Nick Boreham, Alan Brown, Leif Lahn, Martin Mulder, Barry Nyhan, Jim Stewart,
I haven't before conferred with Nick, but it's firstly sharing his view
on the reality gap between the work place and education, or education and
the work place perhaps, and secondly also similar experience in a chemicals
plant. There we brought about some changes which led to a very high commitment
to learning. Interestingly, these workers, also very low qualified, no
qualification at all: the employer was reluctant to qualify them, for fear
of loosing them, but they got qualified to VQ level 3 (operator control)
and of course labour retention was much improved as a result. So it's exactly
the opposite, just a kind of very similar experience.
I have a comment on the presentations in the form of two questions to the
critics from education. The first is: what's wrong with instrumentality?
The second is: Could you give some examples of non-instrumental learning?
My reply is that university and secondary education is a lot more instrumental
than training and qualifying.
Just a comment on Barry's point on learning organisation (see contribution).
I obviously agree that this will be a kind of normative model of connection
between the learning organisation and developmental work. But I think also
it should be attentive to other functions of these kinds of ideas and slogans.
Slogans like this are also used by companies. For example, I have been
looking at very traditional parts of Norwegian industry and retailing.
There they also use that kind of language to attract what they call the
young and bright, and of course to kick out the old. In this sense they
use the learning organisation rhetoric as a way of introducing new training
for apprentices and trainees, and do not look at the developmental potentialities
of their own group. So I think we should look at the descriptive power
of this concept.
I think that this whole learning organisation and all modern forms of learning
have been contaminated by a lot of empty slogans and catch phrases that
have been used for all sorts of reasons which are not learning related
at all. But all our words can be abused. Leif used the word 'wisdom'. I
think there was a technology person recently, an American talking to the
European Commission on the technology people, who was saying "we are no
longer selling knowledge; people now want to buy wisdom, they want experience
rather than hard products; rich Americans now don't want to buy holiday
in Hawaii, they want to drive a tank into the wide desert, they want wisdom,
experience...". So all these words, information, knowledge, wisdom – every
good concept is going to be abused for different reasons.
An important message that comes out of this discussion is that for us as
HRD researchers it is very important to look at practice really within
the industrial organisations; there is so much theory and slogans...
I'd like to make a couple of mixed points about learning. I think it is
less a matter for engagement with educational researchers than engagement
more generally with the sort of educational systems. I've done some work
on learning in organisations across supply chains, and exactly the same
thing: operators teach managers and so on, fantastic amount of learning,
but it is at a point at which people are interested in that. It's interesting
though that the interest is coming from the Department of Trade and Industry,
rather than from the Department for Education and Skills, because they
still are attached to the sort of qualifications and achievement of learning
tasks. One of the most interesting things about the work in the supply
chains was that there is a fantastic amount of learning going on if supported
by people like educational researchers or other researchers; a lot was
achieved. And when it turned to what sort of use they want to make of that,
in terms of vocational qualifications or credits within the formal educational
system, the majority of people wanted neither because they said "I possess
these skills, I had that learning, I'm recognised within my organisation".
It was the educational organisations which had difficulty in coping with
that: management schools and people like that saying "we've got to turn
this into something". I think it is less of a challenge for us, because
within educational research there is a strong element of people actually
looking into this. But I think it does present far greater challenges to
our educational institutions because they want to get their hands on it.