How you think is more important than what you think

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

At OT our goal is not to announce new truths or present new economic initiatives. But rather to prevent what was previously known to be lost. The failure of learning in the corporation merits discussion and is a logical starting point to discuss purpose. This should not be confused with your departments purpose. The two are not the same. At a curriculum level you have less control over the later than you think.

The greatest impact to the learning environment is how you think about learning. The founder of the term, adult learning, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy knew this and stated, “Thought is not consecrated unless it resists trends”.  The LD community track record in this regard is not good. Headlines such as Learning And Development Not Valued By Organizations or Challenges For HR Directors In 2016 by Karen Higginbottom states, “We did research recently which revealed that 50% of business leaders don’t value the analytics that HR provides for them”. This should come as no surprise. You can’t escape from educations power to reflect who you are. The curriculum is a mirror of yourself. All your educational values, beliefs and ideals are on display. If the curriculum forms the connective tissue of the learning condition then one would be wise to understand how the curriculum shapes your thoughts. Here are two environments with completely different approaches to LD:

BOLIL Model – Environment maximized for the learner where the Business of Learning is Learning

  • An educators discipline places focus on who and how to teach not what to teach.
  • The educators purpose is tied to the students potential at the point of formative development. When a student fails it’s the educators fault.

The educator is free to operate within this environment as long as he/she does not travel far from the environmental conditions above. The power of this model comes from the educators ability to connect their curriculum philosophy with the learners needs. Curriculum can be classified into four major categories:

  1. Humanistic Curriculum – Curriculum should address the needs of the individual in the form of personally satisfying experiences tailored for the individual. A version of this category is the new humanists who follow the curriculum should achieve self-actualization.
  2. Social Reconstructionist Curriculum – Reconstructionists stress societal needs over the individual. They emphasize the development of social values and their use in the critical thought process.
  3. Technological Curriculum – Technologist believe curriculum making is a process for achieving what ever goals the policy makers demand. They consider themselves accountable by developing evidence which indicates that their curriculum attains intended objectives. Efficiency and accountability are over-riding values to the technologist. There are no gray lines with the technologist. They are happy to espouse their method and consequences on curriculum and content development.
  4. Academic Curriculum –  The academic curriculum is seen as organized content of subjects to be pursued rather than as a source of information for dealing with local and personal problems. The curriculum structure is organized in such a way as to develop the mind. The goal is to develop a rationale method of thinking.

These four curriculum philosophies are all running at any given time in this model. Each philosophy acts as a counter weight thus preventing one philosophy from creating a structure all others must follow. One would think this to be a recipe for chaos. However the curriculum needs only to maintain alignment with instructional methodology, instructional resources, assessment and learning strategies i.e., the learning condition. Educational standards not business standards define the parameters across the condition so people can perform to the best of their ability. A fuse built into the learning system holds the educator accountable. If the learner fails the educator fails.

BOBIB Model – Environment maximized for the corporation where the business of business is business 

If you look at the four curriculum categories above one would suspect the technologist curriculum best defines corporate learning and development. However this is merely one corporation (software companies who define corporate LD curriculum via software architecture) telling another corporation what to do. Human resource departments co-opted technology in the form of the LMS for the data management function. Data moves from an outsourced function to an internal need with content miners managing functionality. Systems management reversed the role of the teacher/trainer placing emphasis on what you teach not who you teach. The reversal ossified learning and turned the LMS into the prime regulator of the training condition.

  • A trainers discipline places focus what to teach not how.
  • The trainers purpose is tied to the students potential at the point of summative development.
  • The learning departments function is tailored for the learners summative development. Training is something that happens to you. When a learner fails its their fault.
  • The trainer is accountable to profit margins. Business standards are mapped into the fabric of the training condition. Results aka post-mortem data, drive summative learning with the learning management system providing the feedback loop.

Powers are at work that define both the scope of learning in the BOBIB model and the type of people hired to manage it. This means a person has influence on learning. Unfortunately the LMS has disintermediated the LD teams capability to perform to the best of their ability. Between the BOBIB and BOLIL model lies evolution. When you buy into an evolution you get a process of learning. The good stays and the bad is dropped. Processes exist outside the third-party software sales pitch. Permissive methodology is available that is less rules bound. A scary thought the LD community will eventually have to face. If you have followed the thread running through this site my concern is with not what HR learns as gospel but rather how they learn it. If the need for data management did not exist most likely HR would find its invention necessary. The problem is you only see what you see. One would think we are on the verge of seeing a humanistic curriculum in play with the push for leadership programs. However this is merely a sales solution by third-party agents looking for clients to ride the trend train. Leadership has been churned into content with business partners and sales agents assessed by the volume of food they feed the machine aka learning management system. Products have replace pragmatism and most importantly marginalized ability. LD is following a pre-determined architecture that mimics a curriculum but is void of the connective tissue. A good place to start is by asking your team how they think about learning not what they think. How do you think about assessment? What informs the solutions you arrive at? In other words, how is your curriculum philosophy aligned across the learning condition? I referenced the book, Curriculum A Comprehensive Introduction by John D. McNeil verbatim to define types of curriculum in this article. This is mandatory faculty of education reading at universities. I strongly suggest anyone with the word training in their job title to read it.

In 1925 Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy combined his name with his wifes. Ninety three years later it seems all the rage. Eugene was ahead of his time, the learning and development department is not. Let’s take the first step towards a new narrative.

– Fut