[From Fred Nickols (990218.1725)] –
I doubt that anyone else on this list reads Training Magazine but, for
what it’s worth, I got in another plug for B:CP in the centerpiece
article of this month’s issue. Essentially, Jack Gordon, the
editor, asked 15 “thinkers” in the training/education business
if we in that business had learned anything about learning in the last 15
years. My response included a positive reference to Bill and
My piece (one of 15) is reproduced below:
Regarding our understanding of adult learning, its not that we havent
made progress in the last 15 years, its that we havent made much
progress in thousands of years. All we really know is that
learners do the learning and others do the training or the teaching or
the instructing or the facilitating or the educating or what have
you. A few years back I had occasion to review a textbook that was
part of the canon for a test of pedagogical knowledge. The only
definition of learning provided in that textbook was a statement to the
effect that learning is whatever it is that tests measure. Scary,
As for advances in instructional design, Susan Markle in Good Frames
and Bad and Robert Gagne in The Conditions of Learning added
immeasurably to our store of knowledge about what does and doesnt work
instructionally and why. Ditto for Bob Mager, Tom Gilbert, Joe
Harless, Geary Rummler and Trainings own Ron Zemke. In
1973, William T. Bill Powers unlocked many mysteries about why we do
what we do in his book, Behavior: The Control of Perception.
All of these contributions were made more than 15 years ago and Im
darned if I can point to any comparable advances since then.
Is the training field, as a whole, moving in a promising direction?
I dont think were getting better, I think were getting worse.
Heres why. The shift to knowledge work is a shift from prefigured
to configured work routines. Prefigured work routines are defined
in advance, typically by someone who wont be doing the work.
Configured work routines are designed on the spot by the person who does
the work. Training someone to carry out prefigured work routines is
eminently doable but how do you train people to do work that will be
defined in the future by the person doing it under a set of conditions
that cant be predicted? (I think, as Ive written elsewhere, that
the trick is to make “performance engineers” of us all.)
In any event, I dont see the training profession coming to grips in any
visible way with what is clearly the challenge of the next 20 years or
so, namely, figuring out how to make knowledge work productive.