Like many, I've traveled an odd path to get where I am today. My undergraduate degree is in business/management. Case studies, accounting, finance, the works. Then something happened and instead of going on to get my MBA, I decided that I wanted to study history and anthropology so off to grad school. I'll never forget my first grad school seminar in history. All the other follks in the room had history undergrad degrees so I felt really out of my domain depth. That class was a M,W,F and on Monday the class would be assigned a topic along with a list of potential books on that topic. Come Friday, each student was to have prepared a 5x8 card (both sides) that contained a critique of whatever work they had selected. Not of the subject of that work but of the work itself. Historians refer to this as 'historiography.'
"Furay and Salevouris (1988) define historiography as "the study of the way history has been and is written — the history of historical writing... When you study 'historiography' you do not study the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians."
So you read your book, you write your card and you show up on Friday and you have to defend your critique of the work to the rest of the class. I was nervous but when other people started going something became clear to me - these people might know more about history than me at the moment but no one had ever taught them how to argue a point, at least not in front of anyone. Clio however (the muse of history) is a demanding taskmaster. Soon enough my peers raised their game and we all came out of the class sharper than we had been.
That interaction, the discussion not just of subject matter but of how that subject matter was constructed, is I think critical to a field. It helps keep a field and its associated theorhetical base, sharp and current. What I am looking for now, is historiography's corollary in the instructional design field.
Where are the conferences or conference sessions that examine critically the canon upon which ISD as a field, rests? Where are the contrarians of Bloom, Gagne, Kirkpatrick who go after them not in an ad hominen way but in a way so that not only their conclusions and models are laid bare but also the methodology upon which those conclusions rely? I look at post like these (Vygotsky - the Lysenko of learning, Piaget – why teach this stuff?, Learning Styles Challenge -- Three-Year Update) from Donald Clark and Will Thalheimer and I want more. I want to know where this kind of critical inquiry is part of the ISD curriculum. I want to know where the great keynote speakers are speaking on this and what rooms their sessions are in. (another great one By Donald on "Don't Lecture Me") Give me some Socratic Method please!
Why does this bother me so much? The same reason title like "The 7 Habits of so and so" bother me - are there really only 7? What was #8 and why did it get left out? When self-help speakers do that, its a problem on one level, when people do it in a field as incredibly important and potentially powerful as training, its orders of magnitude more important to be addressed. When someone puts forward a model expounding on the 9 Events then is your first reaction - why 9? That model precludes a discussion about #10 and it also precludes a discussion about why #6 is till in there when its clearly wrong (as example). 4 Levels of evaluation rules out both the 5th and 6th levels but also rules out the notion that maybe evaluation doesn''t break neatly into levels. I'm not saying oppose all models but I am saying that all models and their proponents should be called on regularly to defend themselves and not just queitly adopted
Therein lies I think a HUGE problem facing the training industry and the academic programs that support the education of ISD professionals. These models, rightly or wrongly, soundly designed or based on Flat Earth-level thinking, have not only been adopted but entire business models have been constructed around them. This makes change at the industry level incredibly hard. Add in the fact that entire text books and courses have been written incorporating these models and now change is made difficult at the academic level. This academic portion is even more insidious in a field where there is not an incredibly strong and vibrant sub-discipline of professional self-critique.
So now industry is locked in, academia is locked in, conferences are locked in and at best you have a small population of innovators and thinkers at the edge trying to affect change being resisted by an entire ecosystem. I mean really, look at this post by Will Thalheimer on the crap/fraud/intelelctual crime that is the marriage of Dale's Cone of Experience with percentages. This post came out in 2006 and yet I'd wager you'll find it in slide decks today being taught in conference sessions and classrooms as gospel. We must develop some sort of professional nervous system - some way to relay messages across our entire corporate body that these need to be expunged. One way to do that is to build a strong, independent model of self-inquiry and demand that the canon upon which our field rests, be sharp, current, defensible, based on sound methodloogy and research and we must not tolerate a creeping acquiescence of neatly numbered models into a field of such importance.
If I'm wrong or even if I am right - let's have a conversation about it.