The value add of education programs

The Value add of education programs
Ivanka Menken
Executive Manager, The Art of Service Pty Ltd


    

Introduction
 
People in the IT industry are known to be very smart and intelligent
people. They pick up things relatively easy and are capable of teaching
themselves various programming languages, computer systems and generic
office automation tools. Still… these people attend training courses to
further their knowledge and skills. Is this really necessary? Can
organisations save money by buying their employees the books so they
can read the material and self-study?
To be honest, many training courses are conducted in a way that would
justify questioning the value add; the course presenter reads the
slides that are in the course manual and there is little or no
interaction with the course participants.
What is the added value of attending a training course or education
program over reading the book or researching the subject on the
internet?

The science of learning
Every person learns in a different way and adults have different
learning patterns than adolescents or children. Adult learning has to
be a full sensory experience in order to be successful. Though humans
like the familiar and are often uncomfortable with change, the brain
searches for and respond to novelty. It is this search for novelty that
makes attending courses so important. The course trainer has the job to
challenge the participants, to involve them and make them participate
in the overall learning experience.

To ensure an effective outcome of the education programs, The Art of
Service developed its course material based on the learning style
theory of Kolb.
David Kolb (1984) found that the four combinations of perceiving and
processing determine the four learning styles. According to Kolb, the
learning cycle involves four processes that must be present for
learning to occur:
•    Activist – Active Experimentation (simulations,
case study, homework). “What’s new? I’m game for anything”. Training
approach – Problem solving, small group discussions, peer feedback, and
homework all helpful; trainer should be a model of a professional,
leaving the learner to determine her own criteria for relevance of
materials.
•    Reflector – Reflective Observation (logs, journals,
brainstorming).” I’d like time to think about this”. Training approach
– Lectures are helpful; trainer should provide expert interpretation
(taskmaster/guide); judge performance by external criteria.
•    Theorist – Abstract Conceptualization (lecture,
papers, analogies). “How does this relate to that?” Training approach –
Case studies, theory readings and thinking alone helps; almost
everything else, including talking with experts, is not helpful.

•    Pragmatist – Concrete Experience (laboratories,
field work, observations). “How can I apply this in practice?” Training
approach – Peer feedback is helpful; activities should apply skills;
trainer is coach/helper for a self-directed autonomous learner.

Objectives
Our classroom based training courses are based on 3 types of objectives:
–    Cognitive (relating to, or being conscious
intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining,
or learning words))
–    Motor skills
–    Attitude (a complex mental state involving beliefs
and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways)
Cognitive objectives can be achieved when the individual reads the
course material and additional reference material. However, the full
array of educational objectives also include reasoning and learning
from experiences. Participating in group discussions and sharing of
‘war stories’ support these objectives.

Training vs. Education
Based on the previous approach to education, there is a clear distinction between training and education.
Training is focussing on acquiring a particular skill using various
practical exercises to train the motor skills and develop muscle memory
and establish brain patterns to be able to repeat the exact same to be
able to achieve the exact same outcome outside the training situation.

Education is aiming to achieve all cognitive, motor skills and attitude
objectives. It includes the establishment of longer term dispositions
and work approaches.
The Art of Service education programs are a combination of training
aspects and education. The training aspect is focussing on the
participant’s ability to pass a certain exam. The education aspect is
based on the fact that our course participants

Value add of attending education programs
In short there are many reasons why people attend training courses and education programs:
•    Finding it difficult to create the discipline to study the book or do the internet research
•    Self study only caters for the cognitive aspect of
learning. Scientific evidence shows that adults learn best through
experience, not just reading or lecturing.
•    Interaction with course participants makes you
think about how it is done in other organisations. This creates a
broader view to the subject which will translate in a better founded
approach when back in the office. The employee will return to the
office with ‘a new set of glasses’ and will look at the daily task in a
different manner
•    The opportunity to challenge the course presenter as a subject matter expert.
•    Being supported while you do the exercises and
assessments and receiving instant feedback ensures that you understand
the theory correctly.

Why choose our education programs?
The Art of Service developed its education programs based on our
scientific knowledge about adult learning principles. The principle
education consultant is a trained teaching professional with over 10
years experience in development and delivery of educational programs
and training courses to adolescents and adults.
Our courses are based on the principle that adults need experiences and
challenges to learn and incorporate various activities to increase the
effectiveness of the learning program. But most of all: our education
consultants have a proven track record as implementers and have the
ability to create a memorable experience through their humour and
no-nonsense approach.

Additional information on David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb is Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Weatheread
School of Management. He joined the School in 1976. Born in 1939, Kolb
received his Batchelor of Arts from Knox College in 1961, his MA from
Harvard in 1964 and his PhD from Harvard in 1967. Besides his work on
experiential learning, David A. Kolb is also known for his contribution
to thinking around organizational behaviour (1995a; 1995b). He has an
interest in the nature of individual and social change, experiential
learning, career development and executive and professional education.

Kolb’s theory is mentioned in numerous academic publications of which several have been used as reference for this article:

Brookfield, S. D. (1983) Adult Learning, Adult Education and the Community Milton Keynes Open University Press.

Jarvis, P. (1995) Adult and Continuing Education. Theory and practice 2e,
London: Routledge.

Kolb, A. and Kolb D. A. (2001) Experiential Learning Theory
Bibliography 1971-2001, Boston, Ma.: McBer and Co,
http://trgmcber.haygroup.com/Products/learning/bibliography.htm

Kolb, D. A. (1976) The Learning Style Inventory: Technical Manual, Boston,
Ma.: McBer.

Kolb, D. A. (1981) ‘Learning styles and disciplinary differences’. in
A. W. Chickering (ed.) The Modern American College, San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass.

Kolb, D. A. (with J. Osland and I. Rubin) (1995a) Organizational
Behavior: An Experiential Approach to Human Behavior in Organizations
6e, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Tennant, M. (1997) Psychology and Adult Learning 2e, London: Routledge.

Witkin, H. and Goodenough, D. (1981) Cognitive Styles, Essences and Origins: Field dependence and field independence, New York:

Additional references:
The NVAA specialized offering "The Ultimate Educator" by Edmunds, C., K. Lowe, M. Murray, and A. Seymour, 1999.