Posted tagged ‘Making the Case for a Developmental Perspective’

5 papers every learning professional should read

1 July 2015

I don’t read as many journal articles as I’d like.

Given the challenges and pressures of professional life, combined with everything else that’s been going on privately, I’ve fallen out of the habit of scanning the latest abstracts and deep diving into particular studies.

And that’s a problem because as a practitioner, I consider it important to inform my work with the latest science. While blogs (for example) certainly have their place in the discourse, so too do peer-reviewed publications.

So it was with much gratitude that I read The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice.

I say “gratitude” because it was one of the pre-reads for last night’s Sydney eLearning and Instructional Design Meetup. If David Swaddle (the meet-up’s organiser) hadn’t prompted me to read this paper in preparation for the event, I fear I never would have done so.

This in turn got me thinking about good papers – the ones that stand out from the rest. The ones that I would recommend to my fellow learning pro’s. While there are many that could fit that bill, I’ve given it some thought and have short-listed my Top 5.

A pile of papers on a desk.

1. Sfard, A. (1998). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, 27(2), pp. 4-13.

In this paper, the author distinguishes between two metaphors for learning: the acquisition metaphor in which the learner’s mind is akin to a vessel to be filled, and the participation metaphor in which the learner is an active social agent in the learning process. The latter metaphor reminds me that learning is not about the consumption of information; it’s about making sense.

2. Cook‐Greuter, S. R. (2004). Making the case for a developmental perspective. Industrial and Commercial Training, 36(7), pp. 275-281.

In this paper, the author distinguishes between two directions of human development: horizontal growth and vertical transformation. I translate this dichotomy as the difference between “learning” and “development”, recognising that as a profession we tend to assign disproportionately more attention to the former – to our organisation’s detriment. I elaborate here.

3. Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), pp. 3-10.

Somewhat controversial in academic circles, this paper documents real thought leadership in my humble opinion. The author challenges the notion of what it means to “learn” in the modern world, and if we put philosophical arguments aside, he provokes us to re-think our practice.

4. Biesta, G. J. J. (2012). Giving Teaching Back to Education: Responding to the Disappearance of the Teacher. Phenomenology & Practice, 6(2), pp. 35-49.

In this paper, the author rues the shift of our collective discourse from teaching to learning, whereby the sage has been pushed off the stage and recast as a guide on the side. I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but I do agree with much of his sentiment. I’ve blogged my reflection here.

5. Salas, E., Tannenbaum, S. I., Kraiger, K. & Smith-Jentsch, K. (2012). The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(2), pp. 74–101.

In this paper, the authors outline “what matters” before, during and after training in the organisational setting. While their focus is set firmly on the traditional one-to-many mode of delivery, their advice is grounded in research and real-world experience. Even if you aren’t involved in training per se, this is a solid framework against which you can (dare I suggest should?) audit what you do and how you do it.

Sunlight shining through dark clouds

The above papers are several rays of light that break through the clouds to change our mindsets and behaviours.

Do you agree with my short list?

Which papers would be in your Top 5?


Learning vs Development

27 June 2011

Is there a difference between learning and development?

I ruminated over this question for a number of years as a Learning & Development professional, but without much progress.

I could never draw a clear line between the two, so I considered the “D” in “L&D” to be a simple tautology.

That was until a colleague of mine recommended I read Making the Case for a Developmental Perspective by Dr Suzanne R Cook-Greuter.

Bidirectional POV

Cook-Greuter distinguishes between two directions of human development: horizontal growth and vertical transformation.

Horizontal growth refers to the gaining of new knowledge, skills and behaviours within a particular stage of development. In doing so, the learner becomes better equipped to perform in their environment.

Vertical transformation is much more sophisticated. Rather than expanding capability within the same stage of development, the learner promotes their intellect to a higher stage of development.

The Leadership Development Framework (LDF) models this transformation as an upward spiral from the preconventional Impulsive and Opportunist through to the transpersonal Ironist and beyond:

The spiral of development in the Leadership Development Framework

Each stage of development represents a level of wisdom that transcends the one before it.

The vast majority of people in modern society (and hence in the workplace) occupy the conventional stages of Diplomat, Expert and Achiever. Promotion to the postconventional stages of Individualist, Strategist and Alchemist is relatively rare, while I presume the transpersonal stages are the realm of the Zen Master.

(For profiles of the seven most common stages in the workplace, refer to Rooke & Torbert’s Seven Transformations of Leadership.)

The sound of a penny dropping

As I read Cook-Greuter’s paper, it dawned on me that her bidirectional model of development can represent the two sides of the L&D equation:

1. Horizontal growth represents the “L” – improving your competence.

2. Vertical transformation represents the “D” – maturing your mind.

I think it’s fair to say most L&D professionals focus their energy in the L space:

• Classroom-based training
• Online courses
• System simulations
• Job aids
• Assessments
• Performance appraisals
• Coaching

But this might only be going half way.

Cook-Greuter maintains that to help people transform, “only specific long-term practices, self-reflection, action inquiry, and dialogue, as well as living in the company of others further along the development path has been shown to be effective” (pp. 3-4).

In other words, meaningful transformation requires deep intervention which is personally driven and fostered by peers. The role of the L&D professional is to facilitate it:

• Communities of practice
• Enterprise social networking
• Disruptive content
• Cross-departmental problems
• Mentoring

In addition, reflection and deep thinking requires time, permission and support – so we need to secure managerial buy-in.

We can’t “do” development for others; they must do it for themselves. However we can cultivate the right environment and empower them to make the most of their opportunities.

Why bother?

That’s a question that has been on my mind since I wrote Shades of green last year. Does all this warm and fuzzy stuff really make a difference to the performance of the business? I’m convinced the answer is yes.

Of course horizontal growth remains important. Every employee has a job to do, and since nobody’s perfect, there will always be opportunities to increase knowledge, expand skillsets and change behaviours to do those jobs better.

Complementing that, I see the ROI in developing people vertically. When we refine our views of the corporate system and our roles in it, we think more strategically, work more efficiently, and collaborate with one another more effectively. In short, we perform better.

So it is clear to me now that the role of the L&D professional is two-fold: by definition, it’s to help people learn and develop.