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Bus Company Greenline: Training Process Issues Case Study

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Updated: Jun 28th, 2022

Introduction

Sarah has been training as an assessor in one of Greenline Bus Company’s assessment centres, the company’s effective way of recruiting and selecting drivers. Here in the assessment centres, applicants undergo psychometric tests and interviews.

Sarah has some problems as an assessor. She fails to meet the required standard of interviewing. Because of some lapses, her trainers could not award her the required certification as an assessor. And she could not just be redeployed by the company because of the investment already made on her. The trainers however say that Sarah is successful sometimes in the interviewing process but also forgets her past lessons. She can give direction to the interviews and cannot just be led astray by the applicants. Sometimes she can build a rapport with an applicant, but sometimes not. Sarah feels she does not deserve a failing mark. Her manager also feels she is adaptable and can easily adjust with her superior. She needs to be given another chance.

The Problem

This paper asks: why is Sarah having difficulty with learning the skills required for the type of interview in the assessment centre? Why are the rest of the trainees getting the lessons correctly, but she does not?

In analyzing and determining the underlying reasons regarding Sarah’s difficulty in her training as an assessor, we have to consider several factors, for example, Sarah’s physical condition, psychological state, and other environmental factors that contribute to a person’s accommodation and assimilation of new knowledge.

Klein (1987, quoted in Klein and Mowrer 1989, p. 1) defines learning as “a relatively permanent change in the ability to exhibit a behavior; this change occurs as the result of successful or unsuccessful experience”. Klein’s definition stresses that the experience can be successful or unsuccessful.

Sarah’s learning seems to be a difficult task despite the fact that she has to adjust and adapt to the new knowledge. Her job as an assessor is new although she has been training for a year. She has been with the company for fifteen years as a driver, and a year as an assessor, although her being an assessor is still in question. Her age is around thirty plus something, or early 40s. And the reason why she has ‘retired’ from driving in Greenline is because she has complained of back trouble. That seems to be not a good state of health. There is more than the psychological aspect, though it is a major factor in her learning difficulties.

Moreover, management should consider that they are into a different kind of learning involving adults: adult learning. The assessors are not really that young, and the company accepts mostly experienced drivers, with experience in emergency situations. On the other hand, assessors are conducting their on-the-job training on driver applicants who may be experienced in interviews like the ones Sarah is doing. They can be more experienced than Sarah.

Cognitive theory

Cognitive theory is “built around the task of understanding the frameworks through which individuals interpret their world.” (Cray & Mallory 1998, p. 144).

Sarah interprets her world through her thought processes influenced by her experiences. And we can understand her predicament by her performance as an assessor, which is not satisfactory. Although forgetting is normal, her situation is not. She forgets what she has learned. Could this be a problem of cognition, or some other reason?

We have no chance of a physical check-up on Sarah, but we can say that there is something more to the psychological problem. Back trouble or back pain is a symptom of some hidden and serious illness. Nevertheless, we can deduce some facts on cognitive theory.

Vourlekis (1999, p. 173) explains cognitive theory:

The theory focuses on the acquisition and function of human thought and knowledge: how and what one comes to think and know, and the role this plays in what one does and feels. Person’s cognitions include thoughts, memories, and reflections of what they feel and do, and of their experiences with their environment, including all of the people in it. It is through cognition that the external environment is rendered uniquely real and meaningful for each individual.

The cognitive process covers major activities and functions of the human thought. Through cognition experience is processed or given relation and connection with our “inside” functions. When we see and feel something, we give our own unique explanation and reaction to that particular experience. The process is called cognition.

Sarah’s “deficiency” in her memory may be caused by her difficulties in her cognitive properties. Something prevents her to remember what she has just learned. The interconnection of her experience, i.e. her learning or training the basics of being an assessor is not so “recognized” in her cognition process. She has not adapted to her present experience as an assessor; she can not process the new knowledge. She finds it difficult to meet the required standard of interviewing which is a new strategy introduced by the company to find out how candidates or applicants have dealt with emergencies in the past; that means the applicants’ experiences as drivers. The new process involves interviewing applicants on incidents where they are to apply their emergency skill and alertness. This is very relevant in the applicants’ ability to deal with future events where they will surely handle accidents and emergencies involving lives of passengers.

The constructivist theory

On the other hand, in the constructivist idea, the learner can have a free flow of information; he/she can compare and elaborate on the new ideas and concepts to what is already present in her mind. She can brainstorm by herself, ask, and apply what she has in store so that a new knowledge is open for her to understand. Truth may not be that far, but if there are discrepancies or contradictions, she can adapt to the situation and provide more understanding to the new knowledge. But in this idea, the process of applying knowledge to a new learning is automatic, meaning the learner is not conscious that his/her mind and self are doing the process of comparing, elaborating, or brainstorming. What is explained by theorists on constructivism is that when one learns, knowledge is a part of him, and it becomes innate in the person. He/she has something to process when a new learning comes along.

The question still remains: why is Sarah forgetting? She is not processing her experience properly. Sometimes she gets it, or she understands most recent training lessons but also sometimes, she forgets the preceding ones. If she absorbs the lessons now, the next week, she may not. In her training sessions as an assessor, she absorbs and understands. She passes her supposed exam, and her superior and trainers can attest to that. This is so because she has years of experience not just as a driver, but as a human being, not to mention her years of experience in the company. However, there are skills missing in her that have to be polished, practiced, molded, formed, etc, that should become a part of her experience and a new learning.

Moreover, guidance and the learning process are not enough. Her trainers should be able to guide her all throughout the learning process. But the training should not be a ‘feeding’ experience. The trainers are there to ‘guide on the side’; meaning they are not to dictate but only to guide and give opportunity on possible learning ‘feeds’.

More explanations on cognitive theory

Vourlekis (1999, p. 174) adds: Cognitive-learning and cognitive-behavioral theorists illuminate fundamental processes through which a person’s thinking influences behavior, as well as the ways in which one’s behavior and the environmental response or consequences of that behavior influence thinking.

Sarah’s behavior reflects her thinking and physical state. She complains of back pains too. This is connected with the spinal column and into the brain. If you’re feeling something bad, what learning can you get?

Additionally, her own process of cognition is not normal. If she’s forgetting, it is possible that she is not absorbing well. Her experience is not enough because according to the cognitive theory, she can process all these through her cognition of the new experience. This means she does not have the experience as an assessor, and rightly so. She’s an experienced driver and not an experienced interviewer or assessor. Her applicant/interviewees might be more experienced than her in an interview scenario. But, it doesn’t mean it’s all useless. She still can prove to herself and to the company that she can deliver. Through her cognition, she will still learn her way as an assessor. She has to fight her forgetting the lessons.

Psychologically Sarah has not modified her behavior patterns with the new experience. She is also in the denial state: she thinks she can do it. She is disappointed with the centre’s dissatisfaction of her performance. This should not be so, she argues. She knows she has the capacity and the knowledge to be an assessor, and therefore she should be given a chance to prove herself. After all, it’s only a matter of time. The company and the centre should not force her to work in haste; the job requires time and efforts to be perfected.

But, in the cognitive process, there is a cause and effect. While we can theorize that Sarah’s predicament is the effect of past experiences, there are also physical factors, or a part of her physical environment is causing her forgetting.

Vourlekis (1999, p. 178) says of cognitive domain: What is cognition? What mental phenomena are of interest to cognitive theorists? By tradition, all of the so-called higher mental processes – knowledge, consciousness, intelligence, thinking, imagining, creating, generating plans and strategies, reasoning, inferring, problem solving, conceptualizing, classifying and relating, symbolizing, and even fantasizing and dreaming – are included. To these are added perception, memory, attention, and learning, leaving one to wonder what psychological processes are not cognitive (Flavell, 1985). Perhaps that is the important point: virtually all human psychological activity has a cognitive aspect.

In effect, this is the entire experience and perception of the world. We are very much affected by everything around us. Every feeling, emotion, perception, thinking that we can produce or emote, is affected and influenced by the world around us. In learning, in new knowledge, feelings and emotions, they are all sensitive to the events and happenings in the environment and the world. Whatever we can give out is a result of what we have received. Therefore, Sarah’s forgetfulness is a result of a past experience. We don’t need to expound on that particular experience; it is just enough to say that it is a negative experience.

In the article entitled “Adult Learning: An Overview”, Brookfield (1995) cites the four major areas of research in Adult Learning. These are:

Self-Directed learning – Adults decide of the way they want to learn, what ways to use, and they also evaluate their own progress. This is one of the most common practices in the concept of self-direction, where people decide their own direction or career: where they are going, or where and how they want to be. And, so they manage to learn new experiences, but the quality of these experiences and learning remains to be seen. In the present technology boom, computers, the internet, and effective communication, faster means of transportation, people of different races and culture resort to self-directed learning. There are the means and ways right at the moment they want. Self-direction has been criticized for its quality and reliability.

Sarah did not decide to be an assessor. Her company did. And she has to cope with the decision. She is directing herself to a new learning which she cannot cope what with her present state of health, psychological stress, and the new experience.

Critical Reflection – This is common on adults, not on children. Adults have the capability to reflect or think about their situation. They can think of philosophies, religion, and work and its purpose. Adults advance in their learning because they know how to digest and compare things, and reflect on his existence. Moreover, he/she knows the value of work, and what work does not have real value. He can philosophize on things and events in his life.

In other words, in adult learning we are faced with many ideas, philosophies, and things about our existence, our way of living, to include the rules, statutes, and laws governing our existence, and we have the ability to reflect, change, or recommend for new changes on these ideas. There are ideas that we always consider about and talk with our fellow human beings. These ideas maybe new but for a span of time, they become ‘old’ for our present way of life. And so we reflect on them and act on them. There are many ideas and philosophies that we have learned in the past, and some of them have ruled our lives and are still applicable to our present times. But times change. As they say, there’s only one permanent thing: change.

Experiential Learning – Brookefield (1995) quotes Lindeman as saying, “experience is the adult learner’s living textbook” (1926, p. 7, cited in Brookefield). This is one aspect of the constructivist theory which uses experience to learn and build new ideas.

We have all the experience that can be applied to our predicament, and to Sarah’s predicament. She can help herself through these major areas of adult learning. She can critically reflect on her learning as an assessor. She alone can help herself by practicing, and doing it constantly.

Learning to learn – Kitchener and King (1990, cited in Brookefield, 1995) studied ‘learning to learn’ on young adults, and they proposed the concepts of “epistemic cognition and reflective judgment.” These two state that “learning how to learn involves an epistemological awareness deeper than simply knowing how one scores on a cognitive style inventory, or what is one’s typical or preferred pattern of learning.” (Brookefield, 1995)

The experiential type of learning can be applied in Sarah’s situation. There are certain areas of the brain that still have to be filled with more experiences, such as the part or the role of the assessor.

Trainers must be well versed with adult learning because assessors like Sarah are into their continuing education. What the trainers are doing in the assessment centre is adult learning. And adult learning is a complex method, as discussed briefly in this paper. There are no shortcuts in what they are ‘teaching’ or introducing to Sarah and the other assessors.

In their book “Workshop”, Brooks-Harris and Stock-Ward (1999, p. xix) explains why some are able to grasp and learn in a workshop, and they said that there are more “hypotheses [on this situation] rather than empirically established facts. For example, we assert […] certain types of learners will prefer and benefit from certain types of workshop activities.”

This is the same as Sarah’s predicament. Training and workshop are two synonymous events of learning. Sarah has that slow aspect of learning, the interviewing part. There are those participants of workshops or training who will not benefit from some activities, and hence they cannot learn so easily.

Webb (2006) says: “Experiential Learning Theory has depicted learning as an open system wherein sensory data from the environment enters the system of the person as concrete experiencing and exits the system of the person through active experimentation.”

This is processing of the experience that an individual gets in the day to day life. Sarah’s experience as driver gives her the necessary learning. Learning is processed in her brain and her mental faculties absorb the experiences. She gives out the knowledge through experimentation and applying it to other new experiences. Yet, the problem remains in Sarah. She’s not normally absorbing the required experience. There is something wrong with her health, she cannot apply the so-called experimentation.

Sarah’s physical condition is in question. In our scenario, it was not mentioned that she underwent some physical check-ups or medical examinations. She just had some back trouble. She needs complete rest and medical check-up. And if she feels all right then she will be able to proceed with the training.

Conclusion

Sarah’s cognitive processes have been affected due to her physical health.

Moreover, what should be enforced in the assessment centre is a constant practice for Sarah. Sarah feels she’s doing well and she ought not to be punished by being redeployed. She needs more experience as an assessor. Doing it constantly with ease and determination, and doing it often, will allow her to perfect the trade.

Some modifications have to be applied on the training method on Sarah. This can be taken from adult learning theories that should be properly instituted on the Greenline’s assessment centre. Her predicament is both on psychological and physical. This is in addition to the experiential theory applied on her predicament – that she still has to polish her being assessor through more experience. As we have discussed, the other trainees are getting the required lessons, or that they are absorbing well; they don’t forget and they do the interviewing without much problem.

Her experiences in the day-to-day life and her stint with the company could have been more than enough to understand the situation and the training lessons. But she could not respond properly because of physical, aggravated by psychological problems. Stress has gotten into her psyche.

Initially in our theory, Sarah’s experience gives us the opinion that her experience in the company Greenbusline is questionable. This is manifested in our scenario and the other manifestations she has displayed. Following this, a possible therapy and treatment should be pointed along this line.

References

Brooks-Harris, J. E. and Stock-Ward, S. R., 1999. Designing and Facilitating Experiential Learning. London: Published by SAGE.

Brookefield, S. 1995. Adult Learning: An Overview. International Encyclopedia of Education Oxford, Pergamon Press. 2008. Web.

Cray, D. and Mallory, G., 1998. Making Sense of Managing Culture. London: International Thomson Business Press.

Fritscher, L. 2008. Cognitive Theory. Web.

Klein, S. B. and Mowrer, R. R., 1989. Contemporary Learning Theories: Instrumental Conditioning Theory and the Impact of Biological Constraints on Learning. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Pavlov, I. P., Conditioned reflexes: An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex. (Translated by G.V. Anrep, 1929). In “”, by Christopher Green. 2008. Web.

Vourlekis, B. S., 1999. Cognitive theory for social work practice. In R. Greene (ed), Human behavior theory and social work practice (2nd ed.) p. 173-185. New York: Aldine De Gruyyer.

Webb, M. W., 2006. . Phase Two: Learning Modes and the Four Stage Cycle. Web.

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