So all this ‘new year, new me’ talk has been circulating and it looks like a majority of people have already given up on their resolutions. With this in mind, I think it’s a good time to focus on a critical component of professional development which frequently floods my various social media feeds… blending, or blended learning that is (sorry).

I think a key consideration is being missed.

L&D predominantly consists of what digital or face-to-face learning we should complete, rather than how adults learn effectively. Choosing instead to buy into vast amounts of blended material, either digital or otherwise, that might not necessarily improve the company’s learning and development opportunities for staff.

Let’s get the basics right first.  

So, what is blended learning?

According to the Glossary of Education Reform, blended learning is a mix between face-to-face learning and digital learning (Partnership and Concepts, 2013). However, how much of each you should complete for the ultimate learning experience is unclear.

What I’m not going to do now is tell you the amount of each to complete. I will leave that conundrum up to you.

I am, however, going to tell you how you can create a workplace nourishing smoothie so delicious that staff will keep coming back for more. No ‘new year, new me’ quitters here.

The Ingredients (quantities to taste)

graph for sarahs blog

So here are the ingredients (Joyce and Showers, 2002):

The Base –  Presentation of Theory

Staff need to know what they are learning and why: FACT. So this is the base. The liquid that holds the smoothie together and makes sure it’s smooth and yummy. Without it, you would have inedible mush. However, it’s not really going to nourish you much, as you can see in the graph. 85% of people would be able to understand the concept, yet only 5-10% would implement it. So it’s important, but it’s not going to rock your world without the other ingredients.

The Sweetness – Modelling

The perfect example of observing the skill. Sugar and spice and all things nice. Normally delivered through eLearning content or a classroom-based learning activity. It would show the employee the best way to do the skill.

However, showing them how to do it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will put it into practice. In fact, this is much the same as how giving the theory alone means that only 5-10% of people will be able to implement the new skill. But, like the theory, modelling is still a crucial factor when thinking about how adults learn, and it’s effective once you add the rest of your ingredients…  

The Protein – Practice and Low Risk Feedback

We need protein to grow our muscles big and strong. So this represents the development of skills and practising them whilst receiving low risk feedback.

Imagine you’ve signed up for a free personal trainer. They’re gonna help you learn the skills, show you them, and then give you feedback on them. But, you’re not necessarily going to go back for more or sign-up for their gym membership. It’s just a taster. For instance, the learner will be able to show you the skill whilst you are observing them. But, when it comes to taking it forward, although slightly higher than previous ingredients, there’s still only a 10-15% chance that they’ll embed the skill into their everyday practice.

The Greens – Coaching and Peer to Peer Mentoring

Now, this is the really nourishing stuff. Full of iron and vitamins and everything you need to make your eyes bright and your hair shine. The greens include guided learning, helping out your colleagues and using a coach. This is where L&D really starts to take off. It’s where the real results happen.

We should definitely have more greens, and we know we should, but we don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming and generally overlooked on a day-to-day basis. But as you can see from the graph, coaching and peer to peer mentoring sees 95% of people changing their behaviour after receiving it. It really is the good stuff.

Now Blend…

To make a smoothie nourishing you have to make sure you cover all of the above. Then you can blend. A blended learning approach is not only easier in terms of implementation. But, if completed correctly, companies begin to save on time and money whilst providing staff with the best possible environment to learn in.

However, if this is completed without covering all of the above, no amount of blending, no matter how tailored, will work. If you have a smoothie filled with just kale and soya milk, let’s face it, no one will enjoy it (and if you do, you are just lying to yourself).

What matters most is making sure that staff receive a well-balanced learning and development programme which ensures that, they not only know the theory but change their day-to-day behaviours as well.
Bon Appetit.

Do you use a mix of learning styles in your organisation? Let us know what works best for you in the comments. Click here to learn how to successfully transfer skills across your organisation. 

How to nourish your learning smoothie
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