missing the transfer

25 08 2007

i had the opportunity to meet cal wick, ceo of fort hill company, when he called on gap inc. to pitch his company’s products. cal is one of those inspiring ceo’s who run a company because he has an idea that he thinks will make the world a better place.

in a recent email newsletter, cal blasts current instructional design models for not delivering where it really matters – transfer to the learner’s work.

So I reviewed various instructional design models including ADDIE, Dick and Carey, Kemp, ARCS, Gagne’s 9 Events, Kolb’s Learning Styles, Rapid Design, and others. I was struck that while each provides powerful insights into the learner, the learning situation, and the measurement of learning, none explicitly takes up the challenge of how to get people and institutions to apply what is being taught.

figure out what we need to teach them, build the learning event(s) and activities that will present it most effectively, conduct the activities with the learners, check that they were paying attention and can satisfactorily feed back the target content/skills and we’re satisfied. nice, neat, complete, and generally ineffective. cal says he spoke to a number of students and graduates of top line graduate education programs about how much of what they had been taught dealt with transfer of knowledge/skills to the job. he found that the answers ranged from “nothing” to “not much.”

cal suggests that current instructional models can be extended in three ways to insure this vital transfer of knowledge. First, he suggests that we need to extend our instructional models to cover the transfer period.
The processes, principles and tools we use are good, but we don’t extend them far enough. Second, provide a roadmap. instruct them on how to apply their new knowledge. Third, make sure that the learners have support for their efforts to apply the new knowledge.

these aren’t groundbreaking ideas. when I met with cal three years ago, this was his message then. and they were part of what i was advocating in my post addie? isd? hpt? adapt or die! but it still seems to be a chronic problem for learning programs.

the other day, while I had the television on for distraction while I was trying to rid my laptop of a virus, i overheard a national football league head coach answer a reporter’s question of why he constantly repeats his message to his players. he said, “a lot of times they need to hear it again to get it. but sometimes i need to hear it again.”

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Some of my recent related posts
what is a “good example”
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27 08 2007
Clark Quinn

Dave, I think there’s more to transfer (I’ll immodestly cite my ‘seven steps to better ID‘ paper, warning: PDF). First is ensuring that the learning objective is (laser) focused on what they need to be able to do differently, then aligning the concepts, examples, and practice to that objective. That means not just listening to what the SME says, but drilling in (SMEs no longer know what they do, it’s become so automated). And ensuring the examples cover broad enough contexts. And making sure that practice is meaningful.

Glad to hear someone talking about it, but more cognitive detail is needed!

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