Many professionals, regardless of the field, go to a conference or a workshop for one day, two days, even three days. GREAT experience, right? There are myriads of sites and sources for online and “home” study programs that are designed to improve what is done by professionals across marketing, teaching, finance, and law.
How much of that professional learning experience makes it back into everyday professional life?
Many professional licenses require a certain amount of professional development. In the teaching, healthcare, legal, child protective, and mental health professions continued education is tallied based on “butts in the seats” participation via a sign-in documentation. There might even be an event evaluation required that is tied to proving the learning time was experienced.
There is, however, no exploration, documentation, or interest into how the professional development experience becomes translated into practice, how it improved or impacted what professionals do with what they have learned. Most professionals will tell you, they learned a lot but ask them how they have applied it and they come up short pretty quick.
This is what we at With Respect, LLC call “drive-by trainings.”
Showing up to do a single event for 45 minutes to 3 days is easy as the hired professional development trainer.
But it’s not effective.
Consequently, as a professional development trainer, it is unethical and unrealistic for me to market anything differently. That’s why all of our training experiences are in series, over time.
As a professional development trainer, I’ve been advocating for a long time on the importance of HOW we continue to educate ourselves in our practice, how we truly improve our craft and benefit our clients – be they students, customers, patients, or organizations.
We have to consider the learning process and, specifically, the adult learning process. It doesn’t happen overnight nor in a vacuum.
Based on the conscious competence model combined with the research based brain integration model I have developed we know that moving people through the change process of learning (true learning requires a change in the target of what will be done or thought differently) requires multiple steps, over time.
It looks like this:
The great thing about this model is it makes clear the two things that are required for a learning experience to be meaningful and integrated (the middle of the steps):
Discord and Practice.
Discord is about processing and processing is about figuring out where things fit in the system we already have internally for filing. That means discord is a bit of trial and error to see where things fit, how to store it within the framework that already exists (i.e. Do I file “This Old Man” under “T” for “This” or “O” for Old?)
Discord is also about clarity. Clarity comes through questions and answers. It is good to note that the answers that serve learning best are done through discovery but that’s a different topic. In traditional drive-by training, the session ends with questions and answers. That’s as far as it gets. Reality is, questions are at the beginning of learning, not the end; not if the goal is to reach levels of conscious competence (using the skills or information intentionally, with a mid to high level of expertise).
That means traditional trainings leave the participants well within conscious incompetence: they know enough to know they don’t know how to do/apply it or how to do/apply it very well. I don’t believe that’s what a professional learning experience is all about.
Note from the graphic above that the other critical component for integration is a high level of awkward practice. People don’t learn from words alone. Yes, we might remember words we’ve heard in a certain order, but that doesn’t mean we can DO it, that we can apply what those words mean.
For example, take the left blue hook and weave it into the secondary right yellow cutter. You know what each of those words mean but, particularly out of context without seeing it or a rendition of it, you have no way to form meaning with those words.
We are all kinesthetic at the core of learning. That means we have to do it, whatever “it” is. We have to practice. Not just any, one time fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants practice session, but a series of practice that allows progression through the process. The length of time required is, of course, based on the complexity of the skills or concepts being integrated.
The Role of Clear Objectives
All of that said, the objectives of professional development must be clear. Take education and awareness as objectives, for example. They require a different level of training but truly must be seen as the beginning, not a single opportunity.
For learning to be meaningful it must be relevant. That’s why we ask important questions.
- Does the content improve or change what is expected of the individual employee?
- After the learning experience, what is the expectation of change in what is done, said, thought, or applied by the employee?
- How does the training ensure the change is truly integrated in thought, deed, or word?
Without answers to these questions, the experience is more a waste of time than an actual learning opportunity. (Yes, this applies to those mandatory trainings too. Which, by the way, don’t have to be boring if they’re done well.)
You can see, then, why what I do is so important to me, why it is crucial that we redefine what an effective professional learning experience looks like, what it means to develop our professional knowledge and skills.
As professionals you have a right to expect, demand, and receive quality learning. This is particularly true when you have to stay on top of what is going on in the world and your industry. The only way that will occur is that organizations know what questions to ask and what answers to expect.
That’s how we reduce “drive-bys” in business.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below or email me here.
Until next time,