Proficiency Based Training approach, made popular mainly by military and some schools in US, suggests that if a novice could be provided all the opportunities right within training event, time not being a factor, learning at certain rate controlled by training events, environment and exposure, he is likely to reach ‘desired proficiency’ someday.
What is Proficiency Based Training?
The whole idea is to make trainees achieve proficiency right during training event and removing the limit to the time. The educational theorist Carroll (1963) provided the first complete model of attaining proficiency in her “Mastery learning model”. Carroll challenged traditional educational philosophy with his model stating that ‘the learner will succeed in learning a given task to the extent that he spends the time that he needs to learn the task’ (p. 725). Carroll used certain factors like aptitude, or time needed to learn the task under ideal instruction, ability to understand instruction, and perseverance and external conditions like the time allowed for learning, and the quality of instruction. She speculated that majority of learners will be successful in gaining mastery in learning by suitable combination of these factors and systematically maximizing time allowed for learning.
Bloom (1986) further developed this theory. In experiment conducted by Blooms (1968) argued that with proper condition of learning and time given to learner almost all learner were able to demonstrate desired performance. Inherently this approach builds practice into its training philosophy. This is fundamental premise of the proficiency based training movement supports the idea of continue to allow trainee to practice until a he has demonstrated desired standards of performance. Time is usually not constraint in such situation but the mastery of some skills to certain level is the target.
How does it work?
During the training cycle learner is engaged in regular practice (like S-OJT) or deliberate practice in which learners engage in repetitive performance, receive rigorous assessment, and receive informative feedback (Ericsson et al, 1993). Proficiency metrics for training tasks can provide the external motivation necessary to engage them in the skills acquisition process in ways that simply passing time or performing some arbitrary number of practice repetitions cannot.
The outcome of proficiency-based training is that it is possible to achieve constant level of mastery across several trainees and making it independent of time or number of practice trials.
Any success stories?
Recently several surgical and military educators have adopted Blooms’ Learning for Mastery model to build proficiency in the training (Ritter & Scott, 2007; Scott, Ritter & Tesfay, 2008; Brydges, Kurashashi, Brummer et al, 2008; Scott, Goova, Tesfay, 2007; Stefanidi, Korndorffer, Sierra et al., 2005). Pilot training has recently started using this methodology by lifting the restrictions on same number of hours of practice for all trainees but to actually track progress by task (Stewart and Dohme, 2005).
Is it right approach in organizational settings?
This method has its own challenges. The fundamental flaw is that employee is still under training until he reaches target proficiency. In other words training continues until ‘desired proficiency’ level is achieved.
Can organizations use the professionals productively until they reach desired proficiency level? Maybe or maybe not. Since learner is constantly involved in on-the-job practice mode during the entire training cycle, organizations could use them for certain part of the regular job. However, it is questionable. I don’t think organizations would like to keep a newly hired employee “under-training” for unpredictable amount of time if time is not the constraint.
The another challenge with this approach is that it completely disregards any limit on the time needed achieve desired proficient level, thus faster time-to-proficiency is not even the purpose of believers of this philosophy. We all know how corporate managers work. They cannot wait for their employees to come up to speed. It will be a hard sell to corporate managers telling them that we do not know how long each individual is going to take to acquire desired proficiency in the on-the-job skills.
Can we accelerate Proficiency Based Training?
I am wondering too if there exist some training strategies to even accelerate the proficiency using proficiency based training approach. If somehow we could lift up the rate of learning and gaining proficiency (as I indicated using hypothetical curve in the figure), the learner is likely to reach ‘desired proficiency’ sooner. well, I am researching on this if there are methods to accelerate acquisition of proficiency using Proficiency Based Training approach.
If you have worked in this area, point me to success stories of Proficiency Based Approach in corporate and organizations settings.
You may want to read posts on two other approaches to accelerate time to desired proficiency.