Learning is doing as doing is learning. The primary biological purpose of neurological activity is found in how it is associated with motor activity in ways that allow an organism to couple with its environment through movement (Maturana, H.R. & Varela,1992). The problem with many educational activities is in how they over emphasize representation and under emphasize the activity that is the true target of learning. Most classroom activities focus on manipulating symbols and leads to the recall of these symbolic representations. Problems occur in the gap frequently seen between representations and an inability ability to act based on those representations. What is needed instead is a holistic approach that creates a new portfolio of actions to replace an old portfolio (Zeleny, 2008). The outcome of learning activities, the test of learning if you will, should be the performance of new activities not the recall of representations. Zeleny gives an example of this type of thinking through his assessment approach to strategy. Strategy is not found in plans and statements. It is found in the action a company takes. If you want to know what a company’s strategy is, look at the actions they take and the structure of those actions. Do not look at what they say. Talking does not convey their strategy, acting does.
Workplace learning is moving beyond the classroom to a holistic approach to performance improvement. Emphasizing learning transfer is not going to significantly help performance unless it can recognize that learning is about doing, not in grasping representations of doing. Real learning is not learning about doing, it is learn to do. Classroom training may occupy a small part of any program, but most training and performance support must focus on the location where actions are performed and focus what is actually needed to support doing.
Zeleny, M. (2008). Strategy and strategic action in the global era: overcoming the knowing-doing gap International Journal of Technology Management, 43, 64-75.
Maturana, H.R. & Varela, F.J. (1992). The Tree of Knowledge: THe Biological Roots of Human Understanding, Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications Inc.