A while ago I presented the paper on “Rethinking Professional Skill Development: Accelerating Time-to-Expertise of Employees” at Conference for Human Development in Asia, Japan. In that paper, I presented the three potential approaches through which most organizations are trying to accelerate proficiency acquisition of their employees.
3 Approaches from Research How Organizations Build and Accelerate Expertise
1) Accelerating Acquisition of Expertise by Accelerating OJT
I presented the first approach of “Accelerating Acquisition of Expertise by Accelerating OJT” in my previous blog post “Designing and Accelerating On-the-Job Training (OJT) in Organizational Settings“. In that post I made some points that there has to be some methods to increase the slope of post-training OJT curve which can potentially help organizations to attain desired proficiency in their employees in shorter time. However, I do not know any proven training methods to re-design accelerated post-training OJT curve. I am in search of those methods and will report it in another blog post in due course of time.
2) Accelerating Proficiency Based Training Approach
Second approach I presented in that paper is “Accelerating Proficiency Based Training Approach” which I have written in my another blog post: Proficiency Based Training Approach in Organizational Settings: Does it work? In that post I raised some points how some organizations are using Blooms’ Mastery Learning Approach aka proficiency based training approach. I am in search of any proven training methods that could raise the slope of proficiency acquisition curve in this approach to achieve desired proficiency in shorter time. I will report the findings in due course of time.
3) Accelerating Expertise Through Re-structured Training Interventions
As per my research there exists a third ‘common-sense’ approach which is not so commonly leveraged by organizations to accelerating attainment of desired proficiency. Let me expand this approach in this post further.
Accelerating Expertise Through Re-structured Training Interventions
The conceptual graph in the picture above explains this third approach
The model shows a conventional classroom training curve which represents a block of training which typically happens within certain reasonable time frame. Conventional training curriculum has historically used the premise to provide basic skills and knowledge to learners’ and make them learn specific rules of the game on the job. I mentioned this tendency in my previous post 3 Challenges in Designing Training When “Proficiency” is Your Organization’s Training Goal that traditional training courses generally target providing novice with rule-based guidelines and structure to give him the ability to apply these facts and figures into different situations and hence by definition trying to exiting him out of training at ‘advanced beginner’ level.
Inter-play with Post-Training OJT
Assuming it still happens, an advanced beginner comes out training event and then start getting some exposure in the field through post-training OJT – showed using a curve named ‘conventional post-training OJT’. I mentioned in my previous post Designing and Accelerating On-the-Job Training (OJT) in Organizational Settings that a novice lacks at the end of the formal training program is necessary experience and time to practice the skills he learned in the training program. Conventional “post-training” OJT provides the necessary job experience to the learner to perform his job. Employee learns several tasks during on-the-job training. He learns at a rate which is determined by number of cases or issues encountered, time available to practice and opportunities apply and further his skills (Jacobs & Bu-Rahmah, 2012). Let’s say that he reaches the desired proficiency in time ‘T’.
Re-structuring Training Program
The above simple representation suggests one reasonable methodology to achieve desired proficiency faster (atleast conceptually). If training curriculum can be re-structured to uplift the exit proficiency level of the individual from being ‘advanced beginner’ to at least a ‘competent’ level (as per definition of Dreyfus model, 1986) as shown by curve ‘re-structured classroom training’, what do you expect? As expected, the individual is likely to have a head-start for his post-training OJT. He starts his post-training OJT at higher starting point of proficiency. Assuming same rate of skill acquisition, as was in conventional post-training OJT, individual will achieve ‘desired proficiency’ in time N, much faster than the original time-to-proficiency T. I call it ‘accelerated post-training OJT’ curve.
That looks encouraging?
Under this premise, the employee is developed right during training course to exit at a higher level of proficiency which is represented by mature information processing, better mental knowledge representation, skills in chunking information, speedy pattern recognition and highly developed metacognitive skills, to certain extent, which all are characteristics of expert performer (Dror, 2011). When we lift up the exit proficiency level of the learner from ‘advanced beginner’ to ‘competent’, then he possess much refined knowledge when he exits out of the training.
Accelerated Inter-play of Post-Training OJT
This factor of better ‘pre-existing’ knowledge upon exit from training course makes me believe that ‘accelerated post-training OJT’ curve slop will be much steeper than the ‘conventional post-training OJT’ curve. The rationale is here. According to literature, the pre-existing knowledge makes the learner to approach problems quickly and leverage previous mental representations to achieve expertise or proficiency faster (Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981). This leads a competent learner to learn at faster rate achieving ‘desired proficiency’ in ‘N’ number of years which is shorter by T-N time.
I wrote my post: 3 Challenges in Designing Training When “Proficiency” is Your Organization’s Training Goal whether competence or proficiency should be the goal of organization training. I am inclined to have proficiency as the goal. I consider training intervention and post-training OJT as single training program because ultimately both complement each other to drive an individual to ‘desired proficiency’. Dreyfus (2008) states that proficient person “Uses intuition based on enough past experience”. This experience can be accumulated only while a professional is on-the- job or alternatively if the training approach is designed in such a way that practice component is built into the curriculum to develop experience until ‘desired proficiency’ is achieved.
This leads to the conclusion that training intervention need to be re-structured in such a way to build larger portion of proficiency right during training to uplift the exit level proficiency of employees. However, it may mean longer training interventions than required by traditional models. Therefore, some training or non-training strategies need to be implemented to strike the balance between length of training events and length of OJT.
One most feasible and common-sense philosophy to drive acceleration of attainment of proficiency is “re-structure” the training programs to UPLIFT the level of proficiency of learner at the exit of the formal training intervention.
This is a simple concept how focusing on training intervention has much rewarding effects allowing organizations to build certain level of proficiency within the training course and attaining desired proficiency faster. However, this simple common-sense concept gets buried in the pile of thousand other concepts which probably are not easy for organizations to comprehend and they end up adopting anything that comes there way claiming ‘acceleration’ to high proficiency of their employees.
Core Message is: FOCUS ON TRAINING PROGRAM ITSELF HOW YOU CAN RESTRUCTURE IT TO UPLIFT THE EXIT LEVEL PROFICIENCY.
Factors impacting accelerated proficiency curve
From the research I see that various training strategies, factors and methods have ability to controls each part of this accelerated proficiency curve.
– Raising the training exit level from ‘advanced beginner’ to ‘competent’ or beyond is governed by effectiveness and result-orientation of the training. It appears to in turn depend on the training methodology, strategies, structure and other techniques.
– Shortening the OJT is dependent on how much of the actual job context an individual has experienced. It appears that it would be dependent on how the real-world context, issues and environment are brought into the training or how OJT is restructured.
– Achieving the faster time to proficiency has the relationship with how much the slope of the training curve can be increased. It appears that it has relationship with how learners are engaged in their acceleration path.
Once we understand which factors impacts which part of the curve, we may be better off designing more effective training curriculum which may help organizations to achieve expertise in shorter time.
Uplifting Proficiency Level in Formal Training Intervention: What Research Says?
Several studies attempts in providing insight into how training can be used to “uplift” the proficiency of employees in a training event or a training program. I wrote a post on this Acquisition and Acceleration of Expertise Through Training: Summary of Famous Models that came from research to provide an insight how those famous models answer the question regarding acceleration of proficiency. You may want to read that post. Below is just a short glimpse of some of the relevant research work in which they tried to provide some new theories to guide training designers how to develop training to uplift proficiency level of individuals. List is just a beginning and I am still working on developing a comprehensive knowledge base.
a) Multiple Intelligence Based Curriculum
The earliest attempt comes from Gardner (1973, 1983) who first presented in his research on how training can have dramatic effect on performance and asserted that intelligence can be created using appropriate training methods. He stressed that “education would be more properly carried out if it is tailored to the abilities and the needs of the particular individual involved” (Gardner, 1983, p. 385). Most educators used multiple-intelligence based curriculum to concentrating on strengths rather than differences of the learners to build desired proficiency.
b) Developing intelligence through training
Among several models for training design, the proficiency acquisition model by Sternberg (1998) is quite useful to define the training strategies. He asserted that developing proficiency or expertise have five key elements: metacognitive skills, learning skills, thinking skills, knowledge and motivation. Motivation is believed to drive metacognitive skills which in turn activate learning and thinking skills, which then provide feedback to the metacognitive skills, enabling one’s level of expertise to increase. What this model gives us is evidences that all of these skills are modifiable and trainable which led other researchers to explore techniques and strategies to build and uplift expertise through training. I wrote a separate post on this model: 6 Practical Training Strategies from Sternberg’s Developing Expertise Model.
c) Acclimation of Proficiency
Alexander (2003) in her studies to develop proficiency in undergraduate students in educational setting postulated that by using correct synergy of three components namely: knowledge (domain and topic), strategic processing (surface and deep), and interest (long term and situational) suitable training interventions can be designed to move learner to proficiency /expertise stage (as cited by Baker, 2006). What this research gives us is the evidences that it is possible to teach proficiency (and hence uplift it) using correct training strategies.
d) Cognitive Load Theory
Cognitive load is an important finding in regards to how much of an information and knowledge a learner can take a given point of time without impacting his speed of learning Van Gog, Ericsson, Rikers, & Paas (2005) used the fact that proficient learner focus on routine rather than exceptional aspects of decision-making and problem solving proposed training techniques to reduce cognitive load during deliberate practice and to build proficiency.
e) Expertise Based Training
One relevant research on developing proficiency or expertise through systematic training is called Expertise-based training (XBT) which has been proposed by Fadde (2009) drawing upon from Ericsson et al. (1994) work. He states that two main principles of XBT are that instructional activities can be designed by repurposing expertise-novice tasks to systematically train key cognitive sub-skills of expertise and that targeted training of key cognitive skills can hasten learners along their individual paths to expertise. This study established that training strategies could be positioned to develop proficiency through training interventions.
f) Inquiry Based Training Methods
Linking it back to Dreyfus’s model, building proficient learners through training calls for exposing them to several real-life situations and build their intuitive skills during training event. Also the concept of proficiency indicates that proficient person should be able to reproduce results in different situations and different environment. Jonassen (2004) assert importance of case based training methodology to teach expertise because it includes cognitive sub-skill of indexing stories. Methods like Problem based learning, project based learning, simulation based training, case based method and other situated learning techniques are examples of different training strategies specified by researchers to make novices to think like experts by emphasizing authentic, whole-task learning activities and build real-world experience right within training course (Fadde, 2009 & 2009a).
g) Part-Task Training Approach
Van Merriënboer & Kester (2008) revolutionized a part-task technique, instead of whole-tasks approach, to teach build expertise in complex problem solving and reasoned that pattern recognition, a characteristic of expertise, could be taught using training. This opened up the new area of use of training strategies to build proficiency in complex skills right during a formal training intervention. This model also allowed how larger complex skills can be broken down to constituent skills and correctly sequenced to provide required uplift in proficiency to the learner.
h) Building Expertise using Cognitive strategies
Most recent work in specifying training strategies to build the expertise through training is by Clark (2008). She presented a range of techniques starting from managing cognitive load to part-task technique for building expertise, retention and skill practice, etc. Her compilation is one of the recent efforts in proposing range if training strategies drawn from previously well-established research studies as solution to build higher level of proficiency through training interventions.
i) Accelerated Expertise: Training for High Proficiency
Just like Clark’s work, this is compilation of several training methods particularly focused on accelerated learning and accelerating expertise. Emphasizing some techniques like practice, feedback, problem and scenario based training to name a few, this 2014 collection deals with important topic of training strategies and methods that have proven successful in various cases and potentially could work in organizational settings to build better expertise of employees and potentially accelerate it.
From the literature we can see there is possibility to produce professionals in a training event at higher level of proficiency than today using some special training strategies. What we need is working training model to develop proficiency right during training event or through training interventions. Stay tuned for more…..
- Alexander, P. A. (2003). The Development of Expertise: The Journey From Acclimation to Proficiency. Educational Researcher, 32(8), 10–14. doi:10.3102/0013189X032008010
- Anderson, S. A. (1994). Synthesis of research on mastery learning. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 382 567).
- Baker, R. (2006). The Development of Expertise: The Journey from Acclimation to Proficiency, a critical review, Journal of Comprehensive Research, 4, 48
- Clark, R. (2008). Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement. San Francisco: Pfeiffer
- Dreyfus, H. (2007). Design conference on the learning environment: keynote address from novice to expert. ACGME Bull April 2007: 6-8.
- Dreyfus, H. L. & Dreyfus, S. E. (2008). Beyond Expertise: some preliminary thoughts on mastery. In Klaus Nielsen, K. et al. (eds) A Qualitative Stance: Essays in honor of Steiner Kvale. pp 113-124. Aarhus University Press . Available at: www.ieor.berkeley.edu/People/Faculty/dreyfus-pubs/mastery.doc
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