Subject Matter Expertise in E-Learning – link

Dave’s Whiteboard » Blog Archive » SME? Not for me

on the ‘problem’ of expertise versus practical excellence in developing learning. I broadly agree with the post but have a concern that this approach reinforces inertia – the reinforement of “this is how we do things round here”. At some point, what the excellent practitioner might need is exposing to the alternative or new ways of working that may only come via the route of an expert.

5 thoughts on “Subject Matter Expertise in E-Learning – link”

  1. Oh, I wouldn’t argue that the exemplary practitioner knows all the possible new ways. I had in mind the more typical situation in which an organization is designing training based on a current job (or set of jobs), even if there’s some sizeable change like a new application or process.

    To the extent that the new application or process produces essentially the same kind of output (warranty claims handles, widgets sold, troubleshooting problems resolved), an exemplar will have more practical insight into how these things get done now, so that at a minimum you can figure out whether the new setup addresses them.

    I’m guessing there were a lot more outside experts, and a lot fewer exemplary baggage handlers and supervisors, involved in the Denver or Heathrow upgrades…

  2. Thanks for the response – I’d agree in most learning situations, the excellent practitioner would be the right choice for designing training. I suppose its ensuring that the process of designing the training includes some form of challenge to current practice – my experience (outside manufacturing) is that a few practitioners will be highly productive but complete activities in slightly different ways and this can create a rich source of practices to build your training on. Of course, training design shouldn’t be left to the (non-practitioner) expert as 1,000’s opf suitcases traveling a long way from their owners will testify!

  3. I should emphasize that my friend John Howe, from whom I got the concept of expert practitioner, has often used groups of such exemplars to uncover best practices, and ranges of best practice, especially for difficult-to-define jobs. E.g., a group of ethics officers in a government agency would each describe actual situations handled, resources required, decisions made, and results.

    As a group, the exemplars would comment on one another’s approaches, helping clarify either “you could do A, or you could do B” situations as well as assessing relative merits.

    That sounds a great deal like your different ways yielding riches sources, so we two experts seem to at least be traveling in the same direction.

  4. Hi Dave
    I figured it was you! It sounds like a good approach you’ve got – it seems similar to an action learening set. I’ve come to really appreciate the importance of reflective practitioners in organisational learning/ building the capabilities of the organisation.

    Nice to be traveling in the same direction – Pete


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