On the job learning

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I think on the job training as a term should be retired as it suggests training interventions embedded within the work cycle. Don’t get me wrong, like teaching, there is much value to be had from embedding training in the work flow, however, training is formal and for all intents and purposes, artificial. Learning is what we hope training achieves.

Objective skills like learning to use a new tool or a piece of technology etc require training upfront not embedded in work flow. Typically on the job training focuses on the application of knowledge and skills within the unique contexts that one faces within the day to day job. This application of generic knowledge and skills to emerging and often not yet encountered situations is not an objective learning outcome but a subjective one. What I mean is that the individual’s capacity to read a situation appopriately, identify all useful available resources and apply them appropriately is the outcome here. The key to this type of development is reflectiveness. Extracting the developmental value of experiences through reflection.

Ah, this is not about journals or debriefs, rather each person as they grow up has their unique way of learning from experiences. Each person should stay true to what they are comfortable with. Schools and workplace training often disregards this natural learning process and we learn to switch it off whenever we are in school at work or doing something related to both. But the minute we are I. Everyday situations, the natural learnig instincts kick back in again.

In my opinion, training should always have as a primary objective raising the individual’s awareness of their natural reflection habits to learn from experience. The secondary objective is then the development of objective skills that serve as a foundation for subjective applications.

There’s a lot of work out there looking at learning this way, I guess the point here is there has to be more emphasis on cognitive strategies and less on actual objective outcomes. Any primary emphasis on subjective outcomes is a waste of time as these are totally useless in the face of unexpected and real situations. The reason why practice and experience are required for subjective outcomes is because the expectation is that through these the natural learning will develop the situational applicational knowledge. O ask therefore, can’t we just focus on empowering that natural learning instinct through our intervetions and spend less time training?

This will increase learning agility, reduce the need for so many objective skills training e.g. Technology etc some of which honestly should be self learned through manuals and tutorials if the natural learning instinct was active!

I hear someone saying motivation. Well, honestly, with unmotivated learners, objective training has no hope of being effective anyway! It merely serves the trainer by permitting a ‘checked and done’ sign off.

So, let’s stop designing for objective outcomes and start harnessing individual’s powerful learning agility by helping them rediscover it and maintain that awareness and recognize it especially while on the job!

1 comments on “On the job learning”

  1. Interesting read.Has made me reflect on my own natural learning abilities which alwways seemed to be at odds with conventional approaches.
    Apropos the train of thought,I would think that development of objective skills would serve as “building blocks” on top of the newly defined foundation:”raising the individual’s awareness of their natural reflection habits to learn from experience” for subjective applications.

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