Styles, process, and product

Janet Clarey’s post about generational differences touches on learning styles, among other things.  I’ve sometimes called myself a Reform Behaviorist (I agree that there’s something like attitude; I just don’t know how to affect it directly), and so I’m always a bit skeptical about emphasis on style.

So I share Janet’s uncertainty that generational differences necessarily mean much when it comes to designing instruction.  Especially in the context of designing instruction within organizations.

I read recently that if you don’t learn a second language by around age 10, you’ll have a non-native accent.  If you don’t learn it till your midteens, you’ll lack a native speaker’s grasp of grammar and syntax.

I think both those ideas are generally true, though I’m sure exceptions exist.  Yet you can learn another language at any stage of your life, and communicate effectively in that language.  You might have been a more fluent speaker if you’d started sooner, but if your dad had been Zhao Kuangyin, you might have been emperor of China.

My point is that you can design effective instruction to help people acquire worthwhile skills that they don’t currently have.  That instruction doesn’t require learning-style modification (or Myers-Briggs modification), but it probably does require connections to real-life work, practice with realistic problems, useful feedback, availability on (or very close to) demand, active support by management and peers, and similar performance-related factors.

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