Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Paradigm Shift to Experiential Learning

In the discussion of innovation and paradigm shifts, it's helpful to review weaknesses in the process of challenging the existing paradigm. In this case, I am going to discuss the paradigm of a standard "academic" approach to education.

I recently got a chance to experience experiential learning first hand in a course called "Modern Marketing". The course eschewed the usual "academic" approach to education or the more trendy "case-based" approach to education. Instead it chose to teach modern marketing via participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC).

The experiential learning involved:
  1. Reviewing potential team members
  2. Contacting them about joining or adding them to a team
  3. Setting up communication techniques
  4. Defining strengths and roles
  5. Forming a team contract to define team expectations
  6. Identifying potential clients to work with the GOMC
  7. Deciding as a team what client to solicit
  8. Contacting clients
  9. Forming an understanding to work with that client
  10. Creating a contract that would define the expectations
  11. Negotiating that contract
Before actually investigating the use of [Google Adword] marketing for a specific client's website.

Note that the above elements are team building/personal/business skills; these are not "marketing" skills. As we migrate from the old (e.g., boring, didactic, research, academic, expert-based) pedagogy in an attempt to confer skills/competencies vs. knowledge we must challenge our assumptions. In this case the assumption is that experiential learning is more effective and even if that effectiveness comes as a cost the value outweighs the cost.

I disagree. Inefficiency is inefficiency no matter how exciting the outcome. As we alter our pedagogy to become experiential we need to be aware of the potential inefficiencies in that approach and to aggressively counteract those inefficiencies. Otherwise our learners spend time doing something they are already skilled at.

For example, if Hertz required that anyone renting a car first go through Driver's Education, that would be an excellent idea for a young kid who never drove a car before and hasn't take that course. To require that for someone who has been driving for 20 years is silly. Similarly, in the marketing class experiential learning example above the above process is a useful learning lesson at the beginning of training (assuming such skills don't exist). But putting such a process at the beginning of every course is inefficient. Not assessing if these skills already exist is lazy.

Let's say we went back to the old pedagogy. In that case the first item would probably be "complete module 1 in the online course/book and answer the questions." Perhaps that wouldn't be trendy or impactful but efficient. But at least the first action in the course would be related to marketing.

What to do if you want to deploy more active, participatory experiential learning model?

In this case the solution is quite easy. Move efforts that are "core skills" to a module focusing on "core skills development." Then identify potential inefficiencies and root them out. In this case:
  1. Assign team members to teams
  2. Deploy an efficient communication framework to all teams and refine it (alas such a product probably does not exist thanks to lameness of Blackboard and Canvas) - Come on Google do it for us!
  3. Pre select all companies to work with and ensure they have already agreed to participate and signed a contract to that extent.
Skills training/learning then occurs starting with the first hour of the first day.

As medical training moves to experiential learning it must put effort into similarly rooting out components that are unrelated to the skills development (i.e., competency creation) task at hand. And to not accept inefficiency as a necessary component of that the end goal.

So what is the core weakness in the process of challenging the paradigm? Caution. The old paradigm is alive and well in the above inefficient example. Inefficiency leads to frustration and confusion. It saps excitement and drives folks back to the old way of doing things. Most importantly it ensure that it doesn't work that well. It's a classic example of, "I want to challenge but not alter". As I interpret Kuhn, the existing paradigm is a wall and to some extend we don't want to break it down for fear of what is on the other side. I'll avoid putting in Reagan's quote to Gorbachev.

1 comment:

  1. My personal opinion is that education should not be mixed with businesses that profit from that education. For this reason Clinical Tools has never accepted and will not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies as a part of our training of practicing physicians. This of course is not true for most academic centers and certainly not true for professional organizations in the field of Continuing Medical Education, this is an outlier opinion. Yet in the field of medical school and residency training this is standard practice.

    I personally feel that the tight connection of Graduate Business Education with the GOMC is mixture of business and education and is a connection worth investigating. Should businesses give FaceBook and Snapchat the opportunity to "bid" on access to their students' training in marketing?

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