Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why you can't measure someone's learning

Some notes about why trying to measure a person's learning is like trying to find out the meaning of a person's life...

You can't measure someone's learning. There I said it. But's define learning to make sure there is no confusion. My definition of learning is the ability to acquire knowledge in pursuit of a goal. It is true that we can confine the measure of someone's learning say to a particular task/skill. But if that is the case then we should be specific because often the leaning objectives that we document don't really match what students/workers want out of a course.

Learning is about knowledge/experience, time, context, and meaning. Knowledge/experience is easy to understand because we have so many SME's and we all understand the nature of a specific knowledge base. Time is harder to understand because we really don't understand what defines one person's amount of time to another person's to learn something. What we do know is that a lot of information and a lot of time doesn't mean that a person will meet the learning objectives. Sometimes it is context that is the problem, the learning doesn't really match what the person will do. But often "meaning" is the problem because what is means for someone to really want to learn is hard to understand and in many cases impossible.

Rather than trying to measure learning, companies should seek those individuals whose meaning and purpose match their own. In essence the company should try to find out how their best employees can help them discover the company's true purpose and help the company be successful.