Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Learning Value Chain

Many people view learning as being just about knowledge transfer, from a teacher or a textbook to the learner. This is a common fault in e-learning, where this over-simplistic view of learning is often encountered. In fact, learning is much more complex: yes, we learn when we passively read something, or watch a video, or listen to a speaker. But we learn more when we get active, and this is especially true of learning for work, where the idea is to apply our learning, practice our skills, and develop new competences.

To illustrate this, the learning value chain is an idea I have developed from David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (1984) and Michael Porter’s Value Chain (1985). It identifies five distinct learning processes:

1. Knowledge acquisition, when learners acquire information and convert it to knowledge
2. Reflection, when learners apply knowledge to their work situation, and reflect on its impact.
3. Practice, when learners practice new skills or behaviours, either at work or in a simulated environment.
4. Interaction, when learners exchange experiences with other learners and synthesise new experience.
5. Escalation, when learners build on their newly acquired skills and behaviours to develop new knowledge, apply it, and develop new skills and behaviours.

In the learning value chain diagram, below, these five processes occur in a sequence, each building on the value of the preceding process. It is not essential that these processes occur in this order, but taken together like this, they add the most value. The diagram is completed by sample support inputs identified for each process, and by underpinning people management and development inputs, and formal and non-formal education and training inputs.

© Kenneth Fee. Please feel free to quote the learning value chain, or develop the ideas, as long as you cite the copyright of this author.

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