Immunization standards

We call it learning

From training to learning

The Global Training Network for Vaccine Quality (GTN/VQ) was first established in 1996 with the mission to improve practices related to vaccine quality. The overall goal of GTN/VQ is to strengthen, expand and maintain vaccine quality related practices within National Regulatory Authorities (NRA) in developing and middle income countries.

There was a time when people involved in public health education and training believed that the delivery of training was sufficient to guarantee learning, but that day has long since passed. Public health professionals now recognize that learning is an exceedingly complex process. The growing awareness of the complexity of learning has been accompanied by an expansion of learning theories with important implications for the design and implementation of training. Contemporary learning theories such as social constructivism and situated cognition are driving the major shift in GTN/VQ from "training" to "learning." Whereas traditional learning theories have primarily focused on the instructor (trainer) and the delivery of instruction (training), the new learning theories emphasize the creation of effective learning environments that support learning through innovative interactions among facilitators, experts, learners, content, tasks and technologies.

Over the last three years, the philosophy behind the GTN/VQ courses has dramatically changed and new approaches aimed at enhancing the learning environment, learning outcomes, communities of practice and other "learning opportunities" have been developed. Rather than viewing learning as the acquisition of static knowledge, learning within GTN/VQ is understood more in terms of the development of the skills required to access and use knowledge in all its dynamic forms.

Today, progress towards achieving the mission of enhancing practices related to vaccine quality around the world is supported by GTN/VQ through the course development initiatives dedicated to enhancing the professional knowledge and skills of NRA staff and other professionals through a series of innovative learning opportunities. GTN/VQ learning specialists provide support to learners to develop "situated" (as opposed to inert) knowledge, skills, and attitudes through modeling, hands-on activities and extensive practice with substantive feedback. The concept of knowledge being situated comes from contemporary conceptions of cognition and learning that indicate that meaningful learning only occurs when it is embedded in the social and physical context within which it will be used. In addition to formal courses, learning opportunities continue through the establishment of learning communities focused on specific professional practices. Also, GTN/VQ is investing in e-learning opportunities for the future.

With all these changes, it seems that to call to what we do "training" is too limited because "training" puts too much emphasis on an event. Training, as traditionally conceived, takes places in a specific place and time, emphasizes the transmission of information to participants, treats attendees as passive recipients of the information imparted by experts and views the brain as akin to a massive filing-cabinet. “Training” too often focuses on what the trainer does to participants rather than on what the participants do to learn.

With a new focus on learning, we, as members of GTN/VQ, can better think of ourselves as "learning professionals", a perspective that allows us to recognize that we are learners too. We now see ourselves as learners who help other learners learn. A "learning" orientation puts the emphasis on the learner - it is what learners do when presented with new information in the context of real world problems or tasks that is paramount. The responsibility is on the individual to be an active participant in the learning process. Learning focuses on what learners have to do with the facilitator’s help.

From the perspective of a traditional training professional, "training" is very inward focused: what does the trainer produce for the trainee; what does the trainer provide to the trainee; and what does the trainer regard as successful delivery of training? By contrast, "learning" is externally focused: what does the learner need to do to be successful; how does the learning guide or facilitator help; and what evidence can be gathered to demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of learning?

Interestingly, within the "training" industry, there has been a lot of talk about making training more "learner-centric." Training managers are now called chief learning officers. Course management systems have been re-labeled as learning management systems. These changes are good, but why not start at the beginning? We call it LEARNING.

Dr Ümit Kartoğlu, GLO/VQ Coordinator

Last update:

10 November 2011 21:20 CET