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The Five Learning Moments of Need You Should Know About

momentThe ‘Five Moments of Need’ model proposed by Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson is another way to look at the differences between formal and informal learning.

There are a few different moments throughout the learning of new things when we need to gain information instantly – in other words, five moments of learning need.

The Five Moments of Need

1. Learning something for the first time

At this moment of need, we may be embarking on a new training course. This is the moment we begin our learning journey and content enters our noggins for the first time. Obviously, we need access to training or learning materials at this stage; otherwise we’ll never learn anything!

2. Learning more of something

Sometimes, our interest will be piqued and we’ll want to continue learning, or the training will only be partly completed. Either way, there is a need to learn more. At this moment of need, we may be beginning to understand the content quite well, but we still need access to more training.

Man progressing up his career ladderWe can satisfy these two moments of need with formal learning – such as classroom-based learning, online training on Learning Management Systems, webinars and virtual conferences, or any combination of the above. According to Mosher and Gottfredson, formal learning makes up 5% of learning.

We don’t stop learning once the formal training is over. We actually need to continue learning throughout our working lives, and these final three moments of need highlight these times.

3. Trying to remember or apply

We’re not perfect, us humans. We forget things. That’s why learning content needs to be available to us when we are trying to remember something that we had learnt, or figure out how to apply it.

4. When things change

Part of learning is adapting to change and still being able to apply the training. After all, we wouldn’t get very far if we could only ever work out mathematical sums if we had a basket of apples and three hungry friends! If we can’t adapt our knowledge to varying situations, we’ve not truly learnt the content. That’s why training should be available whenever and wherever we might need it.

5. When something goes wrong


Thinking on our feet is a great skill to have. Without the ability to do so, we won’t be able to tackle any challenges which come our way or apply our knowledge in new ways to solve problems. This, and moment of need #4, call for a ‘just in time’ approach to learning.

These three learning moments of need mostly commonly occur in the context of work, after the initial formal training event(s) have occurred. According to the model, informal learning covers 95% of activities that take place in order for us to truly understand and improve our knowledge. Informal learning at work covers things like collaboration, observing others, coaching and mentoring, feedback and accessing prior training online to go over it again in our own ways and in our own time.

When you think that 95% of what we know we gain from learning at work, you can see how important it is that the workplace provides opportunities to learn!

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