360 Degree Learning Theory

Infopeople’s mission is to move libraries forward and my part in our mission is to help our trainings work. Training needs to work from many points of view so I’ll use the idea of 360 Degree Learning. After all, learning these days is a life long pursuit, comes in many flavors, and there are many stakeholders. For more on the 360 degree reference – see the wikipedia entry.
In my blog entries, I’ll be sharing interesting tidbits about brain-based learning, emotion-based learning, adult learning theory, active learning and any other relevant points of view about making training work in a library context.
In most training publications, whether in print or on the web, the context for training is corporate training where the bottom line goal is the bottom line – make more money. Not so for the library. Whether you need to provide better service, protect privacy or intellectual freedom, create outcomes, upgrade staff competencies, trim the budget, re-tool the information desk, make the public self-sufficient or move to the next best thing in library catalogs it’s hard to know who your real audience is and what your objectives should be.
Depending on your training topic, the stakeholders for your library training could include staff members, the public, direct supervisors, the library director, city or county entities or the state library, trustees, commissioners or the library board. That’s a lot of different needs and points of view to take into account!
OK, so I’ve tried to set the stage and now we can move to the more interesting parts in this and future blog entries. Here’s one of my favorites for people without formal education in training.
One of the basic tenets of training is given any training topic, you are training people in three areas: Skills, Knowledge and Attitude sometimes referred to as SKA. Think about it. If you’ve been asked to train your staff on the new catalog or your RFID implementation or you are offering a training for the public on how to use a computer – do you need to include skills, knowledge or attitude in your training?
The correct answer is all three. It is just as important for the member of the public attending your “new computer user” training to learn to overcome their fear of trying things on the computer as it is for them to know that the X in the corner is used to close a window. And, having the knowledge that the X in the corner closes a window, isn’t the same as performing the skill of using the X in the corner to close a window. I would argue that the attitude shift is more important in the long term than any single chunk of knowledge shared. In practical terms, you might ask the trainee in this situation to click the X and tell you what happened in place of ever telling them what the X is for. This helps overcome their fear, has them using their active rather than passive part of their brain, creates small amounts of good stress, saves you the time of explaining and has them practicing the skill. All good things in less time than it takes in the traditional method of tell them, show them, then let them try it.
It isn’t possible to pour what we know out of us and into someone else. All too often, it’s a subject matter expert that gets asked to provide training but the tendency of a subject matter expert is to focus on sharing Knowledge. If creating self-sufficient learners is an underlying goal of your training remember to incorporate Skills, Knowledge and Attitude as they relate to your training topic.