I spoke at the ATD International Conference last week on myths. I said a number of things (and a number were said about it, too :). However, one comment seems to be getting more traction than others. Moreover, it’s something I say regularly. So I thought I should add it to my collection of Quinn Quips.
The statement is simple:
Learning is action and reflection; instruction is designed action and guided reflection.
What do I mean here? In life, things happen. We make choices, and there are consequences. When we observe them, and reflect, we being to notice patterns. Some of this can happen unconsciously, but if we want to improve fastest, reflecting helps. This can involve just thinking, or writing, or diagramming, or other ways of representing the contingencies and emerging models.
However, when we want to guide learning, e.g. instruct, one of the tasks we can undertake is creating a problem, and asking the learner to solve it. If we provide resources, and support the thinking afterwards, we increase the likelihood of learning outcomes.
A critical feature of this statement is that the choices of action that we design, and the choices of resources to support reflection (content and representation tools), are critical. And, of course, we might need a series of activities (or application opportunities) to support learning.
An interesting option that emerges here is the opportunity for contextual learning. When an individual is engaged in a task relevant for learning, we can take advantage of it. With resources and reflection facilitation, a performance requirement becomes a learning opportunity!
It’s important that we understand the difference, but recognize (and reflect) the core.