Performance Support vs Learning – degrees of difficulty


Today I listened the The Good Practice podcast episode 108 – a discussion with Nick Shackleton-Jones about ‘What is the proper role of L&D.’ It took me a little while to get a handle on where Nick was coming from, and I don’t agree with everything he said.  I am more optimistic than Nick regarding the power of L&D professionals to shift the perception of people in their organisations regarding their role.

One very useful idea that struck me was a distinguishing feature between performance support and learning.  As summarised in my sketch, performance support should be seamless to be effective, while learning experience should be disruptive and challenging.  The value of making learning difficult aligns with Robert Bjork’s research into desirable difficulty, a term he coined in 1994.

A recent example from my experience relates to navigating the streets in new towns I visited during a seven month long road trip.  I was staying in a different town typically for one to two weeks before moving on.  I was readily able to find my way in the car from my accommodation to local amenities using a map application on my phone.  However, I wanted to be able to navigate local streets without using the phone in case this was ever necessary.  Even after driving a route several times using the application I often got lost the first one or two times I navigated unassisted in a new town.  Reliance on performance support meant diminished my recall of local routes.  Of course, I learned from these mistakes and was subsequently able to find my way around – thanks to the challenging experience.

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  1. #1 by Nick Shackleton-Jones on August 29, 2018 - 7:47 pm

    Hi Michelle – thanks for the mention. I’m glad you found the distinction useful. I wrote a longer piece about it here, if anyone is interested: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/designthinking-deliberately-disruptive-ux-nick-shackleton-jones/

    all the best, nick

    • #2 by Michelle Ockers on August 30, 2018 - 6:46 am

      Thanks for sharing longer piece Nick – I shall take a look at it to deepen my understanding.

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