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

17 August 2009

The Performance Environment

Clark @ 11:06 AM

I’ve represented the performance ecosystem in several ways in the past, and that process continues to occur.  In the process of writing up a proposal to do some social learning strategizing for an organization, I started thinking about it from the performer perspective.PLE

Now, personal learning environments (PLE) is not a completely new concept, and quite a number of folks contributed their PLEs here.  However, I wasn’t creating mine so much as a conceptual framework, yet it shares characteristics with many.

I realized there were some relevant dimensions, so I added those in, including whether they tend to be more reflective or active, and whether they’re formal or informal.  Note that I played a little fast and loose in the positioning to hopefully not make the connections too obscured, so it’s not quantitatively accurate so much as conceptually indicative.  Also, I’m trying to catch categories of tools, not specifics.  Still, I (apparently :) thought it was interesting enough to try to get feedback on.

So, what do you think? Am I missing a channel?  A connection?  Feedback solicited.


  1. Do the colours & shapes have specific meanings?

    Comment by Harold Jarche — 17 August 2009 @ 4:33 PM

  2. Very interesting Clark, Thanks;
    I especially like the color coded categorization embedded in the action / formality matrix. I lot of information in one graphic – a really good map!!!
    It sparked my thinking about a related question; Let’s call it “what is learning 2.0”? as it differs from social media. If old style learning was about chunking content into courses with teachers responsible for facilitating the passing on of this content; mostly without regard to future performance, technology has now made content widely available. I’m believe more that the next type of learning, beyond content, is based on relationships and community, with a focus on performance, present and future.
    My question for you is, are we not still overly focused on facilitating the use of technological tools, rather than on relationships and community? Sometimes I feel a bit like I’m in a technological field of dreams; “build it and they will come”. These tools will facilitate relationships and community, but the real task in learning are the tools not to facilitate, but to create and grow relationships and community. Not sure, maybe I’m just not seeing the forest for the trees. There have been example of communities coming together (thinking here of the Iranian election or Obama’s election campaign), but I’m think ongoing. common and may almost on-demand learning communities to support individuals and organizations. What do you think?

    Comment by Howard — 18 August 2009 @ 8:18 AM

  3. Harold, shapes match colors pretty much, though hot colors are more formal, cool colors more social. I reckon I could do more with that.

    Howard, my goal in putting in forums, wikis, blogs, RSS, etc, is to include the social/informal side as well as the formal (see the other diagrams pointed to as well). I still think there’s a role for formal, though with an improved constructivist and often social pedagogy. And I argue regularly that it’s not a case of “if you build it, they will come”, but there’s the whole organizational implementation side that must be addressed, and the culture. For performance, I’m not sure I want to grow relationships and community, however, except to the extent that they facilitate the growth of understanding and new ideas (which I acknowledge they do contribute to).

    I admit I’m a geek who loves all the shiny toys, but I always focus on the learning (the big picture learning, including problem-solving and innovation) first, so I’m focused on the tools for what they can DO, not on them for themselves.

    Comment by Clark — 18 August 2009 @ 11:01 AM

  4. One of the things I’ve noticed as I attempt to assemble similar mappings is that there are multiple ways to slice things up.

    For example, moving laterally across the map you could classify formal to informal in terms of the ‘who what’ in relation to the performer:

    * Facilitated
    * Team (not explicitly called out, but these are normally formally arranged)
    * Individual (can and do manifest across the formal to informal scale)
    * Community (normally at the informal end of the scale, implies incidental value)

    If we look at this as a matrix, you could arrange things in layers. I’m not sure reflective and active are necessarily complementary, but it’s your map:) So that makes it cool. Modalities are tough to parallel up. I think that specific modalities are intentionally avoided, but the elements included reflect various levels of granular specificity (example, RSS vice Job Aids).

    It’s also so tough to account for every class of intervention, since there is significant overlap. So many ways to slice it.

    Perhaps breaking things down to attributes and abstracting the characteristics and natures of a servicing solution would help to reassemble logical groupings. By breaking out characteristics you can also avoid ‘pure’ references to things like job aids. Most of the job aids I’ve worked on have included ‘pure’ task guidance in addition to bridging with context / concept support that resemble mini-orienters, explainers that have strategic and intentional learning support qualities. I suppose it’s all semantics:)

    I’d also specify that this is closely aligned with ‘skill attribute support’ as a holistic performance ecosystem would ideally weigh all performance factors equally (environment, incentive / validation, organizational support, skills / knowledge, etc..)

    Comment by sflowers — 18 August 2009 @ 8:33 PM

  5. Looks good. Two observations:

    * Performance Support – where does this fit in?
    * The arrows make this seem more confusing/complex than needed. There might be another way to rearrange (still using your dimensions) to make the connections immediately apparent.

    Comment by Dennis Callahan — 19 August 2009 @ 5:41 AM

  6. This is quick and dirty. Represents what I’ve had in my head on layered ecosystem components for my organization. YMMV, one size fits all doesn’t fit anyone:)


    The idea is social modality on one axis and a multidimensional layered model with a foundation of *direct performance support* (where I think we should start and core EVERY one of our solution paths). The other axial ‘layer zones’ are *prescribed training experiences*, *life @ work*, and *life overlaps work*.

    The zone sizes are fairly arbitrary (not based on any kind of data whatsoever), just a gut feel representation.

    Comment by sflowers — 19 August 2009 @ 6:27 AM

  7. Dennis, I see portals & job aids as performance support. I thought about doing it without arrows, may have to try it out!

    Steve, like your diagram, and intrigued by your recommendation of starting with performance support. I can see that argument. I do believe we need to start from the performance change needed, which may be similar.


    Comment by Clark — 20 August 2009 @ 11:18 AM

  8. Performance support is forever a conundrum because it’s not learning; PS is an alternative to learning. That’s what’s driving me to consider frameworks for getting stuff done rather than for learning. Somewhere, one needs to be able to trade off embedding the knowledge in the job versus embedding the knowledge in the worker.

    Comment by Jay Cross — 20 August 2009 @ 5:48 PM

  9. My background, and lots of my current focus, is specifically vocational. That’s where the mapping propensity for basing from performance support comes in:) I think that any mapping needs to be flexible. I keep coming back to layers.

    Comment by sflowers — 20 August 2009 @ 7:43 PM

  10. Jay, I see learning and PS as part of a continuum, but the concept of ‘distributed cognition’ does indeed give us that perspective of knowledge in the head versus knowledge in the worker. Gloria’s model was supposed to develop learner’s understanding as well as help them perform, as I understood it, but I’ve seen little evidence of that approach.

    Steve, similarly, I see a continuum between education and training, so there’ll be elements of both. Just hate to see anyone learning rote stuff, that’s what automation’s for. I reckon the interesting work for people is making the important/challenging decisions. Or, to put it another way, we should reserve those decisions we want to make, and automate the rest!

    Comment by Clark — 21 August 2009 @ 8:12 AM

  11. Automate when we can, sure.

    However, in my context, we’re still using some of the same stuff we used in the Vietnam war. The new stuff is high tech (poorly selected, designed, and engineered high tech in many cases :-( .) For maintainers as well as operators, this normally means either some great apprenticeship on the job with an outstanding mentor or prescribed performance preparation and hands on in a lab environment that provides a better chance at gaining experienced and focused mentorship.

    For a performer that wears many hats and doesn’t perform a task often, we’re moving towards PSS (mixed print, electronic) with intentional bridging elements like orienters, explainers, etc. that leverage media for what it’s good for. PSS isn’t an either or proposition in my opinion. Pure performance support and pure learning shouldn’t be segregated. We don’t see ‘follow these steps’ as enough in many cases. Lack of orientation and familiarity with the task context and conceptual underpinnings results in unperformance (not doing it) or underperformance (breaking stuff.)

    We are fighting the battle of ‘tech and clinical are enough’ with the logistics folks who don’t see the value or a nature of sustainability with the intentionally designed bridging elements within our PSS packaging. I think there’s a sense that we have an interest in generating authoratative technical data for the S1000D pool (still 5 years out I would wager). Well, my thoughts on that, hell no – the only interaction I want with the S1000D common source is to pull from it. PS includes technical elements, but it’s not enough in most cases. And it’s never enough if the technical data is written like most of the stuff we tend to get (loosely translated to english or written ambiguously or both.)

    In a military environment we are never going to get away from formal training. Partly because it’s the right choice more times than we admit (we’re in the cultural battle against formal trng just to open up options for alternatives and hybrids.) Frml training creates consistent expectations and a safety net that says ‘we’ve done what we can to instill and ensure competence and confidence at a base level.’ That’s not to say that we can’t stratify our solutions to baseline with more direct performance support where it’s appropriate (a lot more cases than we currently employ) and build upon that with formal / prescribed solutions and available resources and maps for continued growth.

    I think it will take most corporate and government environments decades (or centuries) to get to that level of automation for things that shouldn’t require human intervention. Until then we’ll keep adjusting our heuristics and principles to match our shifting context – hoping that it’s just enough to get the job done:)

    Comment by sflowers — 22 August 2009 @ 6:09 AM

  12. […] The Performance Environment, August 17, 2009 […]

    Pingback by August Informal Learning Hot List — Informal Learning Blog — 28 August 2009 @ 10:52 AM

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