The Positive Learning Movement

Training, like psychology, has a legacy of inherent pessimism. Both were built on the core belief that people are deficient or dysfunctional.

Psychologists spend most of their time studying people who are “disturbed.” Then they generalize their findings from these fringe cases to normal people. Hence, the psychological literature is filled with neuroses, diagnostics, therapy, and cures, but precious little on making people who are generally okay feel better.

Similarly, most training treats people as though they were missing something. The trainees need content or performance support or a new skill because without it, they are sub-par. Given what we’d like them to do, the trainees have yet to make the grade.

Recently, a group of renegade psychologists founded the positive psychology movement. The positivists study well-adjusted people rather than nut cases. They focus on making healhy people healthier.

Learning can benefit by following suit. Optmism works better than pessimism. Optmism encourages one to test assumptions until proven wrong rather than eliminate them out of hand on the assumption that they wouldn’t work anyway.

What might we expect by starting out on a positive plane?

  • Respect for the contributions of learners, leading to “each one, teach one”
  • Refocus on what’s best for the organization. “Ask not what your company can do for you….”
  • Concentrate on finding ways to make things better instead of memorizing the status quo
  • Foster cross-fertilization of thinking and cooperative working styles
  • Improve motivation through positive reinforcement

The consequences of assuming the role of training is to fix what’s broken rather than make what’s good better have been holding us back:

  • Disregard for creating new knowledge (for the trainer/curriculum is assumed to be the authority)
  • Unmotivated learners (Who wants to accept that the other guy knows it all? And that they are clueless?)
  • Focus on fixing the individual rather than optimizing the team (because the individual trainee will submit to being fixed but the organization is reluctant to join in group therapy)
  • Lack of acceptance (Because the faculty implies “My way or the highway.”)
  • Negative reinforcement (correct what’s wrong, take the test, do this or else). Positive reinforcement always works better.
  • Training (we do it to you) instead of learning (co-creation of knowledge)

What do you think? Am I on to something here? Or is this just wishful thinking on a beautiful, sunny Spring day?

Nextdoor neighbor’s artichoke plant

Posted by Jay Cross at April 11, 2003 11:21 AM | TrackBack

awesome !

Posted by: Paris Hilton Images at June 29, 2004 02:10 AM

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