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Knowing isn't Learning

Recently, when I was discussing the River Park Training Centre, a contact said, “but lots of places offer free Office training…” and my first thought was, ‘oh no they’re not’, but I suppose he did have a point – yes you can get free videos, instructions and even free courses on Microsoft Office, on YouTube, edEx, Udemy and even Microsoft’s website.

Don’t get me wrong – these free resources are great! When you get stuck and can’t remember how to do something, how many of us ‘Google it’? Probably the majority of us. I know I certainly do. I’m not sure how we all coped back when there was no internet access at work – we had to rely on our colleagues around us knowing enough to be a substitute for Google! Or we had to look it up in an actual manual! So, with all this amazing technology making it so easy to share our knowledge, does that mean Trainers or Learning & Development Consultants are extinct? I certainly don’t think so (obviously).

You see there’s a huge difference between knowing something and learning it. Imagine if you’re in the office and you’ve to compile a financial report out of a ton of other people’s spreadsheets, but you’ve not used Excel for years. There’s no one else around who can help and you’re not about to dig out that old dusty manual. You know you need to ‘Google’ it – but where do you start? What are you actually going to search for?

You might decide that you’ve enough time to take a free Excel course. It starts by explaining what everything is called, what all the menu buttons do and eventually, how to add up two numbers. It takes you through ‘everything you need to know’ and by the end of the course, you might feel a lot more confident to get started. Now, you pick up that report but you’ve still no idea where to start.

In the world of L&D, we love reading about learning theory and love a model. So, let’s have a quick look at Bloom’s Taxonomy – a model which helps to classify learning objectives. In order to apply the theory which suggests a progression from knowledge to application to evaluation, it’s useful to look at this diagram which shows a number of verbs which could be used to describe a learning objective at each stage:

Starting at the bottom of the lightbulb, the knowledge section would be the kind of words you’d use to describe learning objectives for watching a typical ‘how to’ video. Perhaps, after a good quality video or online course, you might use the words in the Comprehension section, but in order to progress any further up the lightbulb, some element of learning transfer needs to happen. That’s how I see my job. To help you move up the lightbulb.

So, back to the office where you know you need to get this report done. Where do you think you need to be on the lightbulb to do the report?

Application might be enough, but if you’re starting from scratch and you need to create your own report, you probably need to be up at Synthesis. If you need to explain how you created your report or you want to train someone else how to produce it, you need to be up at Evaluation. If you need to produce your own spreadsheets regularly, you need to be at Evaluation as you’ll need to be able to assess and evaluate the different functions and formulas you could use.

Yes, I produce ‘how to videos’, yes, I’ll help you gain the knowledge you need to create a spreadsheet or motivate your team, but I’ll also help you move up the lightbulb by carefully designing activities and materials to help you think about applying what you learn to your work, synthesising what you learn so that you can apply it to completely different situations and evaluating what you learn so that you can decide when and how to use it in your own work.

So the next time you're setting a learning goal, think about where you need to be on the lightbulb and how you’ll get there.


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