Introduction This essay looks into a learning program which was personally delivered. It aims to critically evaluate the effectiveness of the program by drawing upon relevant theories and models revolving around adult and organisational learning. Theories are used to substantiate the step by step processes undertaken in the program as well as to critique the areas which could have been performed better or were carried out successfully by the program coordinators. This essay is told from the perspective of a facilitator’s role in which I was primarily involved in.
At the end of this essay, we hope to understand how a successful HRD learning program should be run and what factors significantly influence its success. Learning Program The selected program used throughout this essay as a case study is the ‘Combat Medical NSmen Ops Refresher Training’. The program involved me as one of the key facilitators which was conducted during my national service time. The objective was to ensure the competence of the National Service (NS) men in carrying out their medical responsibilities and performing up to expectations when the time arises for them to do so in future.
Learning Program Essay Example
This was carried out by first refreshing the NSmen’s theoretical knowledge of specific medical subject matter, i. e. various emergency surgical procedures, that was taught during their NS days. Typically conducted annually, the refresher training would see the NSmen undergoing classroom learning followed by a practical hands-on session of role playing, after which they would be tested under a controlled, simulated setting as a form of learning assessment. The refresher training was a one-day program carried out in the compounds of the Singapore Armed Forces Medical Training Institute (SMTI).
The facilitators comprised of regular senior medical officers and fulltime national servicemen (NSFs), of whom I was one of them. The seniors acted as supervisors while the NSFs were more primarily involved in running the program on the ground. Teaching and demonstrations were conducted by NSFs while assessment was done by the senior officers. The age group of the NSmen participants ranged from 30 to 40 years old, thus the target audience was specific to older adult learners who were most likely married or some even fathers.
The program was catered to a batch group of 20 NSmen with 2 facilitators assigned. The four stages of HRD HRD is an ongoing learning process involving training and development activities which seek to groom individuals’ skills for the purpose of enhancing organisational productivity (Swanson & Holton 2001). Adult learning falls within the HRD learning process. Knowles (1998) mentioned that adults tend to follow andragogical assumptions of learning such that firstly, the learning should have practical value for applying in real-life situations and problems.
Next is for the learning to utilise the knowledge inherent in the adult and lastly it should actively engage him/her. All these are reflected in the medical refresher program and will be explained through a series of four step by step stages namely the needs investigation, design, implementation and evaluation stages. HRD Needs Investigation (HRDNI) HRDNI refers to the process of identifying how much is known by the participants prior to the program against what is expected of them to know based on the learning objectives set out (Tovey & Lawlor 2008; Rothwell & Kazanas 1989).
It represents an organized way to determine if a HRD solution is needed in the first place. It helps identify the content and learning objectives, the population, resources required, as well as context and organisational politics. Behind every successful HRD learning program is a good HRDNI carried out in the beginning. The refresher program showed that HRDNI was conducted successfully as clear learning objectives, competencies and learning outcomes were established (Delahaye 2011). The needs were determined through the two levels of HRDNI: surveillance and investigation (Delahaye 2011).
Program coordinators had long been monitoring how competent NSmen were in carrying out their medical duties upon completion of their NS time. Through the observation of several past reservists’ in-camp trainings where these NSmen were required to demonstrate their medical proficiency in a simulated battlefield environment, their quality and competencies were analysed. Data was gathered through the means of organisational records and observations (Delahaye 2011). It was found that most NSmen were unable to remember much of what they had learnt during their NS days and thus, lacked in several key competencies.
One of which was the ability to remember the medical apparatus to be used in assisting the surgeon in the surgical procedures. Thus, as a result of HRDNI, the ‘Combat Medical NSmen Ops Refresher Training’ learning program came about as form of HRD intervention. Its aim was to keep NSmen constantly up to date with their medical roles so that when a real emergency breaks out in Singapore, they would be ready for it. Although the need for refresher training was correctly identified by program coordinators, the HRDNI could have been more specific to seek the opinions of the participants as well.
Conducting such a program meant that more time, be it for work or family, had to be sacrificed by the working adults so that they could attend. Moreover, not all might feel the need for the refresher as they might be confident of their own knowledge. Thus one investigatory method to gather their opinions would be through holding an online survey questionnaire weeks before the commencement of the program. The questionnaire could ask them for their current level of knowledge and ask if the refresher would be effectively catering to their needs, also for their level of interest in participation.
Curriculum Design This is the second stage once HRDNI has been completed. Curriculum represents the systematic process of putting the learner through action (Smith & Lovat 2003). This stage involves matching the learning structure to the characteristics of the adult learners (Delahaye 2011). To do this, constructive alignment needs to take place. This means that the expected actions the learner has to emulate based on the learning objectives must be coherent with the teaching and assessment style (Biggs & Tang 2007).
The refresher program was successful in achieving constructive alignment as the objective to instil confidence in the NSmen to showcase their medical proficiency in carrying out the surgical procedures was well reflected by the practical role-playing sessions demonstrated and taught by the facilitators. The design structure of the refresher program followed closely to Delahaye’s (2011) Hierarchy of Learning Outcomes (HLO) model. The model emphasizes the progression from explicit to tacit knowledge and this was seen in the program as facilitators made use of instrumental to communicative learning.
The program outlined movements from basic to intermediate to complex, just as how HLO mentions in its five categories of programmed knowledge, task, relationship, critical thinking and meta-abilities. The refresher program started off with programmed knowledge which was in the form of classroom-based learning to provide the factual and theoretical knowledge to the NSmen. It then moved into task where they were required to be analytical in a role-playing scenario. That involved a linear, diagnostic and complex analysis which in short, refers to using simple information-processing, interpretation, problem solving and decision making skills.
The role-playing session incorporated discussions and effective team play as well, which in turn worked on a relationship level of interpersonal communication between participants. The program ended off with action learning where participants were encouraged to use mental agility under the meta-abilities category to be able to think clearly under pressure, when performing their learning assessment in a controlled environmental setting. The HLO progression was mapped in accordance to the learning characteristics of the NSmen participants.
Facilitators took into consideration that because the participants were older learners, the learning environment created was a similar aged batch of between 30 and 40 years old so that they would feel more comfortable and safe (Delahaye & Ehrich 2008). Older learners tend to be involved in complex learning, occasionally switching from being dependent to independent learners and thus passively seeking and actively seeking knowledge, respectively. Hence, the design of the refresher program ensured a combination of various learning strategies to meet to these adult learners’ characteristics.
These strategies will be covered under the implementation stage later. It was indeed a good initiative by the facilitators to find out the basic characteristics of their adult learners and thus used HLO as a step by step process to teach them. However, there is room for improvement. All adult learners have different learning styles and so a good HR designer would pay close attention to finding out what styles their participants fall under. This can be done by issuing out a learning style questionnaire which will seek to determine if a participant is a reflector, theorist, pragmatist or activist (Honey & Mumford 1992).
Each learning style will differently influence the way an individual learns, and so will impact the design of a learning program. However, an individual may also have at times a combination of both styles. Thus, a good designer should strive to integrate all four styles in any learning program. Implementation This third stage of the HRD process covers the skills required of a HR developer who is also known as the facilitator. In other words, this section analyses how effective or skilled the facilitators are in conducting the learning program, based on the participants’ level of engagement.
It also covers the various learning strategies used. As one of the facilitators of the refresher program, I exhibited strong micro-skills of questioning and responding, and a high level of enthusiasm, channelling the energy positively to the participants. Delahaye (2011) pointed out that such skills are important in the delivery of a learning program, but are often overlooked by HR developers. Feldman (2007) agrees that with greater enthusiasm demonstrated, the higher are the chances of learner accomplishment. As for the learning strategy, a structured style was used in the beginning stage of the refresher program.
This took the form of lecture-style learning. Delahaye (2011) regards lecture as structured due to the teacher-student controlled form where the teacher assumes full responsibility over the learning of the student and controls what and how the student will learn. Facilitators conducting the lecture used PowerPoint presentation to recap the relevant theoretical knowledge of the emergency surgical procedures. The slides included detailed photographs showing how each procedure was to be carried out step by step. This was complemented with a set of the hardcopy handout slides so that the NSmen could write notes throughout.
On top of that, the whiteboard was used simultaneously by the facilitator to jot down the key points of the presentation. This ensured an appropriate usage of visual aids to appeal to the adult learners (Delahaye 2011). The lecture-style teaching made use of instrumental learning, one of the three transformational adult learning domains (Mezirow 2009). Instrumental allows learning to be controlled and can manoeuvre the environment. Under it is the knowledge generation process of combination which sees a transfer of explicit to even more complex explicit knowledge (Nonaka & von Krogh 2009).
The PowerPoint presentation, for instance, got the NSmen to combine the explicit knowledge they were looking at and listening to with their own explicit knowledge, thus leading into a process of re-sorting and re-understanding of their inherent knowledge. Another point to make was that sufficient breaks were given throughout the lecture presentation so as to space out the learning and carry out part learning so that participants could digest the information better, especially since older learners dislike having big chunks of information (Grattan 1955; Miller 1956).
These were some of the principles of learning highlighted during the structured strategy. Subsequently, in the refresher program, the learning strategy shifted from structured to semi-structured. After the theoretical bit was covered, facilitators proceeded onto the practical, hands-on session. The knowledge just learnt or recapped was to be applied on mannequins which acted as causalities. Here, the actual whole tray of medical apparatus needed for the surgical procedures is introduced to the NSmen participants, after seeing pictures of them in the PowerPoint slides and the hardcopy handouts.
Participants were divided into 4 groups of 5 in which each group had a mannequin and a set of tools to work with. Each facilitator was assigned to 2 groups to firstly demonstrate the correct techniques and steps to perform the emergency surgical procedures, using the apparatus provided. Participants observed carefully to learn the steps that they would later be tested, in what was actually known as modelling, one of the 3 basic types of learning. Modelling refers to copying an action after observing how it is done (Bandura 1977; Gardner et al.
1981). Facilitators of the refresher program aimed to see an exchange of tacit to tacit knowledge between the participants and themselves in a socialisation process. This was achieved through the modelling learning behaviour. The semi-structured strategy using the mannequins was a form of role-playing as within each group, participants took turns to role play as surgeons and assistants to the surgeons. This role-playing also helped to strengthen the HLO in areas of forging better interpersonal relationships and the use of
group processes, just to name a few (Delahaye 2011). On a separate point, role-playing illustrates that the NSmen participants also underwent communicative learning, which is known to be a learner’s effort to relate to another to understand each other’s viewpoints (Mezirow 2000). Evaluation This last stage of the HRD process signifies the importance for proper assessment methods. The evaluation technique that was used for the ‘Combat Medical NSmen Ops Refresher Training’ program was the assessment of learning.
This assessment, as stressed by Delahaye (2011), paves the way for measuring the effectiveness of the learning program, allowing the examiners to gauge how useful the program had been for the participants as well as to see if the learning objectives set out from the start had been met in the end. In addition, assessment offers feedback for both the adult learner and HR developer. Through it, they can identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they can make necessary amendments to make their learning processes more effective in future.
Out of the six types of assessment of learning methods available, the refresher program used performance tests, which proved to be the most suitable form of evaluation due to the complex nature of the program (Delahaye 2011). Following on after the role-playing session of using the mannequins and medical tools, the NSmen participants were made to undergo a performance test in the outdoors open field which simulated an actual situation of what it would likely be in an actual war zone battlefield environment where the NSmen would encounter multiple casualties suffering from different kinds of wounds and war injuries.
They would be required to think on their feet using mental agility, under a stressful environment, of which of the following emergency surgical procedures learnt would be best used for treatments. As said by Delahaye (2011), performance tests need to be conducted by highly skilled trainers whose evaluation makes use of their tacit knowledge. Thus, the assessment of the program was a success as it brought in the senior medical officers, who have years of experience in the field, to evaluate the performances of the NSmen. This also served to be a non-biased evaluation as the seniors were not involved in running the on ground training.
In evaluation, a pre-designed evaluation criteria form was used by the senior officers so as to quantify the observed results (Thorndike 2007). The results were then showed to the NSmen participants during the program debrief. The outcome of the performance test showed a match to the adult learners’ HLO, identified in the curriculum design stage, in the categories of programmed knowledge; and task and relationship. It also successfully tested the learners’ action learning process of critical thinking and meta-abilities. Conclusion
This essay has looked at the ‘Combat Medical NSmen Ops Refresher Training’ as a learning program which served as an HRD intervention based on the needs investigation conducted. It found that a refresher program would be beneficial to the NSmen in helping them to familiarise with the medical proficiency knowledge they are required to demonstrate in their annual reservist in-camp trainings. This essay thus went on to elaborate the four stages involved in influencing this successful HRD learning program using theories primarily from adult learning.
Following on from a thorough HRDNI, the design of the program saw that a necessary constructive alignment was made between the teaching style and the characteristics of the adult learners. The HLO model was used in this stage. As for the implementation, the facilitators of the program demonstrated strong micro-skills as well as using structured and semi-structured learning strategies through a PowerPoint presentation and role-playing session which reflected on instrumental and communicative learning for the adult learners, respectively.
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