In a few days time I will click a Send button and my Master's dissertation will go off to meet its marker. That will be the culmination of 15 months of alternating periods of reflection, inaction and obsession, and I will not be sorry that it is all over. I have lost count of the number of nights where I have woken up in the dark to start worrying about some area of research I have not yet explored but definitely must. And then woken blearily to the rising sun with little clear memory of those nocturnal moments of complete clarity.
Research such as this makes you focus on increasingly narrow subjects, and it becomes very difficult to to see the bigger picture of what you are looking at. So when I came to a question in the dissertation template which asked me to include some observations about what the wider implications of the research would be for my professional practice, I was somewhat taken aback.
It took me a few days before I was able to adjust my focus and think of an appropriate answer. I realised eventually that one way in which I would now be able to look at my professional practice different was to stop looking at a workshop or an e-learning course as a single event but to always see it as part of what might be called 'a learning system'.
In an earlier post I talked about comments made by several people at OEB 2015 about the 'training as pizza' model: how long would you like the workshop to be? Too often, training is seen as the only solution which is needed to solve performance problems, and overlooks the operational context of how people do their work, by experimenting and reflecting, by asking other people for help, by discussing things which they don't understand and so on.
By thinking systemically about how learning contributes to improve performance we become able to see much more clearly the small part that single events such as a workshop play in the whole learning system, supporting the development of social learning networks, strengthening social capital and other intangible outcomes. Formal training should never be just the only answer, but should always be designed to be just a part of a systemic change process which strengthens learning and the ability to apply new skills.