How Some HR & Training Professionals are Informing their Practice with Research

Last night I attended a CSTD event focussing on how Research Meets Practice and how some HR & Training Professionals are informing their practice with research. I personally attended 3 of the 5 sessions (which was the formula for the evening).

Dali Hammouch, Senior Advisor-Capability Development, Rio Tinto, discussed on the impact of space on human dynamics and had us reflect on the importance of the physical spaces of the environments in which we learn. Dali is interested in how the configuration of training or meeting environments enhance or hinder communication. Fascinated by the results of his own experience, he decided to look at studies in human and physical geography in order to inform the way in which he set up his environments.

Saul Carliner, Associate Professor, Concordia University, discussed the perception of customers of workplace learning services that is how do other individuals in the organization perceive training and its overall impact. There are a lot of things we assume about training and how others perceive training efforts but Saul decided to start looking at the research and see what it informed him about perceptions. Surprising results so far!

Kenneth Brown, Associate Professor and Henry B. Tippie Research Fellow, University of Iowa discussed how he leverages theory and research to improve utilization of e-learning. Kenneth draws on the validated theory of behavioural change (transtheoretical model of change) and a theory of technology usage (technology acceptance model) to develop a practical model which aims at predicting e-Learning adoption and use. He is currently testing his model.

Being a huge believer of research into practice, it is encouraging to see how other professionals are focussing on the evidence provided by research into to design environments, make statements or implement programs.

For more information about the importance of research into practice, I dug up the two following blog posts: What Is Scientifically Based Research? by Stephen Downes and The worst of best practices and benchmarking by Clark Quinn.

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Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

McDermott and Archibald Publish a New Study on Health and Impact of Communities of Practice

From 2 of the leading researchers and writers on Communities of Practice comes this new study that studies the health and impact of online communities.

I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on this research! Until then, here are a few blurbs from their article:

Though in-house networks of experts—or “communities of practice”—were once entirely unofficial, today they are increasingly integrated into companies’ formal management structures.

Today they’re an actively managed part of the organization, with specific goals, explicit accountability, and clear executive oversight. To get experts to dedicate time to them, companies have to make sure that communities contribute meaningfully to the organization and operate efficiently.

We’ve observed this shift in our consulting work and in our research.

To examine the health and impact of communities, we did a quantitative study of 52 communities in 10 industries, and a qualitative assessment of more than 140 communities in a dozen organizations, consisting of interviews with support staff, leaders, community members, and senior management.

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The Challenge of Keeping Up with Research when Immersed in Practice

Though I haven’t had the opportunity to read the research study, based on these reported findings, I can formulate an argument for research into practice type learning activities and communities of practice. The reality is that practionners in all fields are having a hard time staying abreast of new research developments and professional development and training needs to start looking at this issue in a new light.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Borås in Sweden have looked at how professionals in different occupational groups seek and use information and keep updated after finishing their education. The results show that teachers seek information they can use in their own teaching and that librarians focus on helping library users find information, while nurses just don’t have the time.

The study report goes on to explain how keeping up with professional development is difficult to live up to:

While the interviewed nurses were in fact told that they should keep up with current research as professionals, they said that this is easier said than done. Nursing education is about producing texts while the nursing profession is about attending to patients. The time it takes to keep updated on nursing science research is simply not available, making such practice uncommon.

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How Social Media, Organizational Dynamics and Social Change will Shape Communities of Practice over The Next 10 Years

Social Media has changes many things, including the way experts envisage online communities of practice. The following is Cormac Heron’s account of leading author and expert Richard McDermott’s reflections on how Communities of Practice have evolved and where they are headed.

Richard McDermott was there to give a bit of his background in personal and professional experiences of the last 20 years. 10 years ago they thought that these were the main characteristics of online communities:

  • Informal
  • Voluntary
  • Independent of an organisation
  • Some face-to-face occurrences
  • Passionate Leader
  • Supported
  • Light-handed management

But on revisiting them consequently the following were thought to be more relevant:

  • Goals were set out
  • Governance
  • Reporting to the highest level
  • Integrated into organisation
  • Passionate Leadership
  • Part of the actual job description

According to Heron, Richard then ended his keynote by hitting them all with this stonker:

How will the emergence of new social media, current organisational dynamics and social change shape the role and impact of communities over the next 10 years.

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The eLearning 2.0 Survival Guide – Assessing the Credibility of Web Sources

I delivered a presentation on The eLearning 2.0 Survival Guide e Assessing the Credibility of Web Sources at the Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning 2008 conference which was held in San Jose, September 2008.

Presentation Summary

It is no surprise that integrating Web 2.0 tools to learning is an innovative practice that is catching on quickly. Pushing the Web’s potential for democratizing information, Web 2.0 social computing practices are well aligned with constructivist learning strategies. Enabling learners to develop multiple perspectives can foster analytical and critical thinking.

What is worrisome is the transition from a spoon-fed model of education to a self-directed and discovery model without reconfiguring the approach to learning. Are individuals applying fact-checking rigour to the content they access? What criteria are they using? What do they consider to be expert knowledge? Are they simply looking for other sources to confirm what theyeve found or are they actually analysing the source of the information? Are they aware that information, correct and otherwise, spreads like memes on Web?

My presentation was largely be based on research I have done for my M.A. in Educational Technology thesis which is a qualitative study of people who write blogs on training to be used in the professional development of people who work in the field. The question lies in the authority and credibility of these blogs, and by extension Web content in general.

A Qualitative Study of Five Authors of Five Blogs on Training and Development

A qualitative study of five authors of five blogs on training and development is my thesis which was defended on August 26 2008 and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts (Educational Technology), Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Abstract

This study analyzed what it means to be a blogger in the field of training and development—an edublogger—as well as the credibility of blogs intended for the training community. The specific research questions were posed from the insider’s or emic perspective. The objective of this study was to attempt to paint a portrait of an edublogger and uncover areas for further research.

A phenomenological qualitative research design methodology was used in an attempt to observe the connections between edubloggers and their readers, which is in harmony of the spirit of the blogs as well as to understand the essence of experiences in the blogosphere. A grounded theory was constructed from a cross-case analysis—case studies were developed using interview transcripts of the 5 bloggers and artefact analysis of each of their blogs over a 4-month period—with the intention of identifying key phenomena.

Common themes related to the edubloggers’ motivations, writing style, community building and other general practices were uncovered as. In addition, a substantial set of emerging questions specifically relating to readership and the qualitative assessment of blog content were noted.

Update March 1, 2010: My thesis has been published into a book entitlted Edublogging: A Qualitative Study of Training and Development Bloggers

Blog Design Study

Smashing Magazine present their findings of their study of top blogs.

  • Part 1 discusses layout design and typographic settings.
  • Part 2 discusses navigation design, information architecture, advertisements and functionality (RSS-feeds, tag clouds, pagination, etc).

What Smashing Magazine has to say about their study:

We have identified 30 design problems and considered solutions for each of the problems separately. We have posed 30 questions which we would like to answer with our blog survey. Below we present findings of our survey of popular blog designs — the results of an analysis of 50 popular blogs according to Technorati’s Top 100.

Also from Smashing Magazine is their helpful post on 15 Desktop Blogging Tools Reviewed. I actually wrote this post using BlogDesk. Not too bad, just took some getting used to. I will try ScribeFire (a Firefox plugin) for my next post.

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