This blog is excerpted from the Performance
Matters Podcast episode entitled
“Learning v. Training” where Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson discuss the
transfer of true learning competency, versus training.
Bob Mosher (BM): Welcome back to another performance matters podcast episode. Today my
colleague and friend, Dr. Conrad Gottfredson, and I will discuss something
we’ve been struggling with as an industry—discerning true learning from
Conrad Gottfredson (CG): Bob, we’ve had a myopic view of what real learning is. For so many
organizations learning is only about knowledge acquisition, or individual skill
mastery. And it’s all centered around making that knowledge and/or those skills
stick (be retained).
When I was in graduate school, my mentor, Grant Harrison taught me
that it’s one thing to master all the component parts of a skill or set of
skills, but at some point, learners need to integrate it all together into real
So often, after training classes, learners are left to themselves
to put Humpty Dumpty together—and it’s tough, especially in the flow of work.
BM: Let’s be clear here, we are huge advocates of formal training.
And I use that word on purpose, as vocabulary is important. We do think that
the formal side of the Five Moments, and the resources we build in that domain,
are truly training assets. I don’t know if we think they are learning assets. I
think the learning and support assets are more in the workflow.
In our own work, we always have some degree of formal learning
that initiates the journey towards people becoming competent. There are clearly
things that warrant and should be trained. Right. But tell us a little bit more
about that jump to transfer.
CG: Well, the question that we have to ask is how are our learners
integrating all that we teach into their existing experience? How are we
facilitating that? How are we intentionally making that happen?
Well, right now, what happens is we throw learners over the
learning fence. They finished the course, whether it’s elearning, or whatever
it is, and then we leave them on their own, to not only take all those pieces
and put Humpty Dumpty together again, but they then must also navigate and
adapt what they have learned to fit their environment, in an integrated way.
So real learning must somehow trigger past experience, bringing
new experience in and integrating those experiences into a more broad
experience base. Real learning is really all about experience, ultimately,
experience in the flow of work. The transfer stage of learning is challenging,
because we typically don’t provide the support that a learner needs to become an
effective performer. Our solutions must
help learners navigate that transfer stage rapidly and successfully, and
recover if there are mistakes, so that they can fulfill that integration
requirement and begin to perform in the workplace and learn through experience.
BM: This is why workflow
analysis is so key because the workflow provides the context of transfer. This
is such a fundamental shift in how we approach train, transfer, sustain. Ironically,
though, train comes first in the journey of those three words, but we build
from transfer and sustain back, and then training is whatever is necessary.
You know, we’ve got to stop thinking that our work ends at the door—whether
that be a digital door of an LMS, or a concrete door of a face-to-face course. I’m
probably going to get blasted for this, but I wish we’d never called it
elearning, I think it’s etraining.
I’m not saying “train” is a four-letter word of destruction. What we’re
trying to do here is for the learner, and for the journey that they are on to
becoming performers. We must put our deliverables in the right place. And in
the right perspective, training was never a true transfer contextualizing tool,
because it does not live in the workflow. It’s not used or consumed while
working. And that’s why this whole design of the digital coach, and
distinguishing learning from training, is so important. They really do have
different intents, right?
CG: You know, training and learning is a two-way street. Training is
what we do. And we know there are fundamental principles that we can employ in
training someone to do something and helping them understand as they do that, but then the learner has a responsibility to write learning approaches is different
than training, and both have to be there. And then both trainer and learner,
you know, the training efforts that we make, and the learning efforts on the
learner have that work. It just can’t do it all in those events. You’ve got to
extend that through the transfer stage where you integrate newly gained
experience with existing experience and develop expertise.
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