Via the Research Blogging Twitter stream – I came across an article the other day that seemed like it would be of particular interest to practitioners of the one-shot, but as I was reading it I realized that it drew so heavily on an earlier model, that I should read that one too – so this week’s Peer Review Monday (on Wednesday) is going to be a two-parter.
Today’s article presents a Framework for Understanding Pre-Practice Conditions and their Impact on Learning. In other words — is there stuff we can do with students before a training session that will make for better learning in the training session? The authors say yes, that there are six categories of things we can do, which raises the related question – are all of the things we can do created equal?
CANNON-BOWERS, J., RHODENIZER, L., SALAS, E., & BOWERS, C. (1998). A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING PRE-PRACTICE CONDITIONS AND THEIR IMPACT ON LEARNING Personnel Psychology, 51 (2), 291-320 DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1998.tb00727.x
This article also reviews the existing literature on each category, but I’m really not going to recap that piece because that is also the focus of the other article, which was published this year and why look at both?
So I have started to feel very strongly that instruction in typical one-shots much more closely resembles training than teaching – at least how I think about teaching. I’ve had some experiences this year where I have had to do the kind of “what does teaching mean to you” reflective writing that put into focus that there are some serious disconnects between some of the things that are important to me about teaching and the one-shot format, and it makes me wonder if some of the frustration I feel with instruction at times – and that others might be feeling as well – comes from fighting against that disconnect. Instead of thinking about what I think about teaching (thoughts that started developing a long time ago, when I was teaching different content in credit courses that met several times a week over the course of several weeks) and trying to fit it into the one-shot model, perhaps it makes more sense to spend some time thinking about the model we have and what it could mean.
So, the training literature. Can a deep-learning loving, constructivism believing, sensemaking fangirl like me find inspiration there? Well, apparently yes.
In their first section…
…the authors define what they mean by “practice.” Practice in the context of this paper means the “physical or mental rehearsal of a task, skill or knowledge,” and it is done for the specific purpose of getting better at it (or in the case of knowledge, getting better at applying, explaining, etc. it). It is not, itself, learning but it does facilitate learning.
They distinguish between practice conditions that exist before the training, during the training, and after it is done. This article focuses on the before-the-training group – which I think is what makes it really interesting in that one-shot context.
In the second section…
…they dig into the six different types of pre-practice conditions that they categorized out of the available literature on the subject. In their review of the literature, they tried to limit the studies included to empirical studies that focused on adult learners, but they were not always able to do so.
Attentional advice refers to providing attendees with information that they can use to get the most out of the training. This information should not be information about how to do the thing you are going to be teaching — but information about the thing you are teaching. This information should allow the learner to create a mental model that will help them make sense of what is being learned, and which will help connect what is being learned to what they already know.
The example they give describes a training for potential call-center employees. The attentional advice given before the training includes information about the types of calls that come in, how to recognize and categorize them. Not information about how to answer the calls directly.
This one got me thinking a lot about the possibilities of providing information about the types of sources students will find in an academic research process (as simple as scholarly articles/popular articles/books or more complex – review articles/ empirical research/ metaanalyses, and so on) as attentional advice before a session, instead of trying to teach it in a one-shot session where you have two options – to spend five minutes quickly describing it yourself, or to spend half of the session having the students do something active like examining the sources themselves and then teaching each other.
Most instruction librarians can probably figure out what this one is – metacognitive strategies refer to strategies that help the learner manage their own learning. These are not about the content of the session directly, but instead information about how the learner can be aware of and troubleshoot their own learning process. The examples provided take the form of questions that learners can ask themselves during the training or instruction session.
I am sure the metacognitive strategies will spark some ideas for me, but it didn’t happen immediately – I think because I was distracted by this next category. Advance organizers give learners, in advance, a way to organize the information they will be learning in the session. So a really obvious example of this would be – if you want students to learn the content of a website, you could provide information in advance about the website’s navigational structure, and how that structure organizes the information.
This one really got me thinking too. Another piece of information literacy instruction that is really, really important and about which we have a bunch of research and information backing us up is the research process – the iterative, recursive, back and forth learning process that is academic research. We even have some useful and interesting models describing the process. But in a one-shot, you’re working with students during a moment of that process and it’s really, really hard to push that session beyond the piece of the process that is relevant where they are at the moment. What about providing advance information about the process – does that require rethinking the content of the session or the learning activities of the session — probably. But would it provide a way for students to contextualize what you teach in the session. I’m not sure, but I’m going to be thinking about this one more.
This one is pretty interesting in the more recent article. There are two types of goals – mastery goals and performance goals. Mastery goals focus attention on the learning process itself, while performance goals focus on achieving specific learning outcomes. As a pre-practice condition, this means giving learners information about what they should focus on during the session. As an example, they say that a performance goal orientation tells students in a training for emergency dispatchers to focus on dispatching the correct unit to an emergency in a particular amount of time. A mastery goal orientation, on the other hand, tells the students to focus on identifying the characteristics they should consider when deciding which unit to dispatch to a particular emergency.
So – an performance goal orientation in the information literacy context might tell students to focus on retrieving a certain number of peer-reviewed articles during the session. A mastery goal tells them to focus on identifying the characteristics of a peer-reviewed article.
This seems like it would be pretty much the same as Attentional Advice, but it’s not. In this one you focus on letting the learner know stuff about the session environment itself — the examples they gave were situations where the training was likely to be very stressful, physically or emotionally difficult.
Finally, there’s this one, which refers specifically to team or group training. In this one, you give the group information about performance expectations. You establish the group members’ roles and responsibilities before the team training begins.
In the third and fourth sections…
The authors attempt to develop an integrated model for understanding all of these conditions, but they’re not able to do it. Instead, they present a series of propositions drawn from the existing research. Finally, they examine implications for day-to-day trainers and identify questions for future research. The most essential takeaway here is – not all preparation for practice is equal and that we should do more research figuring out what works best, with what kind of tasks, and for what kind of learners.
Stay tuned for the second installment, where current-day researchers examine the last 12 years of research to see if this has happened – and where it has, they tell us what was found.