I was pleased to have been tapped recently by a colleague, a marketing professional, who works with a company that delivers "training and education" via online channels. Specifically, the web. He wanted to understand how I differentiate between "training" and "information." To his credit, he wanted to ensure his marketing messages were synced up with what his company's products actually delivered.
When consulting with sales and marketing professionals who work for companies that create training products and programs, I try not to be a "training purist" when discussion goes to "positioning" their product for the market. There's no better way to get them to shut down than for me to be hard-nosed about adult learning theory.
But the fact is, there is a tendency on the part of some sales and marketing professionals to stretch claims about the skills that a training program supposedly delivers to consumers. Having said that, I rarely see this stretch being made on the basis of deceptive intent or sinister puffery. Rather, I see it more as unfamiliarity about the different levels--and types--of learning that take place.
In this article, I list types of learning using Benjamin Bloom's work as a model. In Part 2, I'll list some of the levels within one of the learning types. When I elaborate, my intent is to keep the examples, terms and jargon down to a practical level. In that way I don't (yaawwwwnnnn) bore you with pedagogical language (see how easy that is?) that often bores the crap out of me.
Here're the types of learning under Bloom's model:
- Cognitive. Think: what do I know? And how well can I apply that knowledge in the real world?
To use the practical example of driving a car, this would be similar, say, to having ingested the information in the DMV driver's handbook. And then being able to recall some of that information either for a written test or to recall it while you're on city streets (whether in the driver's seat or in the passenger's). Your recall might include information about a red octagonal sign as meaning "stop" or that double yellow lines mean not to cross over into an the adjoining lane. The degree to how well a learner applies that information in the real world is another matter. One which I'll address in Part 2 when I list the levels of cognitive learning.
- Psychomotor. Keeping true to our driving scenario, psycho-motor skills relate to physically maneuvering the vehicle on the road, or successfully executing a parallel parking routine. This area includes coordination and use of motor-skills. Development of these skills require practice. Other examples might include: Shawn Johnson's ability to execute a gymnastic routine, or Michael Phelps' ability to properly position his body to maximize fluid efficiency while swimming.
- Affective. The skills related to keeping your--or even "the other guy's"--road rage in check. Or, perhaps the emotional discipline a driver is able to exercise in order to keep from responding to an incoming text message while simultaneously operating a motor vehicle. Basically, this area deals with the manner in which we deal with things emotionally. It may also include values, motivations and attitudes.
The summary above is a 50,000 foot view of the types of learning. Within each type, there are different levels.
In Part 2 of this series, I'll address those levels, specifically as they relate to the learning type listed as cognitive learning.
The reason I'm hitting that primarily is because it most relates to questions I often get from marketing professionals selling an online training program. Messages related to these programs tend to make claims about its ability to improve a learner's success on the basis of knowledge gained or skills improved in a particular subject area; messages that fall within the scope of cognitive learning.
My hope is that, armed with a basic understanding of the different types of learning and the different levels within those types, marketing professionals will have another tool in their utility belt to evaluate the efficacy of the promises they make about training programs they're tasked to sell.
- Learning Theory 101 For Sales and Marketing Professionals (Part 2)
- Learning Theory 101 For Sales and Marketing Professionals (Part 3)
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