Wednesday, December 21

The Most Important ingredient in Formal Learning

I used to say that the most important ingredient in a formal learning program is motivation of the students. Having poured through thousands of results of recent big skills programs, I think the most important ingredient is the honesty of the students.

Honesty is the genuine awareness of strengths and weaknesses, and then the impact of their strengths and weaknesses.

I have also found that honesty and sense of humor can go hand in hand. While not all people with a sense of humor have honesty, almost everyone who is honest has a great sense of humor.
I have also found that some cultures crush honesty. Some cultures pounce on any sign of weakness. Some people and groups are defensive. These cultures tend to evolve and grow the least, although they get stuff done in the short term.

Any individual and organization should, by the way, balance introspection and action. But any training program of big skills requires that kernel of honesty.


Peter Isackson said...

As a specialist of culture and intercultural phenomena, I was wondering what you meant by culture. Is it corporate culture?

I've always stressed that for training we need to take into account three basic levels of culture:
1. national or regional (country, language, tradition, religion, ethics etc.)
2. institutional (e.g. corporate)
3. learning culture (the value attributed, at a largely unconscious – i.e. spontaneous – level to continuous learning, evolution and extension of competency).

By taking into account the first, which means above all showing some kind of recognition of who the learners are, and effectively harmonizing the other two, learning becomes natural and collective, not just the result of individual competitive effort.

I agree, by the way, that honesty and sense of humor definitely go hand in hand; the absence of one usually indicates the likely absence of the other.

Clark Aldrich said...

Yes, in this context, I was using culture for enterprise culture (I don't want to let governments and academics off the hook!).

ozbecks said...

An important ingredient is 'suspension of disbelief'.

We've all seen the ILT roleplays or online simulations that result in the ubiquitous 'robust discussion' or 'paradigm shift' and all the other weasel words, but perhaps at the core of these activities is a tacit agreement to play the game like it was real.

In this context, sometimes the honesty is often real, but sometimes contrived (ie you may act more ethically in a roleplay than you would, faced with the same situation in real life).

So perhaps 'suspension of disbelief' is more important than honesty. In which case there would be many eLearning lessons to be found in the acting industry.

Clark Aldrich said...

Brilliant point, even if I can't tell if it is made cynically or not.

According to the research I did for Learning By Doing, about 15 to 20 percent of participants in sims can't make the leap. And often the traditional experts of the material taught in the sim have the hardest time.

Having said that, I believe the lack of honesty gets in the way of suspension of belief.

ozbecks said...

Sorry want being cynical (except about the weasel words bit)

I wonder if those having difficulty making the leap have forgotten how and maybe the experts feel lessened; their hard won expertise is being reduced and codified.

Maybe our work starts with inspiring a remembereance of the pure joy of play in learners.... a tough ask

Anonymous said...


Interesting comment about 'honesty'. I'm in the middle of a study about graduate students in 'Training & Development'. Each week of class, I have them post a private 'I Can' sheet. For each skill/objective we cover, they indicate 'Yes', 'No', and 'Needs Work', along with optional comments. This self-assessment is completely separate from their grade; grading is based on performance. A student can turn in a great assignment (I'm using this in a course on e-learning course design), but only the student truly know whether he/she is comfortable with their learning or skill level. At the end of the course, I ask them a series of qualitative questions, asking things such as "How did you decide between 'Yes' and 'Needs work'? and 'If you marked a skill as "Needs work", what plans do you have to improve the skill?'

Vince Cyboran
Roosevelt University

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