Learning to Do

30 09 2010

My colleague Narendra Laljani and I were talking about learning about “how to do things” the other day. This may seem vaguely odd coming from business school people, but it shouldn’t. We are genuinely interested in getting beyond the model I’d written about earlier by Huczynski and similar models by others where they present a continuum from learning about through to being able to do. Memorisation and writing essays which integrate various facts is actually not that hard. Genuinely learning to do things is much harder and reaching expertise is even more difficult. Gladwell popularised the concept of 10,000 hours of practice. For what it is worth, and typical of the popularisation of academic thinking, Gladwell is not the originator of the idea. It stems from a 1993 article by Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Romer at the Max Planck Institute of Human Development in Berlin.

 So the challenge then is how to get beyond knowing about and to approach 10,000 hours of practice without spending 10,000 hours at it! The easiest place to start is simply to do what one is reading about. In business schools, some claim that case studies are better than just reading. Well, sure, but they do not actually get to “doing” anything. Simulations and role plays go a step further. The problem here is that if the simulation is not credible, then it carries no weight. What it does attempt to do is to compress time and allow multiple rounds of decision making to act as a proxy for 10,000 hours.

 In some cases, one really can do concrete things rather than play act. Here at Ashridge, we do something called newsday where a team puts together a news programme. I’m thinking about how we can fast forward that activity into the here, now and tomorrow. In this thinking, I’m being helped along by my #PLENK2010 course which is into the third week of it’s data flood, discussion, and illumination. We are way beyond web 1.0 where traditional teaching is simply ported online (I did that sort of thing in the late 1980’s at IBM and in the early 1990’s in Rotterdam and it really is a bit dull). We have just passed web 2.0 where learners learn with the facilitator and there are no constraints on which learning tools are allowed. Yesterday we looked at www 3.0 stuff like datasift, twazzup, foursquare and storify. Most are still in alpha phases, but they do look like fun. In some cases, I can see piecing together things to amuse myself in others, piecing together interesting narratives. In all cases, it gives one the impetus to actually do, rather than just to see, and that, after all, is half the battle.

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Domains of Knowledge

17 09 2010

I’ve been following various #PLENK2010 discussions  http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/2442078/%23PLENK2010    with interest over the course of the week and have been thinking about knowledge and learning. I think that sometimes we get ourselves into a muddle about terms and do not distinguish between different knowledge domains.

This happens in business school education often – you go to school to learn “things”. In finance, you learn number things. In marketing you learn model things and in law you learn legal things.

 That is of course all fine and well but there is more to it than that. A short digression into models may help a little.

 Two models of learning may be useful. Pedler (1974) distinguishes between neuromotor knowledge (manual labour); cognition (I know facts); behaviour (I know about feelings); interpersonal (I can get along) and self knowledge.

 Huczynski (1983) classifies into memory (got the facts); understanding (makes sense but never did anything with it); application (can do it) and transfer (can show others).

 Both definitions obviously have their “I know things” bit. Both also indicate that there is a lot more to it than that – and the additional elements are fiercely useful. People need facts, clearly. They also need to be able to do something with the facts, and need to take other people along and need to get things done and need to explain things to others.

 So, knowledge is necessary but insufficient. It requires a framework to make sense of it. It requires practice to master it. And it requires self knowledge and behavioural skills. Sensemaking is not easy.