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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Testing and learning

Reading Harold Jarche's blog on testing today:

"As Clark mentions in his article, if you can demonstrate mastery then training is not necessary. For learning professionals, it is important to design tests that can validate competency. This is an overlooked area of instructional design as too much effort is spent on delivering content, in my opinion. Another rule that we had in military training, though not always followed, was to design the proficiency test before developing any training. The proficiency test had to correlate with the job performance area that was being addressed. In this way, the direct link between training and job performance was obvious. Considering my last post, this could be a good thing for the training department."

This post and your previous one bring to mind a thought I had whilst attending the ASTD Conference in San Diego earlier in the year (where my eyes were opened to P2P learning).
The proliferation of web learning devices, gadgets and tools coupled with the tendency towards open source knowledge may herald the demise or at least modification of a long extant distinction between formative and summative testing.

In short, if you publish a summative test - designed to demonstrate mastery of the learning objectives of any particular intervention it will become de facto a formative test for those equiped with the tools and the motivation to find out the relevant stuff for themselves.

All organisations need to do is be clear about the skills and behaviours they seek to encourage and reward and let the employees do the rest. In a large number of areas (although not all) if they designed and published the assessments and then paid a bonus to employees who passed them, they could probably cut a large section out of their budgets. It would even leave them money to support those who do not have the tools or the inclination to teach themselves and still be better off. Mind you the likelihood of this happening in the near future is small.

Life has become or is becoming an open book test.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ego and learning

I have been watching my three year old daughter a lot recently. Not as the apple of my eye, which she of course remains, but as a learning being. I am constantly amazed by how quickly she learns new things (or to those for whom preciseness is important, how she learns and acquires new things).

I have often felt that if I learn one or two new things a day, then it is a good day. But she demonstratively learns 50+ new things a day. And it is her ability to test and experiment with new words, ideas or actions without fear that helps her do this. Her ability to exist in the moment is a joy to behold. She can be howling with misery at having been denied the opportunity to wear her skimpy summer "blootiful princess dress" when it is 5 degrees outside and the next second giggling at the squirrel that just fell off the fence. Even as the tears still roll down her face she has moved on to the next idea/emotion without its predecessor getting in the way.

Like a computer fresh out of the box that boots up in seconds only to be worn down into a state of quasi permanent nothingness once we have loaded all the unnecessary software to slow it down. It is one thing to read Chomsky's and others' work on the way children acquire knowledge. It is another thing to see it happening.

I look to her for my lessons in learning at the moment. I know I cannot completely recover the childlike enthusiasm for life but trying not to let fears and emotion get in the way of new things can only be helpful. The trick will be as a parent trying not to load her with unnecessary worries, prejudices and rubbish so that she can continue to be much better than me. And so on and so on...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Without pain there is no change...

A number of my recent posts have been about how to translate thought into action. It is all very well knowing something (like eating less fatty foods and going to the gym will make you healthier) the point is doing something about it.

The learning industry is I believe a bit like an overwight couch potato that needs to get off its backside and go to the gym. Our average profitablity is poor, our business models are often predicated on lifestyle choices and the quality of product and service varies appallingly.

I have a feeling the new economic outlook may well be good for us in the long run.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

No prizes for spotting the Shakespeare quote but I notice that I have not been blogging much lately. Indeed I only blogged once in October. Whilst I have personal reasons for being otherwise preoccupied in the last few weeks, my lack of posting in itself have given me cause to reflect on the passing of time and how we chose (and we do chose) to spend each day.

Over the same period my RSS feeds have started to stack up and I currently have over 150 unread items lurking in my inbox. At the time of writing this I also have 114 unread emails in my work in-box and I haven't checked my hotmail account for over a week (I dont really need a Russian bride, cheap Viagra or new garden tools).

So given this piling up of work to be done why am I blogging at 9.56 on a Wednesday morning when I should be running a company?

Well, I just took 10 minutes to scan, skim and read through about 30 items in RSS and already feel energised, enthused and I have learned a couple of things. They had been building up and the temptation to click on the button "Mark all read" and make them disappear was huge.

This is distinct from my email because anyone can send me an email and working through them does feel like a chore sometimes. But RSS feeds are stuff on subjects that I am interested in and have asked to be sent updates on.

One of the most successful training courses we offer is on time management. I have been on many and have even read books on the subject (the irony is delightful). And yet I constantly forget the lessons therein or fail to apply them. The point is it is now 9.59 am and I am in a better frame of mind having read some interesting stuff and reflected on it.

I think my lesson from the last month is spend some time every day doing something that makes you feel good. And reading stuff I am interested in, thinking about it and talking to people whom I respect and enjoy makes me feel good.

So gather ye rosebuds while ye may...