Interview: Nick Shackleton-Jones - lessons learned
As part of Brightwave's 'What a difference' video series, Nick Shackleton-Jones, Group Head of eLearning (Leadership Development & Talent) at BP, looks back to the last 10 years in Learning and Development.
Videos in this series
One of the things I like a lot about working in learning is that you do meet some really cool people – you meet some great people and I like learning from my peers.
Somebody I learnt something from a while ago was Clive Shepherd who I remember saying “Learning changes very slowly.” And at the time I was this very kind of pacey, “Let’s change the world tomorrow” kind of person. And actually I think that’s one of the things that you note about learning; it has changed tremendously slowly, and I think my disappointment has been tempered with the experience.
But I think learning generally hasn’t changed very much and I think that’s a cause for concern. I think that’s partly because learning isn’t sufficiently self critical. There’s a set of norms, a set of practices; you stand up, you talk about something, you write things on boards and people are just continuing to do that. And I think in any industry, especially in learning, you have to be self critical if you want it to move forwards.
By that I mean I still think there’s a lot of solutioneering, despite the work of people like Nigel Harrison and this whole kind of performance consulting approach. I still think people aren’t thinking about the problem that they’re trying to solve. Instead they’ve already got a solution and they’re trying to apply it to a problem.
And that goes a little bit further because I think part of the reason for that is that they haven’t really been driven away from that approach by a more rigorous, thorough approach to evaluation. Evaluation is one of those things we keep talking about it; I just don’t think we’ve got to the bottom of it. I don’t think Kirkpatrick is really providing much insight, and I don’t think I see many people who are actually implementing it to a really deep degree.
So I think learning quite often misunderstands itself, so the chances that it’s going to properly evaluate its contribution I think are very slim.
I think one of the things which has raised a lot of questions has been the increased awareness about the role that informal learning plays. So to an increasing degree learning now understands – formal learning; training and development departments, that they’re actually only a very small part of the picture.
So I think evaluation has become an increasingly difficult thing to talk about and to talk about coherently.
So I think those are some of the problems that I see; those are some of the things that haven’t changed.
And just to finish that off I think still people are implementing technology – learning technology, without really thinking about how it’s going to be used.
So I think back to the heady days of e-learning where everyone was going to buy an LMS and some courses and it was going to solve everybody’s problems. And I’m just seeing this kind of history repeating itself with the sort of “If you build it, they will come” approach. So I think those are some of the deeper issues within learning technology and within learning.
So, I think the reasons why learning hasn’t changed, it sort of harks back to this self critical ability and I think if you continue being self critical, eventually you get to the bottom of things, and I think that’s what hasn’t happened. So what I’m saying by that is that I don’t think we understand learning.
So I don’t think we have a model which will tell us what good learning is, we don’t have a model which will tell us what good teachers are. I think sometimes you spot it; sometimes you experience it. But we don’t have a way of systematising it.
It’s actually quite straightforward. If you ask people about teachers that they remember, and I do this quite a lot, from school, they’ll tell you a story about teachers who really connected with them. And that has to, I think, lie at the heart of good learning. And I don’t think a lot of good learning really connects with people.
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