Monday, January 28, 2013

Cutting the Fluff

Training = Suffering. Usually.

Training, whether in a classroom or online, often includes way more than you need. Icebreakers. Interactions. Tests. Group activities. There is nothing worse than a day of training that should've taken an hour.

But fluff in training is often expected, even encouraged. That's because instructional designers often focus on "pedagogy" rather than "andragogy", and learning managers focus on "butts in seats" instead of return on investment (ROI). 

Pedagogy means "to lead the child" (, which is not what we're doing in the business world. Instead, we're training adults who bring experience to the table. That's why I get flustered whenever anyone in corporate training speaks of pedagogy instead of "andragogy", the science of training adults (

When instructional designers approach corporate training as they would K-12 education, the result is too much unnecessary "instructional scaffolding" ( For example, let's say I'm developing training about setting up a home office. If I follow a "pedagogical" approach, I would take 5-10 minutes to explain the characteristics of the perfect desk chair. Then I would ask learners to choose a chair from a set of photos that matches the requirements of the perfect desk chair.

If, however, I follow an "andragogical" approach, I show learners the photos first and ask them to choose the correct chair. If they get it right, I can move on to the next topic, or I can ask them to give me the reasons for their choice. Either way, I'm banking on their experience as adults to trim the time required for training.

In doing so, I'm maximizing the ROI of the training. Less time training = More time working. But the thing is, many learning managers don't pay attention to ROI. Their bosses only ask them, "How much training did you develop this year? How many people did you train? How much training time did each employee have this year?" The questions should be, "How much revenue did your training directly result in? How much cost savings did we achieve as a result of your training?"

But, answering questions about ROI = Suffering. Most learning managers feel that level 4 and 5 evaluations take too much time and too many resources. I don't think that's true. Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method ( makes it pretty easy, and the results are eye-opening.

I think adragogy and the Success Case Method take the suffering out of training for learners, instructional designers, and learning managers. Let me know what you think.


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