Expecting different results from the same methodology
Whether it be education and training or learning and development, the principles of providing information and then becoming able to apply that information, have always been around.
It could be a baby picking a toy telephone and banging it on the floor, chewing on the end of it, or, waving it around in the air. The dribbling ‘monster’ is learning both what it feels and tastes like, how heavy it is, how it moves, and what noise it makes when thumped repeatedly on the carpet.
It is only when an older child or adult tells the child it is a ‘telephone’ and shows them how to put it to your ear and talk to it (information transfer) that the child learns the context which it was designed for (application).
What happens then when you give a baby a similarly shaped banana (still in its skin) or a toy dog bone? Do they know what the application of these items are, or do they assume they have simply been given a slightly different shaped ‘phone’?
The likelihood is the child will treat the new object, in the same manner as they did the telephone. This is the issue when we simply teach people what to think, not how to think. We stifle their creativity and issues quickly arise because the ‘learner’ only knows to follow the strict rules.
Historically, this was fine, we needed learners to be able to absorb and recall information and then complete simple, repeatable tasks, time and time again. When we completed a significant amount of repeated manual labour or worked on a conveyor belt, the teaching matched the application. There was no variation required around the application.
If we’re honest with ourselves, traditional learning and development hasn’t actually moved on from chalkboards though, on which the teacher writes about the subject and the child writes either notes or an exact replication in their own books.
Clearly, we progressed significantly once we had overhead projectors (for those of us old enough to remember annotated transparencies) soon to be superseded with the introduction of PowerPoint and Keynote. So often, all we have done is use the technology available to us to repeat the same methodology – we have literally taken the chalkboard and modernised it.
When it comes to common education practices, we still treat the learner like the baby with the toy phone, we let them gather some information and then tell them how they really must apply it, whether or not this application works. We tell and they listen, then replicate…
We are still solving the problems of old, simply sharing information, just using more modern delivery methods.
In the next part of this series we are going to further examine where we are in the digital age and explore what our real problems are in learning and development.