Will's Learning Landscape Model

Will Thalheimer has developed the Learning Landscape Model and created this 13 minute video to explain it.

Overall I find the model useful, though I would replace “Learning” (at 2:15) with “Instruction”, because that’s really what training departments provide in order to promote on-job-performance.

It is also good to see on-job-learning as part of the model. The various measurement points, beyond Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation, (at 9:50) are really worth noting. There are over a dozen measurements noted that are often ignored in organizations.

If you’re in the learning & development (L&D) field I would highly recommend this video and further perusal of Will’s work.

As the video concludes (from 10:39) Will shows the divided responsibilities of Learning versus Business professionals. This division of responsibility highlights a problem with our current work support structures.

Handing-off from learning to working is a vestige of the industrial mindset and reminds me of Waterfall software development models. We need to integrate learning and working, using something more akin to an Agile model, as Sahana Chattopadhyay recently described. My challenge to L&D professionals would be to integrate and support the entire model, not just the parts in pink. This is what the 21st century training department needs to do.

The Learning Landscape Model is based on solid research, as is all of Will’s work, and provides an excellent framework for L&D departments to practice their craft. While I don’t think it’s enough, it’s a good place to start the journey of developing the necessary emergent work practices for the next century.

5 Responses to “Will's Learning Landscape Model”

  1. Sahana Chattopadhyay

    Thank you for the mention, Harold.
    I was fortunate to attend this session when Will conducted it at ISPI_Mass. At that point, I had felt that this model came close to turning a training intervention into an on-the-job performance support and blurred the edges between training and learning, and actual performance. This, as you and others have repeatedly mentioned, is the key to building learning organizations. In short, tear down the wall between training and business–the two have to merge to handle the complexities of the current work environment.

    I also think frequent prompts, supports and feedback, if embedded in the design, can develop adaptive thinking skills by helping workers correct their action and change course mid-stream, if required. This sort of built-in support removes the apprehension of making “costly” mistakes and encourages non-linear/innovative thinking–much required today to deal with the complexities and ambiguities.

    • Harold Jarche

      I find Will’s model quite practical and would use it myself if I was in a training department. Like you, Sahana, I’m glad to see on-job support as part of the model. In my opinion, the model does not need to change, just the roles.

      Gary Wise’s PDR Design model is another example of integrating work & learning.

  2. virginia Yonkers

    I find the “business” side useful, but I have to question whether those who are supposed to be giving learning support in on the job training are prepared for it. It reminds me of those that come out of the university as “experts” in the field are expected to be able to pass on that expertise without any training in teaching or instructional methods. Because they “know” the material does not mean they can support learning the material.

    That is one advantage to this model. T&D would need to recognize that more training (for those that are expected to support the learning on the job) may be needed on the business end.

    • Harold Jarche

      The separation of roles is artificial, as is the separation of T&D from OD or KM et al. Functional management grew out of FW Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management (1911), a flawed document at the time and now just outdated.

  3. Sahana Chattopadhyay

    Virginia has raised a practical challenge of the inability of experts unable to pass on their expertise.
    I think that since expertise consists of (to a large extent) tacit knowledge unfettered by rules and guidelines, this could be one of the main reasons why experts find it difficult to pass on their expertise. OTOH, people at a level below make better trainers, coaches and mentors. They are able to articulate the process they follow. Helping such people to become trainers and coaches would beneficial.

    One of the ways to embed support in the work environment itself would be to have managers become coaches. This role change is probably one of the crucial needs of this century.

    As Harold has mentioned and I have seen from my experience too, separating T&D from OD and KM creates a barrier to the development of a learning organization. It is no longer a linear world where each department can perform their job in isolation and still expect to remain effective or add value. Everything is hitched to everything else, so to speak.


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