I recently finished a business book called The Goal by Goldratt and Cox. The ideas presented are timeless. In this book, a manager is trying to figure out how to save his production plant. Things keep going wrong at the plant and product delivery is frequently late. Eventually, the manager learns how to identify the constraints, which are preventing the plant from achieving its highest efficiency. At first glance, this book may seem to only apply to manufacturing. In truth, any system can be improved when the book’s steps are followed: 1) Identify the true goal of the system and 2) Identify the constraints that are impacting the achievement of that goal.
So, what is THE GOAL of training? Some might say the goal is defined by the instructor, e.g. I have knowledge about X. Some might say the goal is determined by organizational management, e.g. We need to instruct about X. However, neither of these approaches address what the learner hopes to gain from the training experience. The true goal of any training experience must be meaningful learning for the learner. Did the learners feel like they obtained some piece of learning that was personally meaningful to them? This is the question to focus on. If the learning is meaningful, learners will feel the experience was worthwhile and will retain what they learned.
The most beneficial training aligns the goals of the organization, the instructor, and the learner. During goal alignment, the goals of the learner must be given primary importance:
- What likely is the learner hoping to get out of this class? (better yet ask them)
- What does the instructor know that can be shared and useful to the learner?
- How can the organization benefit from the learner’s increased knowledge?
This bottom-up approach ensures that learning experiences are built around the learners and more meaningful for them.
Identifying Learning Constraints
Constraints are the things that slow down a process and get in the way learning effectiveness. So, what are some training constraints? Here’s a short list:
- Irrelevant examples (poor design)
- Boring activities (poor design)
- Learners’ lack of time and energy (learner support)
- Poor instructions and scaffolding (learner support)
- No sense of classroom community (poor design and/or learner support)
As an instructor, you must address constraints because they get in the way of meaningful learning.
It’s not easy because we are dealing with learners who are complex and diverse.
Still, it’s possible to design training in such a way that:
- Learners provide/select their own relevant examples
- Activities are varied and hands on
- Learners are provided with time management tools and/or actual time for learning
- Instructions are written with clarity and conciseness, models are provided
- Classroom community is built around frequent instructor-learner interactions
What do you believe are some constraints to meaningful learning?
Ask yourself: What needs to change? What will you change to? How will you get there?