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HR practices revisited

Learning & Development

What is learning about in your organization? Is the focus on ‘training & instruction’ or is learning a dialogue, a voyage where people learn from each other by working together and where people look for new solutions to old and new challenges together?

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Learning policy in organizations often starts from one of these two paradigms:

► BANK CONCEPT: where learning is seen as a transfer of knowledge from ‘scholars’ (i.e. the trainer or expert) to the ‘ignorant’ (the recipient of the knowledge), with the intention that they think and act as they were taught.
► CONSTRUCTIONISM: where people ‘make their own knowledge’, based on experience, on working with others, on reflecting on what worked and what didn’t, feedback, etc… It is ‘learning by doing’ iso ‘doing what you have been taught’. Knowledge is not transferred here, but is made and also constantly changes under the influence of context, relationships, experiment and experience.

Learning as Transfer (bank concept) is a translation of the ‘contain & control’ paradigm. It prompts people to do and think how their ‘trainers’ (as representatives of the organization), have always thought or done it and the ‘trainer’ decides what is ‘right’. Methods often used here are: training, e-learning, etc … often organized by HR and often also compulsory to do a job or to make a career move (eg: a curriculum of courses for all our sales people).

Constructionism or experiential learning is ‘generative’ and focuses on the learning process. It is about ‘learning how to learn and change’. Learners build their own insights based on experiences (real or simulated), reflection, processing the experience with others, asking feedback, etc… When that proces is facilitated that facilitation is meant to create the conditions for people to learn from their experience, but it is not ‘guiding their conclusions’ at the end of that proces (in contrast with a trainer). Here we focus also on the ‘system’, beyond the individual which draws on concepts like Organizational Learning, triple loop learning, etc… The methods that you will find a lot here are: coaching, intervision, communities of practice, after action review, etc …

Training and Instruction can of course be very useful for ‘basic skills’ such as reading, writing, languages, computer literacy, etc … These are fundamentals. But if people at work have to make choices, assess things and adapt their behavior to unexpected and unpredictable situations and challenges, then learning from experience, in dialogue with others, is the appropriate model. And in the sake of ’employability’, learning to learn is crucial.

And what do you do in your organization … is it about ‘learning from experience’ or about ‘teaching’ people what to do and how to think about things? What could you do differently ?

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