Thursday, September 30, 2021

Gery - Performance support and EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems)

Gloria Gery in her groundbreaking Electronic performance support system: How and why to remake the workplace through the strategic application of technology (1991) presented the idea of performance centred design and electronic tools to improve productivity and performance. A shift in mindset was required to move from training to performance and then to performance support. It is a work that was ahead of its time, as the technology has only recently caught up with her ideas. She later moved into developing schools in Nepal and work with vulnerable children in Romania.


The apprenticeship model, which is centuries old, has a focus of learning on the job, under supervision. This developed, in the Industrial Revolution and under the pressure for skilled labour during two World Wars into more formal training. We eventually institutionalised this into formal training through designed courses and that model has been dominant for seventy years. Of course, learning on the job was always there but regarded as beyond the control of professional trainers. Gilbert and Rummler, from The Praxis Group (1970), published a paper that expressed real scepticism about the direction of travel in training towards separate classroom courses and pushed the idea of job aids and performance support. Gilbert’s Human Competences (1978) gave training a new focus on performance. 

Performance problems

Gery, in Training vs. performance support (1989), saw performance problems as a major business problem, especially when introducing new technology. This requires a shift away from traditional training, thorough courses. She understood that this shift in mindset required dissatisfaction with the status quo and the existing available and affordable alternatives. It requires a significant change in the learning culture with all stakeholders prepared to make the leap from training to learning then performance. This means changing the whole way we design learning experiences.

The shift for Gery, from ‘Traditional training’ to ‘Performance support’ saw learning, not as separate from work but integrated with work. Technology plays more of a role in allowing learners to become more responsible for their learning,as it is driven by need or demand, rather than predefined Subject Matter Expert input and trainer intervention. Gery wanted the pendulum to swing sharply towards performance support, not abandoning all formal training, but most of it. Supporting people while they are working, she thought, led to fewer errors and mistakes, shorter time to competence and increases in productivity.


An EPSS is not a traditional help system, which is limited in scope and not individualised or personalised to the user or task at hand. It is designed from the user or learner’s point of view, not the trainer or instructor. For Gery “an integrated electronic environment that is available to and easily accessible by each employee and is structured to provide immediate, individualized on-line access to the full range of information, software, guidance, advice and assistance, data, images, tools, and assessment and monitoring systems to permit job performance with minimal support and intervention by others.” It should, if possible, be contextualised.

The idea that a computer-driven system could deliver integrated information, advice, and learning experiences, was very different from traditional training experiences, offline or online.

Barker and Banerji’s (1995) later define EPSS as having four levels: 

  1. User interface shell (interface) and the database

  2. Tools (help system, documentation, text retrieval system, intelligent agents, tutoring facility, simulation tools and communication resources)

  3. Application-specific support tools

  4. Target domain (schools, particular business settings, military, etc.).

Ger’s book was written just prior to the introduction of the internet and mobile technology but even this was not enough to deliver what she envisioned. It is only now with a data-centric view of learning and smart, AI-delivered support that real performance support can be practically delivered in such a way that it is useful.


Gery’s original definition and ideas have stood the test of time and been carried forward by the performance expert Guy Wallace, along with Jay Cross, Bob Mosher, Conrad Gottfredson, Alfred Remmits and many others into modern performance support systems. Allison Rossett put real flesh on the bones in her Job Aids work. Charles Jennings and the 70:20:10 theorists, such as Jos Arets, have also pushed for this as a solution to the great need for on the job support. Beyond this, the LXP (Learning Experience Platform) movement that delivered push and pull support in the workflow follows in Gery’s footsteps. It has taken nearly 30 years for the technology to catch up with Gery’s foresight.


Galagan, Patricia A. "Think performance: a conversation with Gloria Gery." Training & Development, vol. 48, no. 3, Mar. 1994, pp. 47+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.

Barker, P. and Banerji, A., 1995. Designing electronic performance support systems. Innovations in Education and Training International, 32(1), pp.4-12.

Rossett, A. and Schafer, L., 2012. Job aids and performance support: Moving from knowledge in the classroom to knowledge everywhere. John Wiley & Sons.

Rossett, A. and Gautier-Downes, J., 1991. A handbook of job aids. Pfeiffer.

Gery, G.J., 1991. Electronic performance support systems: How and why to remake the workplace through the strategic application of technology. Weingarten Publications, Inc.

Gery, G.J., 1989. Training vs. performance support: Inadequate training is now insufficient. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 2(3), pp.51-71.

Gilbert, T.F., (1978) 2013. Human competence: Engineering worthy performance. John Wiley & Sons.

Gilbert, T.F. and Rummler, G. Praxis Corporation. Praxis Reports, 1970. Praxis Corporation, New York.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Jennings - conspiracy of convenience and 70:20:10

Charles Jennings is a learning and development expert who has held senior global positions in Dow-Jones and Reuters. He, along with Jos Arets and others, has supported the 70:20:10 heuristic for over 20 years but is clear that he is not defined by it. His views on shifting the mindset of L&D, which he thinks is locked into a ‘conspiracy of convenience’ has led to a detailed and deep diagnosis of bad versus good practice. He has also been involved, for decades, in knowledge management and learning technologies.

Conspiracy of convenience

Jennings uses another phrase as a shortcut to define the problem, the ‘conspiracy of convenience’.  L&D typically reacts to the organisation which simply requests training, usually a course. No one does any analysis and diagnosis on the roots of the actual problem, so the course is built, activity measured but no relevant evaluation at start or end is even attempted. The managers are happy, L&D is happy, and learners feel as though they have made progress, but there is no measurable business improvement. Most of this, for Jennings, is a wrong-headed treadmill. L&D is literally caught in a cycle of delivering the wrong solution to problems that either may not exist or need different solutions, not always training. It reduces L&D to a subsidiary role as a delivery mechanism, not strategic partner, as there is no sense, or room for, continuous improvement in performance aligned with organisational goals.


Jennings sees 70:20:10 not as absolute numbers but as a useful reference model or framework or tool - a reason and call to action to avoid the ‘conspiracy of convenience’. It allows one to shift from the learning paradigm to the performance paradigm. 

The numbers came from a small 1980s study by the Centre of Creative Leadership, in a small 191-person, 1980s study of currently successful executives. The interviewers collected 616 key learning events which the research staff coded into 16 categories. Bob Eichinger and Mike Lombardo, working with the Centre for Creative Leadership at the time, consolidated and reduced these to three categories of round numbers to make them easier to communicate:

70% learning from challenging work

20% learning from others

10% formal learning and reading 

Other studies have produced other numbers, and Jennings does not get hung up on the exact numbers and ratios, as silos. He holds to the general proposition that research shows variations in different cultures, geographies and between employees and executives but one can still conclude that most learning occurs in the workplace, through work or via other people. 

In practice, Jennings believes that most L&D does ‘10’ or ‘10+’, with its main focus on formal courses and some extras. He attributes this to being over-focused on the individual. This, he sees, as HR’s influence on learning and performance. HR has to deal with individuals and remuneration, so L&D has this type of focus. In fact, L&D should focus more on the measurable outputs of the organisation. Learning and business maturity needs to move towards continuous, business improvement.

Another framing of this problem is that L&D mostly does schooling and not training, with too much focus on knowledge and skills and not enough diagnosis of the original problem, along with too narrow a set of solutions. Jennings therefore encourages L&D to move away from this mindset towards a wider perspective on performance, with a deeper take on how people actually learn in practice, with organisational, team, and individual performance as its goal. 

With Deming, he sees 70:20:10 as a way of solving problems, not always as a lack of knowledge and skills but systemic problems to do with systems and processes. Human Performance Improvement (HPI) means developing new roles, focused on tasks not competences. He recommends that we start with organisational results, then look at critical tasks and ask how we can support those tasks, then link back to outcomes.

Jennings’ recommendations are consistent with, as they are based on research and evidence, Tolman’s idea of ‘latent’ learning, Marsick’s work on ‘incidental’ learning and Cross’s ‘informal’ learning. It is also consistent with the work done on transfer at the start of the 20th C by Thorndike and others, where the transfer of knowledge and skills really does determine performance. It is a real challenge as learning is rarely close to the point of use. As little as 4% of formal learning solutions (the ‘10’ in 70:20:10), do this.

Learning technology

Jennings has been involved with learning technologies since the 1980s. He headed up the UK National Centre for Electronic Communications and Open Support Systems (CECOMM), running networked-based learning programmes, where he produced some of the earliest online collaborative learning programmes and the first online MBA. At Dow Jones he developed Performance Support Systems, with a focus on knowledge management systems and communications. As a founder of the Online Courseware Factory, using and developing LCMS technologies to handle content with SCORM. He has also been involved with Knowledge Management, which he sees as having been data centric, then process centric, now people centric. He is surprised that it is a separate discipline and now sees a coming together with the more data centric LXP and LRS movements in technology.


70:20:10 has been criticised for being too simplistic a split. Even if qualified, it may give a false impression of certitude that weakens its case. Will Thalheimer has questioned the 70% portion as not being clear enough on whether it is supported or managed. There is also the interaction between these three forms, which now tend to overlap and support each other. It has also been criticised for not recognising the huge variations that may exist across different types of organisations or recognising that it may not apply at all. Some organisations may need a great deal of formal learning, others, like SMEs, where there is often no ‘10’. This all begs the question about the validity or force of the supporting evidence. Some argue that the evidence is quite simply not there.


Jennings has certainly contributed to a shift in mindset in L&D towards at least a recognition that learning is a much wider phenomenon and that we get the balance wrong. This has yet to be realised as the course mindset (‘10’ or ‘10+’) L&D has been slow to change. Although there are many variations on the theme, with different numbers, even redefinitions of the types of learning activities associated with these numbers, the shift is palpable. Technologies are also emerging that allow Jennings’ vision to take place. Yet the 70:20:10 side has yet to fully engage with sympathetic technology, such as LXPs and data-driven approaches to L&D. It would seem that a convergence of theory and technology is, finally, on the horizon.


Jennings, C. & Wargnier, J. 2011. Effective Learning With 70:20:10.

Jennings, C., 2013. The 70:20:10 Framework Explained.

Cross, J., 2011. Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance. John Wiley & Sons.

Arets, Jennings, Heijnen.2016. 702010 Towards 100% Performance

Johnson, S. J., Blackman, D. A., & Buick, F. (2018). The 70:20:10 framework and the transfer of learning. Human Resource Development Quarterly. Advance online publication.

Bagley, C., 2018. An Evaluation of the 70:20:10 Framework for Workplace Learning

Thalheimer, W.

Victoria Marsick on 'Informal' and 'incidental' learning. Technology (EPSS, LXPs, LRSs, AI, Data) now implementing her ideas...

Victoria Marsick is Professor of Adult and Organizational Learning at Columbia university, known particularly for her work on adult and workplace learning. Her work on informal and incidental learning tried to reshape how we see adult learning but she also has a deep interest in learning organisations, team, action and reflective learning. Her view of learning is one of continuous learning, learning as a process, not training events alone.

Informal and incidental learning

In Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace (1990) she challenged the world of traditional training to widen their perspective to include these concepts, as this is where much organisational learning actually takes place. This includes experience and context. She recommends taking these modes of learning seriously and plan to make them possible, rather than just letting it happen, as that may result in dysfunctional performance. Using the ‘point-of-sale’ analogy, she says that learners are like shoppers, they are at their most interested and curious at the point-of-sale or point of need. This is rarely during a workshop, seminar or course. Yet courses are timetabled to suit the organisation, not these learner points-of-need. Encouraging and enabling learning at the point-of-need will increase transfer, as well as grow a learning culture.

Marsick defines ‘Informal’ learning as not taking place in the classroom through a structured course but in the hands of the learner. Typically this is self-directed, can be planned and intentional, through networking, performance reviews, coaching and mentoring. It is consciously encouraged or presented as learning, albeit not a formal course.

‘Incidental’ learning is unintentional, never planned, the result of something else, a by-product of a task, project, problem solving, social encounters or perceived need. People are rarely conscious of it happening as learning. 

An approximate ratio for formal to informal learning, from Carnevale (1984) is:

  • 83% informal and incidental

  • 17% formal

Informal and incidental learning take place during problem solving when an unmet need arises, with incidental learning, in particular, arising when there are mistakes or failures.

To successfully encourage informal and incidental learning, one must induce: 

  • reflection

  • proactivity by the learner

  • creative problem solving

If you critically surface your weaknesses or deficits, then you can take the initiative to improve and see a problem from several perspectives by reframing. Informal, incidental and formal learning differ in the degrees of action and reflection by the learner.

These ideas are seen as being implemented at the individual, team, organisational and professional levels.

Learning organisations

In Sculpting the Learning Organization: Lessons in the Art and Science of Systemic Change (1993) she used case studies to push learning at four levels; individual, team, organization and society, using ‘action imperatives’. Learning has a range of structured, less structured and unstructured experiences. 


Marsick’s work goes back to Tolman’s research and definition of ‘Latent learning’ (1930), Coombs and Ahmed’s ‘Nonformal ‘learning (1974) and distinctions made Mocker and Spear (1982) onFormal, Non-Formal, Informal’ and Self-Directed learning, also Reischmann’s learning ’en passant’ (1986). It also has a route into social learning (Bandura) and learning within teams and communities of practice.

Her view is that formal learning, largely courses, has distracted us away from how people actually learn in the workplace, which is continuous. Marick therefore provided the theoretical basis for future takes on informal and incidental learning that led to Gery and Cross and the technology that enabled this to happen. As the internet grew so did online learning, yet in the direction of content and courses, not performance support. It took over 20 years before the technology caught up with the theory.


Garrick, J. Informal Learning in the Workplace: Unmasking Human Resource Development. London: Routledge, 1998

Marsick, V. J., and Watkins, K. Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

Reischmann, J. “Learning ‘En Passant’: The Forgotten Dimension.” Paper presented at the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education Conference, 1986.

Carnevale, A., 1984. Jobs for the Nation: Challenges fora Society Based on Work. American Society for Training and Development, Alexandria, Va.

Mocker, D. W., and Spear, G. E. Lifelong Learning: Formal, Non-Formal, Informal and Self-Directed. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education, 1982.

Coombs, P., and Ahmed, M. Attacking Rural Poverty: How Nonformal Education Can Help. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Feynman - Don’t lecture and Feynman Technique

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, who was involved in the development of the atom bomb, also a pioneer in nanotechnology and quantum physics. His fame increased when he diagnosed the problem that led to the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. He was regarded as a great science teacher and had a deep interest in teaching and learning, constantly reflecting on his own practices and institutional approaches. His lectures in physics are still best-sellers, yet he was deeply critical of the ‘lecture’ as a teaching method. On learning, he was strong on retrieval, simplification and the act of teaching to learn. 

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!

In his autobiography Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! () he writes cogently about his experience in teaching Physics to students in Brazil, where he stood up in front of the students and faculty (at their request) and said, ”The main purpose of my talk is to demonstrate to you that no science is being taught in Brazil”. His point was that the students were being taught to memorise techniques and formulae for passing exams, not understanding physics, “it’s not science, but memorising, in every circumstance”.

His scepticism about teaching methods of that time came from his time approving textbooks for schools in California, in 1964, which he found plainly wrong, using the wrong symbols or irrelevant.

Lectures on Physics

Although lecturing extensively and publishing his lectures, it is in the 'Preface' to his lectures, written long after they were delivered, that his reflections on his own work matured. When he arrived at Caltech he was dismayed to find that the students who arrived full of enthusiasm for physics were being bored into submission by ‘stultifying’ lectures. He tried his best, including 3 problem solving lectures in the first year, mixing things up, introducing advanced but interesting content earlier than usual. So what were his thoughts? 

First, ”one serious difficulty….there wasn’t any feedback from the students to the lecturer”. This, as a lover of the experimental method, was a “very serious difficulty”. He compares it to an experiment without any measurable output, a complete shot in the dark. And his general conclusions were clear, “My own point of view is pessimistic. I don’t think I did very well by the students….I think the system was a failure.” He quoted Gibbon, “The power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.” In the end he admits that what is necessary is a more student-centred approach to learning physics through discussion and reflection, “It’s impossible to learn very much by sitting through a lecture”.

Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique was built on the principles developed on his pedagogic writings. It is performative and takes the now popular and evidence-based concepts of cognitive effort and retrieval practice, to learn something. Without the process of recall and simplification, even teaching the content, you are never sure that you really know it. He believed that many teachers were fooling themselves into thinking they know their subject when they do not. As Bjork showed, it is easy to fall into the illusion of learning, thinking that because you’ve attended a lecture, read a book, watched a video,that you have learned the topic.

  1. Write down everything you think you know about the topic from the top of your head

  2. Teach it to someone much younger

  3. Identify the gaps and fill them out

  4. Simplify, clarify and use analogies

Learning this way is iterative, as you must go back to sources to fill in any gaps uncovered by your attempts to recall what you think you know. The act of writing, teaching, simplification and analogising, is a form of retrieval practice that increases understanding and retention.


His historical place as a Nobel Prize winning physicist is assured, yet his reputation has lived on in his approach to teaching and learning. It is often assumes htat he was a fan of hte lecture. Nothing could be further from the truth as he was keen to push retrieval and performative learning techniques that avoided the common trap of fooling yourself that you have learned something. One such technique is teaching someone who is much younger.


Feynman, R.P., 2018. " Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character. WW Norton & Company.

Feynman, R.P., Leighton, R.B. and Sands, M., 2011. The Feynman lectures on physics, Vol. I: The new millennium edition: mainly mechanics, radiation, and heat (Vol. 1). Basic books.

Feynman, R.P., Hey, T. and Allen, R.W., (1984) 2018. Feynman lectures on computation. CRC Press.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Haidt (1963 - ) social intuitionism and campus culture

Jonathan Haidt is Professor of Ethical Leadership at  NYU Stern School Stern School of Business. His research and writing on the psychology of morality have taken him into cultural and political commentary on the nature of moral thinking, especially in political thinking as well as campus culture. His social intuitionalist position, expanded into a general Moral Foundations Theory, sees moral judgements as based on feeling and emotion, with reason coming later. As a centrist in politics he works to bridge political divides.

Social intuitionism

In The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail (2001) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), he develops his social intuitionist position, where feelings and emotions drive decisions and thinking, rather than reason. This developed into a wider Moral Foundations Theory, the claims that evolutionary and cultural legacies that have evolved, in different senses of the word, to solve problems of cooperation, as we plainly live in social groups and have for tens of millions of years. This has given us six innate moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Different political stances give each of these different emphases.

The Elephant and the Rider was a metaphor he used extensively in his The Happiness Hypothesis (2006) and elsewhere, to illustrate his social intuitionism. The Elephant is the quick, automatic, intuitive world of feelings and emotions, with the rider the slower conscious controller. This corresponds to Kahneman’s Systems 1 and 2 in Thinking Fast and Slow (2011). He uses this metaphor frequently to explain his social intuitionism in moral judgements showing that both the right and left tend to have emotional beliefs and values that they then rationalise afterwards.
He also helped devise the Disgust scale, an emotion that started as a biological protection of the mouth, then body and eventually moral concerns. Moral elevation is another phenomenon he identifies as a feeling associated with moral tales, producing oxytocin. 

The Coddling of the American Mind

With Greg Lukianoff, in The Coddling of the American Mind (2018) he explored the idea that young people are becoming less robust and autonomous and gripped by three sets of false beliefs:

  1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. Taking Nicholas Taleb’s concept of ‘Antifragility’ he believes that in trying to help the young, we often do great harm, for example, through overprotective parenting. 

  2. Always trust your feelings. This is the idea that subjective, instinctive feelings can be bad guide. We counter these cognitive distortions in many ways, not least when they become extreme in proven Cognitive Behaviour therapy. 

  3. Life is a battle between good and evil. Based on psychological experiments going back to Tajfel and Eagleman, he shows that we are hardwired for tribalism, the ‘then and us’ mentality, which he sees as fuelling identity politics, replacing the politics of the common-good.

Six trends

Haidt sees six trends contributing to this increasingly fractious atmosphere and environment in Higher Education: 

1. The Polarization Cycle is the rising political polarisation seen on campuses since the 1980s, and more recently, since 2016, where faculty have been targeted and, in some cases, fired or pushed out of their institutions. 

2. Anxiety and Depression have been on the rise since 2011, especially among girls and young women, who may be more sensitive to social comparisons. As young people hit less developmental milestones, such as working in the real world, they find the overprotective culture of safetyism on campuses attractive. 

3. Paranoid Parenting has led to restrictive childhoods, with less unsupervised play and helicopter parenting. Middle-class parents, in particular, tend to be more prone to paranoid parenting and therefore produce students who cannot cope with, or turn, adversity into growth. 

4. The decline of free play since the 1980s has also led to an inability to deal with cooperation and dispute resolution. 

5. The Bureaucracy of Safetyism, with more campus bureaucracy and administrators, along with a view of students as customers who have to be pleased through the student experience, has led to moral dependence. 

6. Finally, in the ‘Quest for Justice’, social activism sees injustice as being caused by attitudes towards specific groups, and alternative discussions about the causes of injustice are negated and at times, censored.

Jonathon Haidt identifies ‘concept creep’ as one of the great ills of our age. The tendency to latch on to big words, wide ranging abstract nouns and stretch them like elastic to cover more and more things. He talks about the word ‘violence’ being used to cover much more than physical violence but also psychological violence, all sorts of offence. This he feels has infected campus culture to such a degree that ‘safe spaces’, ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘microaggressions’ have become tools of censorship.


Haidt’s critics have come mainly from the left but also from those that see this form of thinking about morality and politics as opening up space for attacks on science itself. Despite plenty of evidence to show that academia, especially in the humanities is skewed to the left, he has been attacked for diminishing the status and relevance of recent attempts to make that system more equitable by quietening dissent and protest. That he sees young people predictably as lacking resilience may be at odds with their legitimate protests and no more than predictable generation bashing.


Haidt’s work has extended out of academia into mainstream publishing, with his work being seen as relevant to both the problems of political division and conflicts and campus culture. The Coddling of the American Mind is seen by many as a diagnostic text for the phenomena seen in Higher Education around social justice, although he regards much of this as wrong-headed and at odds with what the culture of student and academic freedom should be. What he has succeeded in doing is raising legitimate concerns about the purpose and environment in which tertiary learning should take place, based on a theory of moral psychology. He remains a significant and influential commentator on such issues.


Haidt, J. and Lukianoff, G., 2018. The coddling of the American mind: How good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure. Penguin UK.

Haidt, J., 2012. The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.

Haidt, J., 2006. The happiness hypothesis: Putting ancient wisdom and philosophy to the test of modern science. Random House.

Haidt, J., 2001. The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological review, 108(4), p.814.

Kahneman, D., 2011. Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Ibn Tufayl (1106-1185) – Natural learning


Although a critic of Al-Ghazzali, Ibn Tufayl follows through in this tradition of educational enlightenment in another part of the Muslim world, modern Spain, in Granada. This was a period of intense intellectual activity in this part of the Muslim world. He wrote a work of fiction The living one, son of the vigilant, which was widely admired across Europe for centuries, even by Leibniz. It possibly provided the impetus for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. In this neo-Platonic text, a boy is brought up in a natural environment, echoing Rousseau’s novel Emile.


The point is that we can gain knowledge of this world, and ultimately the divine, through our own efforts and learning. Even religion is seen to be the result of natural human feeling, observation and reflection, separate from scripture and revelations.

He also makes a distinction between logical or reasoned learning, and other learning which can be expressed and shared through language and intuition, that can only be shown obliquely through metaphors, allegories and stories. Although in the Neo-Platonist tradition, his views on education are synthesised with the Aristotelian view of empirical inquiry.

Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) - Moral purpose

Al-Ghazzalis was a renowned Muslim scholar, in an age where education, knowledge and scientific endeavour were greatly valued, encouraged and practiced in the Muslim world. Born in Iran, he taught theology and philosophy in that great centre of learning, Baghdad. Familiar with Christian scholars and Greek texts from Plato, Aristotle and others, he remains one of the most influential Muslim thinkers and scholars.

Reason and religion

With a deep interest in rationalism and logic, subsumed within a religious context, in The Rescuer from Loss he reveals his own process of reflection and education but it is in The Revival of Religious Sciences that he lays out a systematic account of how to live one’s life, including the role of teaching and learning. Education is to be valued, a religious imperative. But far from being a religious dogmatist, he promotes the role of reason, critical thought and self-examination. This is far from the narrow, dogmatic role of teaching and learning in some areas of extreme Islam. 

Teaching & learning

The teacher must be sensitive to the differences among learners. Dialogue and listening are important skills, as teachers must see learners as humans with real needs in terms of morals and purpose. The pedagogy of punishment is not the point. The teacher must therefore be a model for behaviour and show the virtues of humility and honesty. To learn is not to learn by rote or by copying texts. Religiousons compliance is still the goal but education is about teaching the young to play a moral and purposeful role in society.


200 learning theorists... 2500 years of learning theory... from Greeks to Geeks!

These were written as quick, readable introductions to the many theorists who have shaped the world of learning. For Greeks to Geeks! Note that this is a personal selection, not a definitive list.


FULL PODCAST  Greeks to Geeks




Greek mathematicians; (Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes)









St Augustine


Ibn Tufayl













Edgeworths (2)









































Atkinson & Shiffrin










Bjorks (2)

Karpicke & Roediger




























Honey & Mumford







Clarks (2)


























Black & Wiliam
































Damasio & Immordino‐Yang
Kahneman & Tversky









Mosher & Goddfredson

Thaler & Sunstein





McCulloch & Pitts


Rumelhart & Hinton



Strickgold & Walker

Clark & Chalmers








Nass & Reeves








Page & Brin


Chen & Hurley




Downes & Siemens


Ng & Koller










Luis von Ahn





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