But, They Should Know This
- Published: Wednesday, 24 June 2015 15:31
Have you ever watched people on your team working and see them get stuck on an issue? Or ask you for help in solving the problem? And say to yourself, “But, they should know this.” The issue may not be that they know or don’t know something, it might be about transfer of knowledge and skills.
Often our knee jerk reaction is to get frustrated and say, “You should know this.” Saying that to someone doesn’t help them. My first assumption is that if they could do, they would. So, we have to ask why they aren’t.
The problem is that skills trained and learned in one area are not being transferred or applied to other areas. For example, we know that providing students with specific feedback is important to help them learn, but we don’t always apply that principle when managing people. We learn management skills for our classroom, but don’t apply the underlying concepts to management in general. We know differentiated instruction works for students, but don’t use it when working with adults.
The problem can be that when we teach these skills we are tying them to tightly to a single context—to students or to a classroom, as opposed to people in general or an entire organization.
Brown and Cocking (1999) identified four key characteristics of learning as applied to transfer. They are:
Necessity of Initial Learning: Learning with deep, organized knowledge and strategies on how to use the knowledge increases the potential for transfer.
The Importance of Abstract and Contextual Knowledge: We need context for initial learning, tying too tightly to a single context creates inflexibility or stipulation to just that one context. We need to ask learners (students or staff) during the initial training to think and state how they can apply this new information across multiple contexts.
The Conception of Learning as an Active and Dynamic Process: Learning is an active and dynamic process, it is not static. Learning should be ongoing and should be monitored and supported. Meaningful assessments and feedback support learners in applying knowledge across a variety of contexts.
All Learning is Transfer: New learning builds on previous learning, which implies that we can facilitate transfer by activating what learners know and by making their thinking visible. This includes addressing learner misconceptions and recognizing cultural behaviors that students bring to learning situations.
When we think our team should know and apply information and they don’t, we need to first ask ourselves:
Did we present information correctly?
Did we teach them how to think beyond what is presented in the training?
Did we visit them in their classrooms and provide reinforcement and feedback?