the talk show. As a huge proponent of active learning, I was amused by this realization. How can a training professional incorporate passive learning without actually talking at students of trainees? Make them into unintentional learners! Sounds simple enough, but how can this be done successfully?

What about unintentional active learning? How does this occur? This is a form of experiential learning, which occurs when we take a new action, learn from it, and then reflect on what we just unintentionally learned. My most recent experience was absentmindedly turning too early while driving and discovering a new route, which is not as laden with traffic jams as my usual route. Boom! I learned a new route. I, once again, experience what I call “unintentional learning.”

Of course, I did not discover a new learning style. There is a good amount of literature about incidental learning. The biggest caveat is that incidental learning occurs suddenly, without being planned, and is a beneficial way to learn because the learner is likely to remember such an occurrence. I coined it Unintentional Learning because I was relating to the daily, real life, experiences that continuously teach us new lessons.

Let’s reflect on what we have learned unintentionally and make an inventory of our unintended lessons. What was your experience? How would you incorporate unintentional learning to a lesson?


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