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20 Technology and Human Resource Development

Richard A. Swanson Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

INTRODUCTION

Intense discussions about advancing technology have been around for three hundred years. Certainly the industrial revolutions of the 1700s and 1800s were watershed periods. Talking about technology advances is not new. Advancing technology for the past century has been largely about the core production and delivery of goods and services and the impact that technology has had on the nature of work and society.

The detailed lens-grinding case example in the WWII Training Within Industry Report (Dooley, 1945; Jacobs, 2003) is a vivid example of the interplay between HRD and technology. In that case, the quality of airplane gunnery lenses was a life-and-death matter. Trainers analyzed the work required (technology) and trained workers to perform the work at a very high level.

This first tier contact of HRD with technology still remains a large challenge to the profession as it goes about developing and unleashing human expertise for the purpose of improving performance. Most organizations are in a constant battle to keep their workforce technology expertise up to standard and helping to meet this challenge is one of the primary roles of HRD.

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8 Perspectives on Performance in Human Resource Development

Richard A. Swanson Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

INTRODUCTION

This chapter examines core theories of performance that inform the performance perspective of HRD. Unlike learning theory that is essentially focused solely on the individual, performance theory is much more diverse. Performance theories address individuals, teams, processes, and organizational systems. Some theories are multilevel.

One of the hallmarks of performance theories is that they all attempt to capture the complexity of organizational systems while still presenting a set of constructs discrete enough to be usable. Given the complexity of organizational systems, it is easy to develop a model so complex that it becomes unwieldy. Thus, most performance theories take a particular perspective so as to define a more limited range of useful performance ideas while maintaining their integrity with systems theory. Imagine picking up a crystal and turning it in the light—each perspective yields a slightly different view. Such is the case with performance theory, where each theory is an attempt to capture adequate complexity but still be useful to the HRD profession.

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Richard A. Swanson Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781609947132

7 Apply Phase

Richard A. Swanson Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

THE APPLY PHASE of theory building in applied disciplines seems straightforward on the surface—putting the theory in practice. If a theory-building effort has established evidence to accept a theory, the next logical phase would be to apply it. Of course, if the evidence supports a decision to reject a theory, there could be a problem with the original conceptualized idea or how it was operationalized. The theorist must choose to return to one of the previous phases based on what was learned. Ideally, the Apply phase assumes a successful theory-building effort that has been shown to fit within a realm of human/human systems activity.

Theories must involve practice and research. Theories must explain what something is and how it works (Torraco, 1997). We will add that theories must also tell you how to do something. Theories that do not include descriptions of how the theory works fall short.

Application can also be positioned as a starting point itself. For example, new problems arise in practice that create the need for further understanding, pushing the theorist to develop new ideas and to conceptualize how something works. The purpose of this chapter is to describe approaches to application within the General Method of Theory Building in Applied Disciplines (Figure 7.1). Specifically, this chapter will

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7 Paradigms of Human Resource Development

Richard A. Swanson Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

INTRODUCTION

Like most professional disciplines, Human Resource Development (HRD) includes multiple paradigms for practice and research. A paradigm is defined as a

“coherent tradition of scientific research” (Kuhn, 1996, p. 10). Thus, multiple paradigms represent fundamentally different views of HRD, including its goals and aims, values, and guidelines for practice. It is important to understand each paradigm, as they often lead to different approaches to solving HRD problems and to different research questions and methodologies. It is also important that each person develops a personal belief system about which paradigm or blend of paradigms will guide his or her practice. This chapter reviews the major paradigms, discusses the learning versus performance debate, examines core philosophical and theoretical assumptions of each paradigm, and examines their merger.

OVERVIEW OF THE HRD PARADIGMS

For our purposes, we divide HRD into two paradigms, the learning paradigm and the performance paradigm (Figure 7.1) These two paradigms are the most clearly defined and dominate most HRD thinking and practice. A third paradigm, the meaning of work and work-life integration is an emerging perspective

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