By Giselle Springer Douglas
When faced with top brass who ask you to douse a performance or business problem by throwing training at it, you might find that training actually isn’t the correct solution for the problem at hand. But how do you offer a succinct explanation to training requesters on why, say, developing a new training class to remind customer service representatives of some of the details they already learned in new hire training probably isn’t an effective solution?
Rather than slinking off to spend your time and the company’s money developing a solution your knowledge and experience tell you won’t be effective, it’s often better to flex your scholar muscle to express why an alternate solution is a better salve.
Much recent neuroscience and learning research, and andragogical and, more generally, pedagogical theories can easily become business problem remedies, helping learning professionals to develop targeted learning solutions that cut right to the heart of business problems to inject a powerful antidote.
Theory and Research to the Rescue
One surefire way to prove a case for or against a proposed solution is to know what the research and science say about it. Science, research, and academe come with built-in credibility. Find a solution rooted in the science and you’ve won half the battle
In one case, citing the theory of learned helplessness, a condition of behaving helplessly after having been subjected to repeated challenges one cannot overcome, helped me to justify why developing overly complicated and difficult assessment questions could produce averse and anxiety-laden responses in learners, rather than the intended aim of reinforcing the importance of the training.
Offering up, “I just know that won’t work. I’ve never seen it work before,” although a reasonable retort, doesn’t hold the same water as sounding off with: “I suggest we look to constructivist learning theory and develop authentic, scenario-based, small group assessment exercises that give learners an opportunity to refresh the skills they learned in new hire training.”
With the latter statement, you’ve used theory to solve a business problem, and it’s likely you’ve proven yourself to be a knowledgeable and passionate practitioner of your craft. If your scholar muscle is weak, strengthen it by keeping up to date on learning theory and research.
Here are some suggestions on how to keep andragogically fit:
If you arm yourself with a firm understanding of learning theories, you need not reinvent the wheel or throw everything against the wall to see what sticks when designing learning solutions. Learning theories and research are waiting at the ready for you to come upon them to put them to good use, creatively solving your organization’s business problems and, just as importantly, credibly explaining and substantiating your proposals.
Giselle Springer Douglas is an innovative specialist who is expert in providing sound andragogy and pedagogy research and theory-backed, multiculturally appropriate learning solutions targeted at forwarding business and growth objectives. She currently is completing a doctoral program in organizational leadership at Northeastern University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.