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Trainers or Knowledge Facilitators? Wed 25 Mar 09

Changing Our Approach Can Make A Big Difference

Last week I was listening to a story on NPR and it caught my attention.  It was about the Washington, DC school district and the things they are doing to improve things.  What caught my attention was a quote for a principal about the attitude toward teaching, specifically, "I taught it, they didn't learn it, it's on them." 

I made a quick post on this and didn't think much more about it.  As sometimes happens I was surprised to find this little post got more attention than I expected.  And as also sometimes happens I received a comment that is better than the post itself.  The post was via Facebook from blog designer, Dave Weiss and that's what I'd like to discuss in this post.

First, it would be good if you read the post in question that generated the comment to put things in context.  Go ahead, it's a short post, it won't take long.  I'll wait here until you get back.

Okay, you're back.  Let's start by looking at Dave's comment.  The first part of the comment is:

Why can't people be taught to be self motivated learners? When I want to learn something, I pick it up, look at it, turn it upside down, inside out, and use the all knowing, ever growing book of knowledge called Google for a little help when I'm stuck.

Furthermore, why would companies (or schools or any institution) hire people who aren't ...  Read More inquisitive, self motivated learners?

Great question.  We should be hiring more inquisitive people.  However, we do have to play the hand we're dealt.  I actually think people are naturally inquisitive but just inquisitive to different degrees and about different things.  I'm sure my friends in Human Resources wonder why I'm not very inquisitive about the intricacies of employment law just as I wonder why they don't want to learn more about web technologies.  People are all different and we just need to accept it and work with it.

There is not a lot we can do to change out the existing workforce at our companies to be very curious about system technologies and to be honest I'm not sure that would be a good thing anyway. So we have to figure out how to train the people we have.  The key is that we need to recognize that people have different learning styles.  These different styles can be described as VARK- Visual / Aural / Reading / Kinesthetic (e.g. doing).

If we want people to learn then we must be prepared and willing to do this.  We have to train them in the manner they learn rather than by the method that best suits our needs.  Personally, this is what frustrates me when people push online training as the best and only training method.  The main motivator is the cost and ease rather than the effectiveness. 

Computer trainingMake no mistake online training can be extremely effective for some but we need to recognize that there may be more effective methods for others.  Ultimately how effective our training was is more important than how convenient it was for us, the trainers.  That's what I mean by measuring our success by the success of our users.

This brings us to the second and I think more important part of Dave's comment:

We shouldn't even have teachers - we should have "knowledge facilitators" - people who can assist others to learn how to teach themselves.

I like that term, "knowledge facilitators" because that is really what we should be.  Our goal is to help learn and if we want to facilitate this learning we need to adapt our methods to the way they learn best.  Rather than pushing the knowledge on them we should be facilitating their understanding the subject, facilitating their grasp of the details and facilitating their knowledge of how to best use it and how to use it properly.

So I close by modifying my closing statement in the original post ans say 'Maybe we should take a cue from Principal Betts and Dave Weiss and become knowledge facilitators and measure our success by the success of our users.

What do you think?

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