What Are Methods? - Training and Development

Interstate1-70 is a fine highway if you want to get to Topeka—but don't take it if Birmingham is your destination. The Ohio Turnpike is great for travelers from Ohio to New Jersey, but it's not the road to take if you're going from Fresno to San Francisco. Reverse role playing is great for learning to see the other person's point of view, but not much help for people trying to learn to read light meters.

And that's the point about instructional methods—more happily called "learning methods." They are only as good as they are contributive toward the achievement of a learning objective. In fact, it's often helpful to think of methods as highways that lead to cities (objectives) and of training materials (visual aids,case study write-ups, role-playing descriptions) as the ingredients of those highways.

Students may need to travel several highways before they reach a given destination. Certain students may progress most rapidly if they engage in discussion; others may learn more rapidly and more significantly through programmed instruction.For other goals, there may be several equally appealing and productive routes.When these issues arise, and at all phases of the design activity, the T&D Specialist faces the question, "What methods shall we use?"

The decision is multidimensional. It involves the learning objectives, the inventory of the learners, and the norms of the organization—to say nothing of the available budget. But a fundamental criterion in selecting a learning method should be the appropriateness of that method to the learning objective.

There is a strong trend toward "experienced-based" or"experiential" training in programs that seek to alter the behavior of adults. Figure below merely indicates three approaches to the use of"experience" in learning systems.

three approaches to the use of

Three approaches to the use of experience.

Approach"A" is the rather traditional system and places little emphasis on learning through experience; Approach "B" increases learners' activity, or experience; Approach "C" allows many variations, but includes learners' actual experience as part of the process.

When learning goals involve on-the-job use of new skills, the drill involved in Approach "B" is essential. When the expected future behavior involves application of new values, or when it implies that people will respond in unfamiliar ways to familiar stimuli, the kind of experience in Approach"C" is useful. These kinds of training programs are often referred to as "attitude development"; they invariably involve behaviors in the affective domain of the Bloom taxonomy (1964).


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