Teaching and Learning Within the Management Process
One of the most recognized truths about today's world is that the individual never stops learning. After school and tertiary study, the workplace holds many opportunities for new training and learning. This is particularly so when it comes to complicated work environments, such as finance and banking. For this reason, training forms an important element of ensuring work quality and excellence in customer service. At American Express, both quality of work and customer service form an important part of ensuring that the company's goals and mission statement are met.
Leadership and Team Building
The business world today looks much different from past paradigms, in which managers and leaders tended to focus on control and offering a certain direction to their subordinates. Indeed, today's leaders consider themselves to be more part of the team than being its director as such (Chapter 2, n.d.). Today, the aim is for managers and leaders to extract as much as possible from the intellectual capital within an organization in order to achieve the goals set by that organization. Hence, it is important to handle employees in a way that would make them aware of the defined goals of the company, motivating the employees, and monitoring the performance and outcomes that result from this (Chapter 2, n.d.).
This is also the case in the customer service training offered by American Express. The company provides its employees with thorough training in all the components of their work, including the technical aspects and customer relationships. In this way, employees are equipped with all the skills they need to handle the work that would achieve the goals in terms of profit and customer service.
Employee management at the company therefore occurs by means of what Berkeley refers to as "planning, checking-in, and reviewing." The planning process involves investigating expectations and objectives. At American Express, this is done by discussing and articulating the mission and goals of the company, managers have identified the training needs within the company. These needs have been identified in the areas of "soft skills" and technical skills.
After the training process, the company is now in the position to "check in," which means monitoring employees' performance as a result of the training process. Finally, reviewing is used to identify any further training needs in order to fill any gaps regarding the company's goals and objectives.
The learning theories involved in these efforts include Allen Newell's General Problem Solver (Learning-Theories, 2015) and the Social Learning Theory (Cooper, 2013). For the former, the main focus is on imitation. Employees learn by observing others. This is particularly relevant to learning to work with computer systems. Employees are shown the technical side of their work by training professionals. By observing and imitating this, employees are able to learn how to work with the system. In terms of the latter, employees are taught to solve problems by means of critical thinking. For a company such as American Express, this is a particularly important component of their work with customers. The nature of working with people is such that many unforeseen problems my crop up. This means that those working with such problems must develop their critical problems solving skills in order to serve customers to the best of their ability and according to the company's mission and goals. Furthermore, this also creates a platform for word of mouth advertising, in which customers provide favorable reviews that would result in American Express becoming a favored company among others of its kind.
The leadership development shows a focus on critically investigating different methods of training in order to identify the best one. The investigation focused on comparing the very traditional paradigm of learning, via the teacher has been regarded as a type of all-knowing entity. The same has been true for training in the work context. Later paradigms have done away with this traditional form of learning in favor of more interactive learning paradigms and ultimately self-directed learning (Cooper, 2013).
By comparing the results of the one extreme (classroom, lecturer-focused learning) with the other (self-directed, online learning with little or no intervention from an instructor), the company is able to determine the most effective of the two extremes.
In teaching theory, however, it is seldom advisable to use an extreme approach. In most cases, it is best to use a combination of ways that would work best in terms of outcomes, whether these be student satisfaction, academic outcomes, or long-term usefulness of the learning process. As the case study shows, the most effective method on all platforms was the "blended learning" approach.
The teaching theories I saw utilized here include a focus on the behaviorism category, as explained by the Learning-Theories website (2015). This theory focuses on the ability of the individual to be behaviorally modified by means of various stimuli. The instructor provides the stimuli in a classroom setup, while the recipient of the stimuli is expected to internalize the information, use it, and benefit from it.
Self-directed learning, as attempted by the online platform where learners do their own learning without interaction by others focus on the idea that each learner has an innate cognitive ability and an innate motivation to learn new information. The assumption is also that each learner has his or her own personal learning style, which makes an individualized learning platform ideal. The learning paradigm in this strategy focuses on Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of Intelligence (Cooper, 2013). This theory focuses on the individual as governed by the self. Just like nations have governments, this theory recognizes the ability of the individual to govern his or her own desires, needs, and duties. Hence, self-directed learning focuses on the innate ability to govern oneself.
It is interesting that self-directed learning is not as effective as a combination between social learning and self-directed learning. Regardless of individual innate ability, it is also true that people need social contact in order to function optimally. Hence, the results of the investigation regarding the leadership training venues, the combination of time-tested and proven methods appear to be best. It is also worth noting that the existing theories of teaching and learning all have an element of "truth" in them. In other words, each theory -- however flawed by current standards -- contains an inherent element from which educators and trainers can learn.
The Blended Learning Approach
The most important component of teaching and learning today is recognizing that learners are human. In other words, no single theory of learning applies universally to all. Hence, it makes sense that a blended approach worked better for the group investigated at American Express. Some learners will benefit more from the classroom approach, while others would benefit from the online approach.
It is also important to recognize that some learners will benefit from different focus points on the two paradigms. Some learners, for example would benefit from a greater focus on the sociological, supportive component combined with minimal online intervention. Others, however, would learn more when exposed to an emphasis on the online environment with minimal intervention from the interactive component.
While the investigation has therefore shown that a blended learning venue is most beneficial in general, it might also be beneficial to divide the same investigation to identify subgroups of learning. In this way, individuals can themselves determine which learning opportunity would benefit them most. For this reason, this kind of learning opportunity would benefit from constant investigation, where the "check-in" and "reviewing" components would benefit not only the company, but also individuals and their personal motivation.
Training needs to be handled very carefully to make sure all employees are fully invested and motivated to undergo professional development. This would require more than simple adages that attempt to motivate employees with the well-tried "you need to know this" or similar phrases. Once employers understand that employees are human beings with different motivations and psychological and learner setups, it will be easier to create groups that learners can choose from. A learner who knows best in a self-directed way will then choose a group that provides this kind of learning, and so on.
Regarding the blended-learning approach, I do believe that it has far more benefits in terms of the whole-group approach than either of the others. On the other hand, I also believe that individual needs and differences should be recognized when creating platforms for group learning. Of course, if budget constraints are an issue, a business would have to choose a singular best approach; in this case this would be blended learning.
The Benefits of Learning Within and Beyond the Workplace
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