Learnlets
Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

13 November 2015

Learning and frameworks

Clark @ 8:13 am

There’s recently been a spate of attacks on 70:20:10 and moving beyond courses, and I have to admit I just don’t get it.  So I thought it’s time to set out why I think these approaches make sense.

Let’s start with what we know about how we learn. Learning is action and reflection.  Instruction (education, training) is designed action and guided reflection.  That’s why, by the way, that information dump and knowledge test isn’t a learning solution.   People need to actively apply the information.

And it can’t follow an ‘event’ model, as learning is spaced out over time. Our brains can only accommodate so much (read: very little) learning at any one time.  There needs to be ongoing facilitation after a formal learning experience – coaching over time and stretch assignments – to help cement and accelerate the learning experience.

Now, this can be something L&D does formally, but at some point formal has to let go (not least for pragmatics) and it becomes the responsibility of the individual and the community. It shifts from formal coaching to informal mentoring, personal exploration, and feedback from colleagues and fellow practitioners.  It’s impractical for L&D to take on this full responsibility, and instead becomes a role in facilitation of mentoring, communication, and collaboration.

That’s where the 70:20:10 framework comes in.  Leaving that mentoring and collaboration to chance is a mistake, because it’s demonstrably the case that people don’t necessarily have good self-learning skills.  And if we foster self-learning skills, we can accelerate the learning outcomes for the organization. Addressing the skills and culture for learning, personally and collectively, is a valuable contribution that L&D should seize. And it’s not about controlling it all, but making an environment that’s conducive, and facilitating the component skills.

Further, some people  seem to get their knickers in a twist about the numbers, and I’m not sure why that is.  People seem comfortable with the Pareto Principle, for instance (aka the 80/20 rule), and it’s the same. In both cases it’s not the exact numbers that matter, but the concept. For the Pareto Rule it’s recognizing that some large fraction of outcomes comes from a small fraction of inputs.  For the 70:20:10 framework, it’s recognizing that much of what you apply as your expertise comes from things other than courses.  And tired old cliches about “wouldn’t want a doctor who didn’t have training” don’t reflect that you’d also not want a doctor who didn’t continue learning through internships and practice.  It’s not denying the 10, it’s augmenting it.

And this is really what Modern Workplace Learning is about: looking beyond the course.  The course is one important, but ultimately small, piece of being a practitioner, and organizations can no longer afford to ignore the rest of the learning picture.  Of course, there’s also the whole innovation side and performance support when learning doesn’t have to happen as well, which is something L&D also should facilitate (cue the L&D Revolution), but getting the learning right by looking at the bigger picture of how we really learn is critical.

I welcome debate on this, but pragmatically if you think about how you learned what you do, you should recognize that much of it came from other than courses. Beyond Education, the other two E’s have been characterized as Exposure and Experience. Doing the task in the company of others, socially learning, and by the outcomes of actually applying the knowledge in context, and making mistakes.  That’s real learning, and the recognition that it should not be left to chance is how these frameworks help raise awareness and provide an opportunity for L&D to become more relevant to the organization.  And that, I strongly believe, is a valuable outcome. So, what do you think?

4 Comments »

  1. I absolutely agree with you – few things are as good as exposure and experience when you’re learning. It’s tough to make them the bulk of the learning, obviously, but they should be present as often as possible.

    Comment by John Laskaris @ Talent LMS — 13 November 2015 @ 8:27 am

  2. The numbers make some good sense to me. I work in criminal justice training and this is a big part of “FTO” or Field Training Officer programs. The student officer spends a good many hours in a classroom (the 10%) but many more hours on-the-job (the 70%) in conjunction with an experienced staff member who also trains as they move through the workday. The 20% interaction element really blends into the 70 in this case but is still a segment of the learning/training process.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — 13 November 2015 @ 11:01 am

  3. Paul, get feedback from the field. John, unless I’m missing your point, I’d disagree. It’s not really tough to make it the bulk of the learning. The issue, I suppose, is whether L&D feels the need to ‘own’ it, or can create an environment where it can flourish.

    Comment by Clark — 14 November 2015 @ 8:52 am

  4. […] “That’s where the 70:20:10 framework comes in. Leaving that mentoring and collaboration to chance is a mistake, because it’s demonstrably the case that people don’t necessarily have good self-learning skills. And if we foster self-learning skills, we can accelerate the learning outcomes for the organization. Addressing the skills and culture for learning, personally and collectively, is a valuable contribution that L&D should seize. And it’s not about controlling it all, but making an environment that’s conducive, and facilitating the component skills.” Clark Quinn, Learnlets, 13. November 2015 […]

    Pingback by Learning and frameworks | weiterbildungsblog — 18 November 2015 @ 10:40 pm

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