Eliminate educational language

Image from Pixabay
Image from Pixabay

This is the next weekly blog post from my Learning Live session a short while ago. The session was about developing smaller, more workable ideas under the banner of my 50 big ideas. This post, like the others, is a stream of consciousness – I’m writing this post whilst looking at the output from the session for the first time. I have no idea what the participants came up with within this topic and am seeing their contribution for the first time.

This post is about big idea number 44:

Eliminate educational language in your learning function –  you’re not a school (unless you’re a school)

I’m not a fan of calling things with education terms in workplace learning. I had an OK time at school – for some people the talk of classrooms, study, academies and universities fills them with dread. Sweaty palms, bullying pupils (and teachers) and being forced to behave a certain way can drive people away from your learning offer because the brand you’ve created is, to them, toxic.  Donald Taylor picked up on this in my blog post earlier this week and highlighted that people won’t complain in this setup, even though they may be receiving poor learning activity.

1.  Make comms more visual – pictures

I despair of clipart and how we use it in workplace learning. Cheesy and inappropriate images can be more damaging than no images sometimes. If you want to use pictures, make them relevant. You have a more powerful camera on your phone than we could have dreamt of a generation ago so use it. Take pictures and edit them with Pixlr Express to enhance them. If they’re still no good, use one of the dozens of sites online to find different images. Avoid images like chalkboards, classrooms, lecture theatres.

2.  Practical examples – to explain the theory

I’ve wondered about this for a while – do people at learning events want to know the theory? For the most part, I don’t tend to remember theory when people tell me and I need to go away and read it, watch it, reflect it. I’ve done this in my workplace with curated content. You can read the whole policy if you need it, but you’re more likely to want to use a case study, a comic strip and something relevant to your workplace. I’ve long thought that L&D doesn’t deliver knowledge – we deliver information. It only becomes knowledge when the person is able to understand it in their context.

3.  Remove jargon, review materials

Jargon is necessary, it’s the shorthand of the organisation. An organisation’s jargon forms, and is formed, by its culture and removing jargon entirely is a dangerous activity. My suggestion here is to remove L&D jargon; do we have to call people learners? I don’t get why we want to be graduating people from workplace universities. I don’t understand why a leadership/management/technical academy is more desirable than a development team. If you use this language in the workplace, let me know in the comments why you do.

4.  Change language

The subtitle under this idea says  ‘eg assessment. Works for some areas not others eg observation’. What language does your workplace use to manage performance? Is it business language of the language of HR and L&D? Using the words the people in your organisation are familiar with is essential otherwise you may as well as well be speaking another language.

5. Facilitate learning not instructor led

If you’ve read the previous posts in this blog series you may have noticed a theme. The 50 big ideas are all about changing the relationship people have with their L&D function. This is fundamental to my approach. L&D can no longer be a provider, a supplier of content, an oracle of knowledge. We need to create environments and spaces for people to learn on their terms.

6. Coaching – knowledge and skills in the room

I like the activity of coaching; I’ve created spaces where people can coach others and think that, in many cases, people want to learn from someone who has experienced similar circumstances or has a certain expertise. My concern with the small idea above is that it seems to be framed around ‘training’. If I’m wrong then please put me right. I’m not a big fan of the word coaching – do we all have the same understanding of what it means?

7.  Involve users in creating learning

Under the title it says alpha/beta. I’m interested in the word involve. The subtext is still ‘it’s ours’…you can do some. Is it about involving users or handing over the reins and allowing people to shape it themselves, within parameters that we’ve developed with the business?

8.  Everyday language, not educational

Oh dear. I think the group were having a moment here. This appears to be a duplicate of 4. What they have done is clarified some of the language under the heading. It says:

  • competences
  • frameworks
  • objectives

Is this educational language? Is this everyday?

9.  Buzzword bingo

Do we know what the buzzwords are? Have a look at the list here – which words do you use and would I get a full house with your workplace learning offer?

10.  Swearbox

Without knowing what good looks like I’m not sure how you’d make this work. What would the scale of ‘fines’ be? How would they be collected? How would any funds be allocated? How long would it last for?  Would it work?

Eliminating educational language is more than changing just the language – it’s about changing the mindset of the L&D professional. In my last blog post I highlighted how someone wanted to lecture content to a group of school staff. Just eliminating language wouldn’t have solved the issue that person had – a complete change in thinking is required.

What do you think? Is this big idea a pipe dream? Are we too enamoured with education and academic thinking to simply stop using it? Please comment and let me know your thinking.


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