About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The difference between teaching at the University and teaching in the workplace.

Ken Allen posted a question about the differences I saw between workplace training and teaching in the university in response to one of my posts on Is there (should there be) a difference between workplace learning and "academic" learning?In addition to the factors Ken mentioned (time for study), I think there is a broader cultural difference. Past generations (and even now) have been educated to believe that once schooling is ended, we will not have need for learning outside of specialized programs that will help with our jobs. As a result, most workplace learners will ask the question, "how will this help me in my current job." One of my students (an instructional designer) pegged this as "just in time learning".

At the university level, I can tell my students that they might not have immediate use for something I am teaching (such as learning how to learn for business or communication majors), but it is a skill they will need for the future. In the workplace, my students would not put up with this.

Finally, I feel that there are many outside pressures that affect workplace learning (families, bills, work) that forces learners to turn off their brains once they step out the door of the classrooms (or training rooms). I know for myself that when I am in school full time, there is a culture that allows for discussion of ideas at a higher level outside of class. These discussions do not take place in the workplace or at home outside of training/classes. As a result, I cannot rely on my students in a workplace to "get" something between classes that require higher order thinking. Instead, I need to bring them through the higher order thinking while I have them and then let them apply it to their own context once they leave.

With University students, on the other hand, I will work through the process (thus creating the experience), then challenge them to use their higher order thinking while out of class (through blogging, reflective papers, and projects) to figure out what went on. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that a 19 or 20 year old is thinking about the impact of new communication technologies on an organization unless they are forced to. However, when they are asked to articulate their thoughts, they at least have others they can bounce ideas off of outside of class. They also HAVE the time (whether they use it or not is something else) to think about ideas (as opposed to thinking about who is picking the baby up from daycare, can I mow the lawn tonight, is there gas in the car, do I have enough money to buy a house).


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tena koe V

I’m not quite sure what you are referring to in “teaching takes the same path”. My point was that I’d found there to be a difference between on-the-job-training/education and being educated at a school or university.

The just in time learning you referred to in your post, The Difference Between Teaching . . . is what I’d call on-the-job training where the trainer is actively working one on one with one or more trainees in the workplace.

This environment is very much like the university classroom or tutorial but is rarely provided in such quantity nor timely enough to be as efficient as it should be. Other training options include the steam-roller session where everything is crammed into a half-day or day course and the trainee is then shunted back to the workplace with little more than the trainer’s notes and a telephone number that links them to a voicemail message.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

V Yonkers said...

I knew as soon as I hit the post button that it was a poorly formed question. What I meant was, has your experience been the same in both school and workplace settings as my experience?

I think there is more to "on-the-job" training than the interaction between the trainer and the trainees.

I remember my training as an auditor. I had a weak of one-on-one training with the trainer, then I was overseas, conducting audits that did not fit at all the format I was trained in (the domestic audit and accounting laws). My colleagues could have continued on the path outlined by the trainers, but instead mentored the other new "international auditor" on what was really needed. Things changed when my boss came to supervise (she was primarily a domestic auditor) and tried to mentor us using the domestic tools for auditing. I remember getting in trouble because I did not see that what she was trying to teach us had any relevance to what I needed then (how do you find out about the domestic work and accounting laws)? When I look back on it, we both were at fault as she did not identify how what she was teaching would be of any use to me in the future (which some of it was in comparing the international practices with the domestic practices), but she did not recognize my immediate needs for my job.

I think there is an importance for trainers to put the training into a greater context (linking the short-term to the long-term benefits). Maybe this comes from my marketing background, but I think trainers and teachers need to do a better job of "selling" the purpose of learning rather than just assuming students/trainees will "get it", especially if they are taking a course or being trained because someone else said they needed it.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Thanks for clarifying the point V.

In your original post you spoke of the “divide that some people have created between ‘workplace’ learning and ‘academic’ learning”. While I agree that the divide exists, I’m not so sure that it may have been ‘created’ rather than simply existing because of differences between the quite different learning environments and the situations of the learners.

I agree with you that there is always a need for people to learn that the need to learn in work situations (and to make the especial effort to so that) is important for them. I further agree with you that learning about learning is something that everyone should participate in.

Metacognition (or thinking about thinking) is similar to thinking about learning and it is an area of learning that educators have been looking more closely at in recent times.

But this is a higher skill that we’re talking about here. It is similar to critical thinking and lateral thinking, though not identical, are like one another in that they are thinking skills.

Learning skills, some of which can be categorised as being more routine, are also higher skills and as such are very difficult to impart to a learner.

Apart from the more practical features of learning skills, the higher thinking aspects are difficult to assess, so it is often a difficult task for the teacher to determine if the skill has been learnt effectively.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth