We are Professionals, Aren’t We?
Last year I was asked by Michael Allen–one of our industry's most influential creators and most successful entrepreneurs–to contribute a chapter to his first e-Learning Annual, which Pfeiffer had urged him to manage and edit.
Michael introduced my chapter as follows:
"In this article, one of the learning and performance field’s leading
visionaries looks back on his twenty-two years in the field with both love
and regret, while looking forward to the future by challenging all of us in
the field who see ourselves as learning-and-performance professionals.
Dr. Thalheimer’s challenge is simple. He asks every person in the field
to understand the forces that control their thinking and influence their
decision making. It’s as if the author wants to say: the unexamined
profession is not worth having."
I'm still thrilled to hear Sir Michael call me a visionary–though I'm sure he was talking about hallucinations of some sort. Because the article still resonates for me, I thought I'd share it with you.
I encourage you to take a look at the whole book. Michael Allen’s 2008 e-Learning Annual does a great job covering the historic and institutional foundations of the learning-technology field–with chapters from more than 20 luminaries who have been at the heart of the learning field for a long time, including folks like Thiagi, David Merrill, Allison Rossett, and Greg Kearsley, and so many more.
Here are some of my conclusions in the chapter:
- Our graduate schools prepare
technicians, not thoughtful
understand learning, think
critically, and build wisdom over
- We don’t measure the outcome of
our work in ways that enable us
to build effective feedback loops
and make improvements that will
lead to better learning, on-the-job
performance, and business results.
- The work pressures we face
(for example, Internet-induced
information overload and business
demands for cheaper, faster
results)—combined with our
tendency toward professional
us to keep learning, to test our
conjectures, to build a rich and
complex knowledge base over time.
- Our trade associations, magazines,
and conferences provide us
with information that sells, not
information that necessarily tells
the truth of how we should better
design our products and services.
- Our consultants and vendors are
a large source of our information,
and we tend to think uncritically
about their offerings.
research is not utilized when it
might provide substantial benefits.
- Industry research is severely
flawed, but we rely on it anyway.
- Contests, awards, and best-of lists
grab our attention and distort
our thinking about what is most
Okay, those were the list of our failures. I also add a list that begs for hope for our profession.
What do you think of our current practices?
Of our future?