Friday, October 16, 2009

Trainers: A KEY stakeholder in a successful PS implementation

One concern I have always had when I speak about Performance Support is that I will be perceived as “bashing the classroom”. I recently delivered a keynote on Informal Learning and Performance Support for the Institute on IT Training Conference in London. I had an attendee, or delegate to be geographically correct:), come up to me after my session asking if I felt that the classroom, and the instructor’s role specifically, was diminished by adding PS to a blended offering. That couldn't be further from the truth!!

Con and I are often asked to name the perfect place to introduce PS into an organization – EASY answer: The classroom! What better place to begin the journey towards independent and self-directed learning than the classroom? But for this to be successful you need a dedicated and gifted instructor at the front of the room. This is where true blended learning comes in. In one of our earlier posts on blended learning we talk about how PS is key to providing a true learning ecosystem. Just blending formal learning assets may save money and appear to be blending options, but it’s not truly supporting a learner across all 5 moments of need.

We have found that the most successful PS initiatives begin in the classroom and are introduced in the context of formal learning. Buy-in and support from the trainer is critical to this success and involves considering a few important factors:

1 – Involve the trainer early in the development process: In many of the learning organizations we work with, developing courses is a well oiled machine. It's a process where the trainers may be asked to participate, and one they have learned to trust to create fairly standard courses. Once you begin introducing PS into the mix the trainers need to be involved as early as possible so they can understand the intended outcome, design, and presentation. If they feel that PS has been thrust upon them many will not engage, in fact we have seen trainers even disrupt a PS roll out because they felt removed from the process. Many trainers see PS as a threat. It’s perceived as a tool designed to lessen their role. Again, not true! In fact, a trainer is key to making PS successful.

2 – Help your trainers to see their role differently: Integrating PS into a classroom involves more than just “demoing the PS tools at the end of class”. For these tools to be truly internalized and seen as being of value, the trainer needs to position them as an integral part of the classroom experience. They need to be seen as something that will truly help the learner in the context of their job, and as a tool that the trainer believes in! To make this work the trainer will need to teach a different level of skills than the ones they may have typically focusing on. Enabling PS is not about learning a particular rote piece of material, but rather the critical thinking skills needed to effectively problem solve and enable a PS tools in the context of doing their job. This will be a different way of approaching instruction. It begins with simply not answering as many questions and guiding the students toward the solution through the PS frameworks being introduced. The “industry term” for this type of learning strategy is “Metacognition” or learning how to learn. It involves teaching a learner about when and where to use particular strategies for learning or problem solving. This is PS’s greatest strength. The trainers who have mastered this technique are teaching at a level above all others. PS tools enable this to happen.

3 – Teach them the “Ramp up/Ramp Down” technique - This is an approach to instruction where the instructor intentionally eases themselves out of the “support” business while replacing their it with an equally effective PS strategies. As the graphic shown here illustrates, as the trainer’s level of support lessens over time, they replace that support with 3 PS tools – Peer, Job Aids, and Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS). Each moves the learner that much farther away from dependent strategies and that much close to self directed learning.

Trainers have a new and vital role to play in the overall success of a PS initiative. They simply need to be integrated and involved in a way that makes their role apparent and intentional.

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