Jane Bozarth writing in Learning Solutions Magazine (“Nuts and Bolts: The 10-Minute Instructional Design Degree”) quotes Étienne Charles Wenger (best known today for his work in the field of communities of practice):  “Instruction does not cause learning; it creates a context in which learning takes place, as do other contexts.  Learning and teaching are not inherently linked.  Much learning takes place without teaching, and indeed much teaching takes place without learning.”

Bozarth continues:  “In other words, knowledge acquisition doesn’t cause behavior change. People learn through experience, through making mistakes, through trying things out, through talking things through with others.  Don’t just deliver facts and “content,” but provide meaningful exercises and activities that can help to “cause” learning.  Provide performance support tools. Insinuate the learning into the social spaces in which the workers operate.  Help the instruction become part of that context in which the learner can learn.”

Unfortunately, instructional design degrees from most institutions of higher learning fail in implementing the ideas expressed by both Wenger and Bozarth.  (My experience leads me to agree with Cathy Moore in her blog “How to become an instructional designer“:  “Compared to other instructional designers, I seem to be less enthusiastic about degrees. I worked with several recent graduates of ID degree programs and usually found that they learned a lot of theory but had little knowledge of business needs and no experience applying the theory to real-world business situations.”)

Of course, higher education can have a place in preparing our next generation of trainers and instructional designers.  Theoretical understanding is important.  However, when it comes to teaching “templates of learning design,” higher education seriously misdirects the student.

Cookie-cutter solutions are never the answer.  Every training initiative challenge undertaken has specific — not, generic — solutions.  Templating (either by the organization itself or by the purchase of a vendor’s templated creation) will not work.  You may create, or purchase, such a course — but, you will not provide a solution.


Because each training initiative you undertake must be tailored to the specific skills necessary to adequately perform a specific task!  And, that means knowing your workforce demographics; the specific jobs assigned; and, the specific skills required to perform those jobs.

Therefore, it is critical to focus training where it will have the greatest effect on performance.  Through needs assessment and task analysis techniques, you can identify the greatest opportunities to improve performance through training.

Today, rich on-line skills assessment tests are readily available which will help you specifically target the “learning gaps” within your employee population, making it possible for you to design specific solutions while eliminating much of the waste in traditional training regimen (“one size fits all”).

In order to be successful, a training initiative must become a specific solution that can be successfully implemented within the existing challenges of your organization.

The bottom line is that you need to design your training initiative from the ground up.  And that includes a skills gap analysis of the population to-be-trained; the specific tasks that must be accomplished; and, the specific skills required to perform those tasks.

And, above all, instructional design practitioners must recognize (as Bozarth so succinctly does) that, “People learn through experience, through making mistakes, through trying things out, through talking things through with others.”  Your formal training designs should promote those opportunities!

More on Monday  –  –  –

   — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning

 March 7, 2018  (Mondays & Wednesdays)


 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)