Perplexing Pedagogy: New Teaching Techniques for a New Generation?


Perplexing Pedagogy: New Teaching Techniques for a New Generation?

I recently received a call from my adult son. “Dad, I found a YouTube video on how to change my car’s headlight. It said I should remove the front tire to get to the headlamp. Seems weird. Does that make sense to you?” Given his particular car make and model, that was the only solution, and Dad didn’t know it. Result: both “learners” came away with a better understanding of the challenge and owned the solution.

Yes, my son started with YouTube and then verified with his go-to gray beard, but was his approach to learning (an interactive lesson enhanced with input from a subject matter expert) any different from the most successful forms of teaching for any generation?

Some of our government customers, facing a massive loss of experienced baby boomers to retirement, are losing sleep over how to respond to this modern phenomenon. The new workforce is impatient with the old passive way of training and education. So, they must learn differently. Correct? In my role on the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) professional paper peer review subcommittee, the question frequently comes up. Government, academic and industry members debate the issue with no clear agreement.

Teaching Techniques

Active Engagement Is the Answer and It’s Not New!

Most learners, new and not-so-new, agree they retain new information most efficiently when they actively participate in the experience. Sitting in a classroom listening to the “Sage on the Stage” has its place, but a steady diet of this delivery method can quickly lose its appeal. If there are no alternatives, the objective becomes getting through the training effort and not necessarily gaining knowledge. Alternatively, an approach that allows the learner to actively engage in the learning process using technology to discover new knowledge, then reinforce through involvement with an expert, is an approach of choice for young and old, novice and experienced. This active engagement by the learner can be accomplished through Flipping the Classroom techniques, Blended Learning Environments or Virtual and Simulated Learning Environments. As evidenced by my son’s attempt to change a headlamp, my own adult children generally prefer to find an answer or solution online before asking for help.

Delivery Not Curriculum Disconnects

Blended learning may be age agnostic, but delivery still reveals fault lines. Digital natives or digital warriors are terms sometimes used to describe the new workforce. Digital technology is second nature to them. It’s not overwhelming or intimidating, it just is. Capabilities brought to them through the internet, digital devices and social media, are common and essential. Consequently, they are comfortable and expert at exploiting the technology to fill the gaps in their knowledge library.

The challenge is to design, develop and deliver learning solutions enabling the student to take full advantage of the technology in an engaging manner. One way to think about it – don’t let the learning delivery get in the way of learning. Our Training development teammates in Virginia Beach are masters of this concept and have developed innovative engaging solutions for the Army, Marine Corps, National Highway Institute and the FAA.

We at Engility are embracing this approach as well. Just like meeting our customer’s training needs, the challenge of assimilating the new workforce can impact other functions within the company: Talent Acquisition, Human Resources or Learning Development. Active engagement that applies technology offers a viable approach to enhancing our workforce and addressing mission needs of our government customers.

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Posted by Mike Finnern

I am the Director of Training and Learning Solutions with the Technical Solutions Group. In addition to military aviation, the majority of my 28 years in the U.S. Air Force focused on training execution and training policy development in the Joint, USAF and OSD Staff. I hold a master’s degree in Logistics Management, am an officer in the National Training and Simulation Association Executive Committee and have been with Engility (via Titan and L-3 MPRI) since 2005.