Article (010614) - Why I Won't (or can't) Tell You "The Answer" in my Corporate Education Program and/ or Class...
Originally published 01/06/2014
Over the years, many students have asked me a question about the “answer” being "TOLD" in corporate education/training and/or college classes that I have taught! I hope that this article is helpful for you in understanding why that is not possible in many instances and when it is possible, it it not probable.
I teach adult learners. In formal academic programs at universities (only graduate level as of this writing) and in onsite corporate education/ training programs at employer locations. Adult education is all about learning how to think (e.g., critical thinking) and not about what to think (e.g., factual answers). For example, all of primary education (elementary school, middle school, etc.) is about learning factual data (e.g., the alphabet, multiplication tables, etc.). In this type of education there is a "right" answer and a "wrong" answer (e.g., B comes after A and before C, 2 x 2 = 4, etc.). This level of education is about rote memorization and repeated exposure to these facts. At the most fundamental level there is no critical thinking or original analysis (e.g., it is not debated whether 1+1 = 2 or whether Z should be the last letter of the alphabet).
As a student enters the first (or primary) level of adult education programs (e.g., entry level job training) and/ or academic studies (e.g., undergraduate degree programs), the assumption is that the adult student already knows all of the foundational facts (the alphabet, spelling, grammar, addition, multiplication, geography, biology, etc.). At this level the student takes all of the basic knowledge and begins applying it to more advanced questions and begins developing critical thinking. The goal here is for the student to develop their basic critical thinking and understand the difference between facts and everything else (propaganda, lies, hyperbole, manipulation, etc.).
In advanced level adult education programs (e.g., supervisory and manager training) and/ or academic studies (e.g., graduate school) the assumption is that an adult student has their factual foundation, has developed their basic critical thinking skills and will now solve problems with their own original ideas. In a master's degree program the student solves problems with their own original analysis and in a doctoral level program the student actually creates not just original solutions, but original questions to ask (a dissertation for example).
Thus, in advanced level adult education programs and/or graduate degree program, I am here as an educator to ensure high level critical thinking, utilization of credible sources, appropriate level mechanics (e.g., spelling, grammar, etc.) and ensure that student work is original. It is not possible for me to "answer" questions that do not have "an answer." What is ethical? How can that be "right" or "wrong" in terms of an individual student analysis?
The concept at these advanced levels is that the student reads what other individuals think (e.g., in a text, in other credible sources, etc.), but that is just to expose them to original ideas that other people have thought up. Is an author (or expert, or consultant) "right" or "wrong?" Some scholars would say she is “right” and other scholars would vehemently disagree.
Whereas an a primary level adult learner or student would focus on questions of whether an author is a credible source or not and simply regurgitate back what they read; that is not what advanced level learners and/ or graduate students do. Primary level students are trying to learn whether a source is credible and if so then the students work through understanding what that source is actually stating and proposing. This is simply the process of an adult discerning whether a person (or source) is a liar or may actually know what they are discussing with a level of credibility. The primary level adult learner then continues to develop their vocabulary, reading comprehension, abstract thinking and writing skills to be able to understand what the source is proposing and to be able to recite it (or regurgitate) it back (e.g., "The author states...." or, "Our employee handbook states...").
An advanced learner and/ or graduate student is beyond that level and goes even further. After determining whether a source is credible, understanding what the source is proposing and being able to recite it back, the most important step is the advanced learner applying their own original analysis to that content. What does that individual believe? Why do they believe that? As long as the adult advanced learner is able to articulate, support and defend their persuasive original analysis, they are "correct." Of course, if the learner is lacking in their skill set (e.g., they are not able to identify credible sources, or they have weak reading comprehension and/or writing skills, or they are not able to articulate accurately what their source actually stated, etc.), they will not be successful in an advanced level professional position and/ or graduate degree program.
I am able to "answer the question" whether an employer organization should have an employee handbook. This is a basic primary level question. The advanced level learner has to be able to decide on their own what the handbook should consist of (from an HR perspective, management perspective, executive perspective, vendor perspective, client perspective, etc.). Deciding what an organization stands for (values, mission statement, etc.) is incredibly exciting and abstract. The individual has to use their critical thinking skills and decide "the answer" (and then work within the framework of their infrastructure to collaborate with other stakeholder interests and individuals).
Each level of higher adult education requires a mastery of the level(s) that preceded it (a high school student who does not know their alphabet or multiplication tables will fail, etc.). When I teach advanced level adult learners (managers, supervisors) and/ or master’s degree level university courses, I am assessing the student original analysis of the source content. In a mastery level adult learner program (executives) and/ or doctoral course I am assessing the original analysis and each learner also poses their own unique questions for research and analysis. This mastery level adult learner is the one making the decisions in real life (the CEO, etc.) so they are not able to only interpret and follow source material (e.g., what their manager told them, etc.) as they are the one who is in charge of defining the questions and answering them for their organization (in collaboration with other stakeholder interests).
Therefore, in my adult learner advanced and mastery level adult education and/ or graduate courses I am not able to tell the “answers” as each person has their own “answers.” I assess the credible sources (where did you get this formation?), the mechanical skills (how are you communicating this information?) and critical thinking (what is your analytical ability to own your individual thought process?). My feedback will focus on ensuring that the original analysis is based on a foundation of facts and research. An advanced or mastery level adult learner and/ or graduate scholar cannot simply make up “information” (e.g., 2x2 = 47 because the student simply says so, etc.). The learner has to have the accurate factual foundation, understand the advanced theories and research that they studied accurately (and cite them correctly in academic and formal business settings) and then explain and support their own analysis (in an advanced corporate education program and/or master’s degree program) or express their own original research (in a mastery level adult learner program and/or doctoral degree program).
Courtney Elizabeth Anderson, Esq., J.D., M.B.A., M.S.
"The Workplace Relationship Expert" ™ practicing the "Joyful Art of Business!"™ around the world!