Adult Learning and Human Resource Development: a critical analysis of personal experience (NLP in Transforming Stress to Motivational Energies)
Adult Learning and Human Resource Development: a critical analysis of personal experience (NLP in Transforming Stress to Motivational Energies)
This paper presents an analysis of a personal experience in terms of adult learning. The author took up a short course offering in the past month. Specifically, it is called as the NLP in Transforming Stress to Motivational Energies. This experience is associated to the theories and models of adult learning particularly on workplace or organisational learning and setting.
Most, if not all, management experts consider that an organisation can achieve competitive position in the niche market and global marketplace if there is a definite and appropriate management system and strategy that sustains its capabilities, strengths, and competitive position (Pearce and Robinson 2000; Thompson and Strickland 2003). Allowing learning to take place within the bounds of the organisation and its people is among the most valuable management strategies with lasting and proven effective impact. Learning is universally acknowledged as fundamental to human life (Foley 2004) and a distinct human ability that constantly develops until the end of life excluding exceptional cases (e.g. people with disabilities). In the organisational context, learning is associated to achievement and productivity in terms of performance (Bell et al. 2004). Learning is generally identified as a process that occurs among rational individuals with the aim of acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, beliefs, emotions, and senses (Griffin et al. 2003). Today, learning is not only limited and focused on knowledge acquisition and development of behaviour but extended up to other dimensions. Knowledge is a basic prerequisite in any organisation (Alter 1999). Due to the current situations in the global marketplace (i.e. rapid and continuous change), managers are facing the challenge of having the best and practical strategies leading to sustainable development and success in the future. The management of knowledge capital is among the most potent strategies that promotes organisational goals towards sustainability and competitive advantage. Knowledge capital is managed through learning. Dealing with the organisational context, it is understood that most individuals are considered adults. Thus, the learning processes for adult learners are specialised and called as adult learning. In adult learning, there are four (4) dimensions of learning namely: formal, non-formal, informal, and incidental (Foley 2004). While it is true that people learn in various styles, most theorists counteract the definition that learning styles is characterised by the presence of four (4) essential categories namely: visual (learning by seeing); aural or audial (learning by hearing); reading/writing (learning by processing text); and kinesthetic or practical (learn by doing) (Sternberg and Zhang 2003; Sims and Sims 1995). Instead, it is advocated that learning is complex, multifaceted, and all-encompassing. It is also argued that learning occurs in various locations – in the workplace, at home, in groups, or alone – and not only, or primarily limited within the bounds of formal educational environment (Raggatt et al. 2002). This case focuses within the workplace or the organization. Workplace or organisational learning is a significant feature that plays a major role in the development of latest and relevant competencies and innovations. It also serves as vital instrument in addressing changes within the internal and external boundaries of the organisation. According to Pham and Swierczek (2006), the potential role of employees in improving organisational effectiveness is rooted on the need to focus on the types of knowledge and skills learned at work including on how these types of knowledge and skills can be supplied, supported, and developed. These are all rooted on the practice of workplace or organizational learning. As there are indispensable, countless, and rewarding consequences noticeable in learning, it is considered to be very much relevant and valuable particularly in relation to holistic development of people and organisations as well as the overall processes drawn in the general organisational environment. The related approaches of learning, such as adult education, employee training and development in workplace or organizational learning are also important in planning the future operations and activities of the organisation. Through learning, the organisation is able to identify needs, predict trends, eliminate risks, solve problems, and cope up with the challenges in the market.
The author personally experienced an HRD intervention on stress management that is specifically entitled as NLP in Transforming Stress to Motivational Energies (see Appendix 1). Her work is relatively demanding and stressful. The reason behind taking up this course is mainly associated on the understanding of the nature of stress and development of coping mechanisms. In contemporary workplace setting, there are great expectations that are directed towards every individual especially in terms of the workloads and task requirements. A variety of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) is required and multi-tasking defines the present situation in most of organisations. The probability of stress is very high. Thus, there is a need to learn more about dealing with one of the most detrimental work-related condition.
Existing knowledge on stress is considered to be explicit knowledge. It can be articulated based on prior experience and learning. For example, it is understood that stress decreases individual’s ability to perform tasks in the best way possible. Every working individual is encouraged to be aware of the symptoms of excessive and dysfunctional stress as well as methods of identification (Crampton et al. 1995). Taking for example on the cases of earlier studies (i.e. Miller 1988; Fleming and Baum 1986), where the symptoms often include intestinal distress, rapid pulse, frequent illness, insomnia, persistent fatigue, irritability, nail biting, lack of concentration, and increased use of alcohol and drugs (Miller 1988) and the widespread methods used to help recognise stressors and symptoms include self-report measures (e.g., interviews and surveys), behavioural measures (e.g., observation and performance measures) and physiological stress measures (e.g., heart rate and blood pressure) (Fleming and Baum 1986). By taking NLP in Transforming Stress to Motivational Energies, the author is able to undergo adult learning.
During the course, the author deliberately wanted to have knowledge towards her advantage. It is assumed that every individual or group can create their own knowledge. This knowledge can be explicit or tacit in terms of its type. Explicit knowledge is anything that an individual can express while tacit knowledge is deeply entrenched within the subconscious. On this case, the type of knowledge obtained is explicit because the author who subjected herself to this HRD intervention was able to learn things that she can share to other people through communicative means. The creation of knowledge is seen on the approaches of NLP in Transforming Stress to Motivational Energies facilitators and trainers. The explicit type of knowledge is articulated to form explicit knowledge to another individual. The course taken is a specific HRD form of training and development specifically designed for working professionals like the author. It is stated that the training format used in the course includes face to face lectures; mingles and group discussions; demonstrations and exercises; and role plays and case studies. The format used categorically presents an idea that the creation of knowledge is combination and internalisation because learning is openly communicate and shared through various techniques. In combination as means of creating knowledge, the knowledge shared is already known by the individual as it is learned prior to the course. Thus, it is explicit. Then, the learner, even if she knows this type of knowledge, is given a formalised explicit knowledge. Combination, as creation of knowledge, is derived from explicit to explicit type of knowledge. This is also similar to internalisation – from similarly explicit to explicit type of knowledge. The only difference is on the manner how knowledge is presented depending on the learning styles and techniques.
In dealing with the critical analysis on adult learning, it is apt to provide a little conceptual background on the process of learning especially on the case of adult learning. Galbraith and Fouch (2007) adhere that the frequent definition of learning is “a permanent change in behavior” or “knowledge acquired by study” (p. 35). When applied in the workplace setting, learning is associated on the ability of the management to present relevant training and development activities that will enhance employees’ KSAs and creates a culture of learning in the organization. Training and developing employees is always synonymous to productivity because the return of investment is assured provided that when employees are armed with the needed KSAs, they will perform effectively in their specified tasks. Since it is recognised that most employees are adults, adult learning is the main challenge. It is very much imperative to begin with the knowledge on how or in what ways do adults learn. Aside from the identified types of learning (i.e. classical conditioning, behaviour modification, and modelling), adult learning is a special case. Adult learning is bounded into four (4) theories: instrumental learning; communicative learning; emancipatory learning; and critical reflection. Most literatures, according to Munoz and Munoz (1999) include the following five (5) fundamental theories of adult learning: sensory stimulation, cognitive, reinforcement, facilitation, and andragogy (see Appendix 2). The previously identified types of learning are similarly associated with the latter types of learning yet other attributes overlap each type. Initially, learning is important to the employees and employers as this could increase the competitive power of an organisation. Learning through performance requires active discovery, analysis, interpretation, problem-solving, memory, and physical activity (Foreman 2003). The growth of technologies did not only change the way people work and function, but also the demand of business companies all over the world. For instance, employers are now on the lookout for flexible employees who can easily adapt with changes and can work with minimal instructions and supervision. This type of attitude towards how an employee should react is contrary to what traditional methods of learning implies. Organisations do not always want employees to rely on instructions and commands from superiors, instead they want employees who can think for themselves. This then would suggest that there is a great opportunity to explore the practice of learning.
Meanwhile, Beechler and Bird (1999) consider organisational learning as associated with the transfer of managerial knowledge from subsidiaries to the parent company. It can also be the case that the transfer is from one overseas affiliate to another. On this case, learning is not directly with this idea; instead, it delves with transfer of learning from agents of learning to a learner through selective means. The transfer of learning or the need to learn suggests that the importance of organisational learning is rooted on the perception that all organisations must have better understanding of the ways on how to deal with the existing trends in the markets that they have decided to penetrate as well as the culture of the industry that they decided to operate into. According to Foley (2004) and Lau and Ngo (2004), human resource development (HRD) is now concerned not just with training but with broader issues of workplace learning and change, generating a new field of practice and study, organisational learning. Historically, the past 30 years have fundamentally altered the condition of adult education as well as philosophy about adult learning. There are disappearances of specific university extension education while universities have expanded their professional education offerings. Community-based education has had to become largely self-supporting, and so has become much more businesslike in both its organisation and course offerings. Technical or vocational education similarly has long-drawn-out and diversified, adding ‘further education’ to its title in many countries. Numerous fields of practice have generated their own distinguishing forms of education and the management aspect is not kept apart.
Today, the adult learning and education classes strive to grant adult learners an opportunity to use and apply what they have learned. It encourages the adult learners to think critically and to constantly redefine the content and process of the learning experience. Adult learning and education is also expected to heighten individual awareness of community issues, motivate learners to create opportunities, embrace new ideas and give direction to positive change. Adult learning and education is certainly affected by the uncertainty that characterises today’s contemporary global situation. Increasingly, there are difficult questions posed about what constitutes the field of adult education and what are its values and purposes (Bryant et al. 1997). In times when a greater number of adults coming from a diversity of backgrounds enter an increasing variety of programmes, another set of problems is emerging. The difficulty in coping with the current uncertainty is compounded by the nature of the contemporary situation, which itself is difficult to characterise and interpret. Whilst there is general agreement that the world is extremely witnessing profound economic, technological and cultural changes, there is less agreement on whether these constitute a continuation of quality education.
In this case, adult learning is based on the theory of instrumental learning. The learning situation is controlled and manipulated by the environment and the other people because it is practically a designed HRD course on stress management. It follows the principles of learning. First, it started with the known. Stress is expected to be managed effectively so as not to affect employee and organizational productivity and welfare. Second, there should be readiness to learn. From this idea, the learner is able to recognise the fact that she needs to learn more about stress and its management. Next, there are part, spaced, and active learning, wherein the learner is able to get the needed knowledge to understand the nature of stress as well as its management. There is also overlearning. Overlearning is seen on the aspect where the learner is bombarded with knowledge that she already knows and repeatedly provided to her. Multiple-sense learning follows because there is synthesis of previously known and currently known knowledge about stress and its management. Feedback may be informal and motivational. On this case, feedback is motivational because it creates beneficial effects to the learner. Meaningful material is also seen on the learning. The training format can justify this learning feature. Lastly, the transfer of learning is guaranteed as the learner is able to relate her learning output to other people who work within her immediate environment.
In criticism, there is nothing wrong with instrumental learning. It is assumed that this adult learning theory is simple yet effective when used under correct circumstances. Although adult learning is not always instrumental, it is argued that holistic learning and development is emphasised among learners. Accordingly, holistic learning should work on the following foundations:
· tacit knowledge and paradynamic assumptions interact at the sub-conscious level;
· emotions, critical thinking, critical reflection and explicit knowledge interact at the conscious level; and
· sub-conscious and conscious levels affect behaviour at the activity level.
In a nutshell, the holistic learning approach is similar to the process of knowledge creation. It must not be in combination and internalisation of knowledge but also in externalisation and socialisation. To Chapman (1999), adult learners in most situations have to plan from nothing. In other words, there is a need for them to come up with something that is based on self-creativity. However, it is not enough that such learners are dependent to what they discover or learn along the way. There is a need for them to validate the credibility and factualness of the knowledge they learned by themselves by using the standards of evaluation present in formal learning or absolute knowledge – the right knowledge for that matter. Thus, the role of professional mentors in monitoring and facilitating the learning process is critically important.
In any industry, the employees are adult and the learning attitude and motivators are different from the children. To motivate the adult to learn, the implication method is different from children and necessary to understand adult learning process. Knowles’ theory of andragogy is specifically for adult learning. It emphasised that adults are self-directed and expect to take responsibility for decision. According to Knowles (1984), adults are themselves a richer resource for one another’s learning than youths. They are less dependent on the vicarious experiences of teachers, experts and textbooks. Adults have a broader foundation of past experience on which to base new learning. From their past experience, adults may have more fixed habits of thought and ways of doing a task, and sometimes this gets in the way of their better habits. When the trainer conducts training at the workplace and the participants are more experienced than the trainer, the participants are not willing to listen or even challenge the trainer, as they believe they are the experts. In this situation, trainer may consider allow the trainees to take the leading role and allow them to have more experience sharing. As Knowles (1984) stated that adults learn more effectively through experiential techniques of education such as discussion or problem solving. Moreover, adult have a strong need to apply what being designed not only according to the needs of the learner, but also learner can apply new acquired skills or knowledge at workplace.
In general point of view, HR Development (HRD) is an integrated area of study of the developmental practices of organisations so that they may accomplish higher levels of individual and organisational effectiveness (Sambrook 2000). The development of intellectual capital is seen on how individuals work towards their own motivations (willingness or commitment) and application of behaviours (capacity or competencies). The missing element of opportunity is provided using training and development mechanisms (Noe 2006) that aim to identify, assure, and help individuals to perform current or future jobs with planned individual learning accomplished through training, on-the-job learning, coaching or other means. In these ways, knowledge capital is developed towards productivity and performance. On the author’s personal evaluation, the knowledge that was obtained in this HRD course is tacit and also explicit. The learner, who is also the author, is aware about stress. This could be termed as tacit. Then, it is converted into explicit knowledge because it is articulated and shared. The learning theory, which is instrumental learning, is equivalent to transformational learning because the learner is provided the formal knowledge that will help her to manage stress on its most convenient ways as advocated by the course taken.
To end, before categorically defining which effective and quiet ineffective adult learning approach is, it is important to know that learning depends to some degree or area of applications. The adult learning process of the learner on the chosen HRD course is based on instrumental learning theory. Yet it is also recognised that instrumental learning is insufficient and cannot remain as is, thus, holistic learning is sought. Based on the discussions above, it is found out that the concept of learning can serve as strategy that the management can take to build-up its competitive edge. The ability of a business to stay in significant period of time in the industry where it belongs is one measure of its success. This means that being able to survive is a necessity and survival translates to the ability of a business to compete. This is done through learning – may it be individual or organizational in nature.
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NLP in Transforming Stress to Motivational Energies