Training in the Age of the Learner

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Cattell, A. (2004), "Training in the Age of the Learner", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 36 No. 7, pp. 295-295.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The author of this book, Martyn Sloman, has for the last four years been Training and Development Adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK, having previously been head of a training function at a large investment bank. The main tenet of the book is a call to training professionals and those involved in training to change the focus from training to learning. The rationale for this is the need to respond proactively to changes in the business environment brought about by globalisation, technology, consumer expectations and deregulation.

Sloman suggests an aspirational paradigm for trainers which requires a shift from traditional training approaches towards providing learner‐focused interventions which create a supportive climate for effective and appropriate learning. In doing so, he proposes that such interventions should be an integral part of business approaches designed to create competitive advantage through people in organisations.

The text is divided in to three Parts containing a total of eight chapters.

Part 1, “Creating the mindset”, starts by exploring the forces which dictate the need for a change of paradigm. Traditional perspectives/models of training are then identified, the point being made that these are training and not learning models. The final chapter of Part 1 asks “What do we know about learning?”. This element examines how people learn at work and makes the point that much primary research into this area is set within an educational rather than an organisational context. Research by or commissioned through a number of sources, including the CIPD and the American Society for Training and Development is presented to support the need for a change of mindset.

Part 2, “A new opportunity through technology”, focuses initially on the emergence of e‐learning and blended learning and provides a number of “in progress” case studies from the public and private sectors in the UK. The potential and reality of e‐learning approaches are then considered, and the conclusion is made that although e‐learning may not require or give rise to new theories of learning to account for the nature of the learning experience, it may help to create greater focus on the learner.

Part 3, “From aspiration to implementation”, considers the courses of action necessary to turn learner focus into a reality in the modern organisation. Issues of delivering value and demonstrating value are explored. Again case studies and research findings are presented to suggest potentially useful approaches to the reader. In summary it is suggested that there is an attractive future for both learner and learning professional and that there is a demanding but exciting journey to be made to get there.

The main strength of the book is that it finds a good balance between research, theory and practice with references, case studies and examples being very current and up to date. The text is an interesting and informative read rather than an inspirational one. The content poses questions and as such suggests to the reader that they reflect on their current and future role. For those who invest actively in their own continuous professional development and who have already thought about and made the transition from training to learning, there may be an element of preaching to the converted. For those who have still to make that transition, the book presents a strong case for doing so without seeking to give definitive answers.

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