Friday, October 21, 2011

The Best Approach to Training

Richard Catrambone's Blog from Harvard Business School 20 October 2011

"One of the ironies of being an expert is that you often lose touch with what it is like to be a novice. Part of becoming an expert is that certain aspects of problem-solving just become automatic......

Experts often are unable to articulate the many "obvious" (to them) things they do when carrying out a procedure or solving a problem." "First, the focus must be on identifying what a learner needs to know."

Task analysis is often used to assess problem solving but they often involve the expert to saying what he/she does without necessarily requiring the expert to justify the steps taken.. An approach taken by Catrambone has been to get experts to go through a problem solving exercise, getting them to talk out loud at every step. He asked them to justify every step as they went through.

"One particularly striking result of this process was how often the instructors had to stop and scratch their heads as they tried to provide a justification for their steps." The notes taken have been used to develop improved training material. "The best way to start to train a novice in any field or to develop good instructional materials is for the expert to actually do the tasks in question. There is just no substitute." But a comment on the blog does call into question the approach: "I believe your premise is flawed from a business application perspective. First there is a difference between teaching and training which you seem to use interchangeably.

The deeper issue however is when you state the fundamental premise of your article, what does the individual need to know? This is not the best question to use as the foundation for "the best approach to training." And quite frankly, because too many corporate (and I would venture a guess - too many academics) training efforts start here is why the training they design suck. The starting and end point must be "what does the individual need to do?" "The best approach to training" is to take accountability for designing learning opportunities that change behavior and ultimately impacts results In a positive way."

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