Thinking about development theories- why do we still make people sit through standard “inductions” or “training programs?”

From an adult educator’s standpoint, one of the first theorist’s who grabbed my attention was Vygotsky, with his ‘Social Development Theory’. Vygotsky believed that development is a lifelong process and that it is dependent on social interaction, as this directly leads to an individual’s cognitive development (Riddle and Dabbagh. 1999 [Online]).

He proposed that learning occurs in the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ and described it as ‘the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’ (Vygotsky. 1978).

So what does that all mean? In terms of learning and change as development, this means an individual is able to best develop with the guidance, encouragement and/or collaboration of others in a socially interactive setting.

What? So this means a new starter won’t develop by sitting in a room being read information by someone else? Who would have thought!

Vygotsky’s theory says that learning and development needs to be a collaborative experience as opposed to the more traditional learning methods. For example, rather than a facilitator lecturing information to the group, the learner and facilitator should work in partnership in order to create meaning in ways that students can make their own (Hausfather. 1996).

Meaning making is an important part of the learning process

Meaning making is an important part of the learning process

In thinking about this in the context of my own workplace, I recalled a conversation I had with an adult learner in my previous job who said that she found her initial induction training experience to be ‘dry, boring and almost transactional’ as each speaker came in, spoke to the group about a designated topic and then left without inviting any interaction or stimulation of ones thinking about the presentation. It became monotonous and she found it was hard to recall the information presented because it was hard to remain focussed and engaged for long periods of time.

In contrast, she found the customer service training to be highly engaging due to its interactive nature. It involved group brainstorming and presentation of their ideas, role plays and quizzes. Moreover, learners were from a range of backgrounds and experiences so she also learned from listening to their customer service stories and how they dealt with particular situations. She felt that she learned much more and was able to demonstrate more key skills in this form of interactive training than when she was lectured to.

Now this isn’t rocket science, so why are we still using the same old techniques in our in-house programs?

More pertinent to my workplace, is this change in learning delivery a result of generational change i.e. Gen Y expect training to be interactive and engaging where as the boomers are happy with more traditional classroom style ‘listen and learn’ sessions? Keen to hear your thoughts.


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