BRIDGING THE KNOWING-DOING GAP
Powerful Ideas for Innovative Learning Design and the Use of I
in Corporate Education
Sergio Vasquez Bronfman
ESCP-EAP (European School of Management), Paris, France
In the field of professional, continuous, and corporate education
there is a recurrent complaint concerning the effectiveness of the
educational process (Mintzberg, 1988; Mintzberg, 1996; Schön, 1983).
Effectiveness is “the ability of a system to produce what it must produce.”
Therefore, in an effective PCCE system people should learn to do what they
must do when working in their companies. Unfortunately this is not what
one can observe; actual PCCE systems produce people who get a lot of
knowledge but who are unable to put it into practice.
One of the main reasons for this knowing-doing gap (Pfeffer & Sutton,
2000) is infocentrism, which is a wrong interpretation of what learning is.
Infocentrism says that learning is a kind of information system: knowledge
is transmitted to learners through lectures and/or accessed through readings;
then learners must retain this knowledge; and finally professors organize
Professional education refers to university education (either undergraduate or postgraduate)
of architects, engineers, doctors in medicine, business professions, etc. (see Schön, 1983).
“Continuous and corporate education” refer to all educational activities (either performed
in-company or not) that do not lead to a degree. Although the scope of this paper is on
PCCE in general, the argumentation and the examples shown here apply mainly in the
corporate education field.
M.K. McCuddy et al. (eds.),
© 2007 Springer.
The Challenges of Educating People to Lead in a Challenging World, 515–531.
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tests of knowledge retention that we call exams.
In good educational
settings, exercises and case studies are also performed. Implicitly, the
infocentric perspective makes the hypothesis that if knowledge is transmitted
properly (i.e., lectures are clear) then application (practice) is obvious. In
fact this hypothesis is falsified. Hence the knowing-doing gap comes into
When turning to the use of information technologies (IT) in education
and training we observe another important problem: technocentrism. In
Seymour Papert’s words, “technocentrism is the fallacy of referring all
questions to technology” (Papert, 1987; Papert, 1990). In the field of
educational technologies, technocentrism leads to focus on questions about
the number of computers per student, the number of computers connected to
the Internet and the functionalities of an e-learning platform. In educational
technology research, technocentrism leads to questions such as: “Will the
Internet have this or that effect on management learning, by comparison with
a traditional classroom?” or “Will a CD-ROM lead to a mechanical method
of thinking in accounting?” Scholars then run evaluation studies comparing,
for instance, a course delivered via the Internet with a traditional face-to-face
course, identifying information technology as the only variable, and
assuming that the hypothesis “all else being equal” (ceteris paribus) is true.
Of course it is false, because in fact everything changes: the professor, the
students, the classroom, and the technology.
What is missed in infocentric and technocentric perspectives is a correct
interpretation on how people learn, and in particular on how people learn to
become and develop themselves as professionals. This discussion is clarified
if we make some distinctions on learning. Jerome Bruner made the
distinction between learn about and learn to be, to which this paper adds
learn to do. We then have three kinds of learning:
Learn about ... (e.g., negotiation, communication, history, medicine,
software design, etc.).
x Learn to do ... (e.g., how to negotiate, how to communicate well,
how to run a research in history, how to diagnose illnesses, how to
design software, etc.).
x Learn to be ... (e.g., a negotiator, a communicator, a researcher in the
field of history, a doctor, a software designer, etc.).
One can love history and be interested in medicine or in human
communication. By reading books on these topics, attending conferences,
doing courses (online or face-to-face), etc., one can learn a lot about history,
To be rigorous, “information” rather than “knowledge” should be written here (see Brown
and Duguid, 2000).
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap 517
medicine, and human communication, but that does not mean that one will
be able to conduct research in history, to diagnose illnesses, or to
communicate effectively. In other words, one will not be able to do.
Following the same logic, if one has been successfully conducting a first
piece of research in history, has diagnosed some simple illnesses, or has
solved a communication problem, that does not mean that one will be
considered a historian, a doctor, or a professional in the field of human
communication. In other words, one will be able to do, but one will not yet
be (a professional recognized as such by his/her peers). To reach this level
one must be involved in recurrent practice inside the proper professional
community (historians, doctors, human communication practitioners, etc.).
Bearing in mind these learning distinctions and the knowing-doing gap, it
can be said that one of the causes of this gap is that the vast majority of
PCCE systems satisfy only the “learn about” kind of learning, and that
professionals and companies expect at least “learn to do”. Educational
practices needed in order to “learn about” are not sufficient when one needs
to “learn to do”. Hence, there is an important discrepancy between supply
and demand in professional, continuous, and corporate education. One can
observe this confusion in face-to-face training and even more in e-learning.
Of course, to “learn about” things and topics is necessary. Maybe the
majority of what we learn consciously in life is “about” things. But in the
field of corporate education we need a new kind of educational practice in
order to allow people to “learn to do” and “learn to be”. This paper will
describe some ideas that, in addition to infocentrism, technocentrism, and
the learning distinctions above, will allow us to design this new kind of
educational practice and, therefore, to bridge the knowing-doing gap. These
are well known ideas in the field of educational research but (unfortunately)
most often unrecognized in educational practices.
2. A PEDAGOGICAL FRAMEWORK FOR
Not surprisingly, the thinking in this paper has been influenced by John
Dewey’s ideas on learning by doing (Dewey, 1933) and by Jean Piaget’s
ideas on constructivism (Piaget, 1985; Piaget, 1992). The paper also builds
on pedagogical perspectives such as constructionism (Papert, 1990; Harel &
Papert, 1991), and on the work of Vygotsky (1985). Constructivism is based
on the assumption that knowledge is created by learners, rather than
transmitted by teachers like information in a pipeline, and that they discover
and construct meaning from their environments. Constructionism suggests
that learners are particularly likely to create knowledge when they are
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actively engaged in making something that is also personally meaningful and
that they can share with others, such as video games, robots, computer
animations, written stories or, closer to corporate education, e-commerce
Web sites or a bank branch’s business plan.
Constructionism is also close to the work of Vygotsky, in the sense that
learning is a social process and stems from cooperative activities, from
making something collectively. Moreover, Vygotsky states that effective
learning occurs when this process happens within transactions between
learners and members of their culture more experienced than them, hence
leading to concepts like coaching, mentoring, etc. This is why Vygotsky’s
ideas are often called social constructivism.
The Russian educational thinker is also known for the concepts of zone of
proximal development (ZDP) and scaffolding. ZDP refers to the distance
between what a learner can perform by himself and what he/she can perform
with the help of an experienced practitioner, while scaffolding refers to the
need for step-by-step progress in learning and to constructing new
knowledge on the basis of what one already knows.
On the basis of these ideas we now have a first framework for
educational design in order to allow people to “learn to do”. Summarizing
this framework we can say that “learning to do” needs a learning by doing
environment where students make things collectively, tackling problems
under the guidance of experienced practitioners, where they can share ideas
with others, hence working in teams, where coaching helps students to
perform what they have to do, where lecturing and reading give people the
information they need to perform their learning activities.
Nevertheless, if we want to bridge the knowing-doing gap in PCCE,
course design based on the above educational framework will not be
sufficient. Of course, people need to learn by doing, but this “doing” must
also be significant, i.e., activities that deal with important issues for learners.
In professional and continuous education, and in particular in corporate
training environments, significant activities are those that are related to
learners’ daily work practices. This is called the everyday coping of learners
with the subject of the course. “Everyday coping”
which is a concept
adapted from Hubert Dreyfus’ interpretation of Heideggerian philosophy
(Dreyfus, 1991; Wrathall & Malpas, 2000) means the way learners cope
every day with some subject or topic, the way they face it every day at the
Therefore, if one wants to bridge the knowing-doing gap, the
Hubert Dreyfus calls skilful coping not only the way people deal with daily work situations,
but mainly the smooth and unobtrusive responses to those situations (Wrathall and
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap 519
main question for learning design should be: what is the learners’ everyday
coping with regard to the subject of the course?
This framework for a “learn to do” design can be represented by the
Figure 1. Model of the “Learn to Do” Design
The structure of a course is a sequence of activities for which information
and knowledge come in support of these activities, rather than a sequence of
“pieces of content” with exercises and case studies in order to apply the
content. Hence, the spinal column of a course is a sequence of situations
based on the learners’ daily work and the way they cope every day with
these situations, or a real project they have to plan and manage. Learners
will access information and knowledge from the activities in which they are
In our design model, “theory” or “content” (which of course remains
very important) is now called “information/knowledge” or even
“documentation” in order to strengthen the similarity with real work. As a
matter of fact, when we are at work we never start by looking at theoretical
content, then moving to do some exercises and in the end coming to real
work. In fact we just work, we do things, and only when there is something
we don’t know how to perform do we look for information or knowledge.
We find this information in the documentation we have at the office, in
books, on the Internet,
or in colleagues’ minds.
Nevertheless, in our model there are also exercises and cases that are not
necessarily linked to the everyday coping of the learners. These exercises
and cases are often relevant in order to progress step-by-step in the
mastering of a certain skill. Following Vygostky’s concept of scaffolding, it
is necessary to have many intermediate steps in the learning process similar
to when we climb stairs: we have to go up step-by-step. But it is from being
involved in a significant activity (e.g. a work project) that it becomes
My project / My everyday coping
Exercise Exercise Case
Information / Knowledge
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interesting to have access to exercises and cases that are not necessarily
linked to our daily practice at work.
In the next section we will look at some examples of this framework that
have been designed and implemented in a Spanish savings bank.
3. THE VIRTAULA PROJECT
La Caixa is one of the most important Spanish financial institutions. It is
a savings bank that has around 20,000 employees, spread all over Spain, and
that has a strong reputation of commitment in the training of its employees.
Over the past years la Caixa has recruited many new employees (around
5,000) in order to replace people going into retirement and to ensure the
expansion of the bank all over Spain. New employees must complete a
compulsory training program during their first year at la Caixa. This
program includes management skills such as communication and
negotiation, and courses typical of the banking profession such as
investments, taxes, insurance, etc. In the past, the training of the new
employees was done face-to-face and on a traditional distance training
delivery mode (printed materials plus post office). But in the new scenario
this was too expensive. Moreover, it became impossible to update the
material, which was a big handicap in a changing environment like financial
services. Therefore, the Human Resources Department of the bank (which is
in charge of the project) decided to move to e-learning, and launched the
Virtaula started in January 2000 with two virtual classrooms of 25 new
employees with one online tutor (or coach/trainer) each.
As of May 2004
more than 5,800 new employees have done or are doing their first year
training program in Virtaula.
In the beginning of the project the design of the e-learning material did
not encourage learner-tutor interaction or learner-learner interaction.
Moreover, new employees complained that the learning material was
“boring” and “not very practical”. Thus, in September 2001 the author
redesigning the learning material with two goals in mind: a)
learning activities should be interactive in nature, and b) the gap should be
Online tutors are la Caixa’s employees, generally branch managers (the bank has almost
1,000 people who perform training tasks in addition to their daily tasks). They were face-
to-face trainers who, voluntarily, became online trainers.
From September 2000 until February 2002 the author has been the project manager of
Virtaula at GEC S.A., the company that was in charge of the project as a provider. After
February 2002 the author became responsible for pedagogical innovation in the project.
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap 521
reduced between what is taught in training courses and the real situations
that learners face at their workplaces (in other words, bridging the knowing-
How can we structure a course around a sequence of activities and how
can we design significant activities? Using participative course design
methods, the design team worked with end-users of Virtaula, i.e., the new
employees and their managers. For instance, when designing a course on
insurance for new employees, we asked them: What is the everyday coping
of la Caixa’s new employees on insurance? The answer helped us to focus
on the skills that new employees must come to master when dealing with
insurance (for instance, to selling insurance that takes care of customers’
concerns). Then we asked for recurrent situations faced by the new
employees in this field, which led us to write a sequence of mini-cases. At
the end of each mini-case learners have to answer questions like: “What
would you do in this situation?” or “What kind of products can you offer to
this client?” or “What would be your advice to this customer?”, etc. Answers
must generally be sent to a moderated forum for discussion with the online
classroom colleagues. Relevant information necessary to perform these
activities is suggested to learners (which they can access on the Web pages
of the courses).
The first targets of the e-learning project were the new employees.
Nevertheless, as top management in the bank started to see that e-learning
was a successful move, new target audiences were included, e.g., branch
managers (there are more than 4,500 branches of la Caixa).
In groups of
300-400 every year (since October 2000), branch managers have started a
traditional one year face-to-face program aimed at the management of
branches. In all, more than 1,500 branch managers have done or are doing
this course via Virtaula. This is a program designed by la Caixa’s HR
Department and done in partnership with 14 Spanish universities. But the
HR Department wanted the whole group to do a common course whose main
goal was to design a kind of business plan for a branch of la Caixa. This
course is done via Virtaula.
Instead of starting by asking the branch managers to read some
theoretical content on business plans, then to do some exercises and case
studies and, in the end, to apply this knowledge to their own branches, the
course starts by asking them to write 10 lines with their first ideas on their
branches, how they see it three years in the future, and to send these 10 lines
to their tutors (or coaches). As a consequence, branch managers are involved
from the beginning in the main activity of the course: to make their business
Also, more than 2,500 financial advisors have been trained via Virtaula.
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plan, the business plan of the branches they are managing. From there, tutors
will coach them in the design of their business plans and, as part of this
process, they will suggest relevant material to the branch managers, material
that is available in Virtaula as Information/Knowledge.
The action research we have done on the uses and results of Virtaula
showed that this framework and model for instructional design is of great
help in bridging the knowing-doing gap.
4. REFLECTIVE LEARNING
Until now we have discussed a kind of learning that is related to concepts
like assimilation. Assimilation refers to the idea developed by Piaget of a
process that involves incorporating new information into an already existing
cognitive structure (Piaget, 1985). But there is another kind of learning that
happens when there is a need to change the cognitive structure to make sense
of the environment. Piaget called accommodation the learning process which
starts when something happens that leads us to change our assumptions. This
concept is close to what Donald Schön calls reflection.
Schön says that “reflection” starts when there is a “surprise” (good or
bad), when there is a breakdown: something produces unexpected results, an
error resists correction, or we begin to look at something in a new way. We
may respond to this situation by reflection and we may do so in one of two
ways (Schön, 1987).
We may reflect on action, thinking back on what we have done in order
to discover the causes of the unexpected outcome. And we may reflect in
action, i.e., in the midst of action without interrupting it. Reflection then has
a critical function, questioning the assumptional structure of our knowledge.
Therefore we learn in the sense of Piaget’s accommodation.
Reflective learning literature deals mainly with reflection-on-action.
Nevertheless, we think that the real challenge is to design learning situations
that allow for reflection-in-action. This is mainly because the huge majority
of the situations we face every day when we find a surprise are not situations
During the year 2002 the author directed a research team that conducted an action research
study on how people were using Virtaula, what they appreciated and what was going
wrong. Data came from the statistics of the Virtaula e-learning platform, the analysis of
what people were saying in electronic forums, and from semi-structured interviews that we
performed with 129 Virtaula users.
The author strongly believes that this interpretation of the concept of reflection is also
related to the Heideggerian concept of “breakdown” and its consequences for learning
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap 523
that allow us to stop and think. We have to think on the situation while
dealing with it. As Schön says, “what distinguishes reflection-in-action from
other kinds of reflection is its immediate significance for action” (Schön,
We now give an example of an online reflective course on
Communication that has been designed for la Caixa’s employees.
course is structured in six learning units, every unit having the same
structure as below:
x First, trainees read a reflective story (a mini-case that tells a story
with a breakdown, a surprise, that can be interpreted in terms of
human communication) and participate in an online discussion of
this story in a forum.
x Second, trainees are encouraged to access some readings on
communication theory that allow for a new interpretation of the
reflective story. Then follows an online discussion of the
participants’ own examples of the same kind of story.
x Third, following a given procedure, trainees must run a face-to-face
exercise on human communication (with a colleague, a friend, etc.),
then report the results via e-mail, and finally participate in an online
discussion on what happened in this exercise. While doing the face-
to-face exercise, participants must reflect in action; when they
participate in the related online discussion they are allowed to reflect
x Finally, trainees must write an evaluation report of the above
exercises, in light of what they have learned.
As we can see, this course is not a completely online course. Participants
must do some face-to-face activities. This is because human communication
is an embodied phenomenon. As human beings, we are not like minds in a
vat, we have bodies and our bodies play an important role in the
communication process. Therefore, if one wants to learn to communicate
(which is not the same as to learn about communication) one must also train
his/her body to communicate and reflect on what happens to the body in the
face-to-face exercises. Moreover, it may be asserted that in human
communication courses face-to-face exercises are the only way to allow
people to reflect in action, the subsequent online discussions allowing them
to reflect on action.
In fact, this course on Communication has been designed by a company whose members
were trained in the applications of Hubert Dreyfus’ ideas, among others.
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We will now turn to some new ideas that can allow us to design and
implement “learn to be” educational activities.
5. SITUATED LEARNING AND COMMUNITIES OF
In order to “learn to be” one must go beyond teaching. The works of
Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (Lave & Wenger, 1991), John Seely Brown
and Paul Duguid (Brown & Duguid, 1991; Brown & Duguid, 2000) and, in
some aspects, that of Lev Vygotsky, have clearly shown that learning is a
social process and takes place whether there is any intentional education or
not. At least, some kind of incidental learning takes place through interaction
between peers on their common job practice. Moreover, this kind of learning
takes place in a situated action (in space and time). The above authors make
a breakthrough in the theory of learning by shifting the focus from the
individual as learner to learning as participation in the social world, from a
cognitive process to a social practice.
All of this means that nobody can learn a job outside of a community of
practitioners. If one wants to learn the job of a doctor (i.e., to learn to be a
doctor), one must practice inside a community of doctors; if one wants to
become an entrepreneur, one must practice entrepreneurship inside of a
community of entrepreneurs.
Lave and Wenger created the concept of Legitimate Peripheral
Participation (LPP) to draw attention to the point that learners inevitably
participate (more or less) in communities of practitioners and that the
mastery of knowledge requires newcomers to move toward full participation
in the sociocultural practices of a community. Therefore, they stress the
point that, in order to facilitate learning, one must create an environment that
facilitates LPP and access to practice, ongoing work activities, and practical
Building on situated learning, Etienne Wenger developed the concept of
Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998), which reflect informal structures
that gather people linked through a common practice, which is also recurrent
and stable in time. Communities of Practice (CPs) always develop around
what matters to its members; therefore, if one wants to facilitate LPP and to
“learn to be”, a CP is a good candidate.
Following this logic, la Caixa has started to cultivate (rather than to
create) some emergent communities of practice. The term “to cultivate”
emphasizes the point that a CP cannot be created intentionally or
overmanaged. An effective CP should rise almost spontaneously.
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap 525
Nevertheless, that does not mean that nothing can be done in order to help
CP development (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).
In this sense, “to cultivate” is a good analogy. One cannot really “create”
a plant but much can be done in order to help an existing plant to grow.
Thus, rather than trying to create a community of practice, one must help to
cultivate the already existing communities (even if they are in an embryonic
state). In order to do this, the first thing to do is to identify those emerging
We have identified two main CPs at the bank: the new employees’ online
tutors and the branch managers. More than 45 online tutors are spread all
over Spain. In the beginning they felt very isolated and complained that this
was a very new job and that they needed more training. We started to work
with them in order to create a community of online tutors rather than having
45 individuals; therefore, we organized a two-day (and night) residential
work session that has taken place every six months. After the first one,
fruitful online work could start mainly through discussions in electronic
forums, where people worked on topics like new employees’ participation in
virtual classrooms, online coaching, etc. Moreover, when asked, the online
tutors made substantial contributions to course design for their trainees.
Concerning the branch managers, in order to facilitate their access to the
Virtaula system before the beginning of their online course, we created an
online forum where they could have discussions on their ongoing problems
at work, thus sharing their practical knowledge. Following Etienne Wenger’s
advice, a prestigious branch manager moderates this forum in order to give
credibility to the discussion and to build trust.
The research we have done on the uses and results of Virtaula has shown
that the branch managers value greatly the possibility of having contacts and
asking for help outside of their own branches. Even more, some of them
started to have informal but regular face-to-face meetings, or expressed the
will to do this. For instance, 26 branch managers of a Spanish region decided
to meet for lunch the first Friday of every month in order to have discussions
on their ongoing problems. Hence, in addition to the cultivation of the
electronic branch managers’ community of practice, we started to cultivate
Usually, discussions in a CP start when someone poses a question to the
community, most often a problematic question. A member of the community
who knows the answer then gives the solution. People learn from each other
by sharing existing knowledge. In order to share this knowledge, storytelling
is an interesting technique.
Stories are important for learning for at least two reasons. First, stories
are the “natural” way in which our brain structures our memories (Bruner,
1996). We all remember better the “story” of a project than just some data
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on it. Second, in the structure of a story there is always a breakdown. A
typical story starts with a situation where there is a breakdown: something
does not work anymore and unexpected facts are observed. Therefore
something new appears as a goal. But, in order to reach this goal there will
be many difficulties people who will fight to reach the goal and other
people who will be opposed to the goal (Christian & Boudès, 2000). In other
words, starting from a main breakdown what worked before does not
work anymore there will be new breakdowns until the “heroes” reach the
What is relevant here is that when we face a breakdown we put ourselves
“automatically” in the mood for learning. As a matter of fact, when
everything is going well we believe that we know; and when one believes
that he/she already knows, it is impossible to be in the proper mood for
learning. On the contrary, when we see that we do not know anymore we put
ourselves in a good mood for learning.
In a CP’s discussion, we can also find cases where nobody in the
community has the answer to a question. People have nothing to share but
ignorance and confusion. Therefore, CP members must work together in the
search for answers. Here we have another idea that can help us to find the
answers, hence creating new knowledge. This is the action learning
perspective and methods.
Action learning was invented by Reginald Revans when he was leading
the training department at the National Coal Board in the United Kingdom.
It is based on two important points: a) work on the real problems faced by
learners, and b) work on problems where there is confusion, ignorance, and
where nobody has the answer. This is done in a “learning set,” i.e., a group
of 5-8 people whose main goal is to learn from their own experience through
questioning and reflecting (Revans, 1980; Pedler, 1991).
The group decides on the common problem/opportunity on which to
work. People look for new interpretations, new ways of settling the
problem/opportunity. A good guide to doing this is to work on the following
What am I trying to do?
x What is stopping me from doing it? What is the problem?
x What action will I take in order to overcome the obstacles?
It is in this process that people learn from each other and create new
In this school of thought, learning involves programmed knowledge
(knowledge one gets from outside the set through lectures, seminars, books,
etc.), but the majority of the learning occurs through fresh questions that
help the person addressing the problem to look at it in different ways so that
better solutions can be found.
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap 527
Another important point here is that learning means implementation
(stopping at the analysis and recommendations phase will not be sufficient).
Action learning is then a cyclical process: it starts with problem discussion;
people look for new ways of seeing the problem, finding solutions,
implementing solutions, and observing results, } and the process starts
again with the discussion of problems with implementation.
This paper has described a set of powerful ideas aimed at bridging the
knowing-doing gap in professional, continuous, and (mainly) corporate
education. Starting from infocentrism, a distinction is made between “learn
about”, “learn to do”, and “learn to be”, a distinction that helps us to
understand the miscommunication between supply and demand in PCC
The thinking presented in the article draws on well-known ideas such as
learning by doing, constructivism, social constructivism, zone of proximal
development, and scaffolding, in order to construct a framework that allows
for the design of “learn to do” environments. Nevertheless, a design based
on a sequence of activities supported by pieces of content will not
completely allow for bridging the knowing-doing gap; in addition, the
concept of learners’ everyday coping is needed.
All of this allowed the construction of a model that is a guide for course
design, a model that we have implemented in the Virtaula project at la
Caixa. The action-research we have done on the uses and results of Virtaula
showed that this model is a powerful one in helping design a “learn to do”
environment and therefore to bridge the knowing-doing gap.
The above ideas proved to be very useful for learning purposes that
involve incorporating new information into an existing cognitive structure
(i.e., assimilation). But when there is a need for learning that can change the
cognitive structures (i.e., accommodation), one shall also base the
instructional design on concepts such as reflection-in-action and reflection-
on-action. These concepts have been put in practice in a course on
Communication that has been designed for the Virtaula project.
Nevertheless, although course design has been improved, learning does
not stop there. At least in corporate settings, learning can (and should)
happen almost every time through Legitimate Peripheral Participation.
Communities of Practice are, in this sense, excellent arenas that allow people
to “learn to be” by facilitating access to practical expertise. The rise of CPs
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at la Caixa
and its encouraging results show that these ideas are powerful
ones for professional and organizational development, while storytelling and
action learning are the ideas that allow the discussions that are the vitality of
CPs to materialize.
On the basis of these ideas for learning innovation, a new version of this
pedagogical framework can be offered:
x People should be in a learning-by-doing environment where the
activities must be based on the learners’ everyday coping.
x Their “doing” must be coached by experienced practitioners.
The learning environment must promote interactions between peers
in the proper communities of practice.
x Professors and educational material provide information and are open
to new and more powerful interpretations.
Within this framework one can design learning environments and activities
that can bridge the knowing-doing gap.
It is only within this framework that the question of the uses of
information technology in education should be posed. Far from
technocentric thinking, we can now think about: how IT can help us to
distribute this kind of learning on large territories; how IT can allow for
personnel time flexibility of access; how it can help to design environments
that create breakdowns hence opening to reflective learning (see Schön,
1996); how technology can help to organize the huge amount of available
educational material; how we can design microworlds and “tools to think
with” (Papert, 1981); how the Internet allows for distributed communities of
practice; etc. While doing this, we have to keep in mind the limits of
information technology as well as its possibilities (Dreyfus, 2001).
We can call practicentrism our pedagogical perspective for educational
design. Table 1 summarize practicentrism as opposed to infocentrism in
corporate education. Practicentrism is what is necessary when one needs to
learn “to do” something and/or learn “to be” somebody, while the infocentric
approach can apply when one just needs to learn “about” something.
This paper has also shown some examples of these uses of IT in
education. This is what occurred in the Virtaula project and in other settings
(see for instance Vasquez Bronfman, 2000; Vasquez Bronfman, 2003).
Finally, the author has done this work not only as an observer but also as a
In June 2004, 135 eGroups of around 15 people each, and 51 virtual communities in
different territorial areas, concerning around 70 people each, have been created. That
means that more than 5,500 people in the bank are learning through discussions of their
everyday problems at work. Further research should be done in order to evaluate the
results of these activities.
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap 529
practitioner (in order to better transform reality). Otherwise, learning on how
people learn would not be possible.
Table 1. Infocentrism Versus Practicentrism
Interpretation of learning Learning is essentially
transmission of information
and retention of this
information by learners.
Learning by doing, and
learning by sharing with
Course design structure Course structure is a
sequence of theoretical
content with exercises for
Course structure is a sequence
of activities with content in
support of these activities.
Activities Activities should be generic
Activities should be based on
learners’ everyday coping.
Role of content Content is the core of
Content must inform on how
to perform activities (which
are the core of the learning
process), and be open to new
Exercises and cases The role of exercises and
cases is to apply theory.
Exercises should help to
master a skill step by step.
Cases should describe
practice in other settings, thus
bringing diversity in
Role of professors Professors deliver
learners in the activities they
have to perform.
Professional development Professional development
happens through individual
learning in courses.
happens essentially through
access to practice into the
Role of IT IT is a channel or a platform
for content delivery.
IT helps to distribute
innovative learning on large
territories; allows for
personnel time flexibility of
access to learning; helps to
design environments that
create breakdowns, hence
opening to reflective learning;
allows asking for help in a
community of practice
regardless time and space, etc.
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