Higher Level Thinking

I mentioned yesterday the 4 shifts to create deeper learning in education and their relevance to workplace.

The first in the list was higher level thinking. From a work perspective, the gap between the critical thought we expect from people and how we support that in learning activity seems, in some cases, vast.

Let’s take a compliance topic for example. We want people to apply concepts, ideas and regulation to activity they undertake in the workplace. To do this we too often ask people to learn facts (the fire triangle anyone?), but lack the development of a structure where people are able to practice these skills as part of their work. This cognitive complexity – knowledge, comprehension, analysis, synthesis, etc – is missing in too much of what we label as learning.

Donald Clark recently tweeted in a chat on Twitter:

If we don’t understand that this is how people learn, we’re selling our organisations short in suggesting we’re experts in what we do.

Alternatively, if we do understand the way people learn but, to comply with the ‘ask’, ignore the basis of our profession and act as a shopkeeper, we’re damaging the integrity of the profession.

This isn’t a binary choice though; it’s possible (and necessary) to be able to deliver what the business wants and still bring creative problem solving to your colleagues. This is using deeper level thinking as part of our approach – a bit meta.

It’s unfortunate that both the LPI and CIPD don’t mention critical thought explicitly in their maps of professional expertise. The skill is more necessary than ever to be able to hear signal through noise and the good from the guff.

We’re at a point now where the learning profession can pivot. Adopt higher level thinking and rely on automation to complete the lower level tasks and we can make a real difference. Avoid it, and we’ll be overtaken by systems, algorithms, and processes which will lead people to question, why did we ever need a learning function?

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