Essential Knowledge Types For L&D Professionals
Everyone’s capable of learning and storing information. As an L&D professional, it’s insightful to have a good grasp of the different types of knowledge. This can help you better understand your learners and determine the best ways to share knowledge with them. As a result, you have the opportunity to create meaningful learning experiences that equip them with the skills they need to thrive both personally and professionally. Let’s uncover all the types of knowledge you should know about if you work in L&D and how each one empowers people.
Explicit knowledge is what we find in manuals or YouTube tutorials, or, simply put, knowledge that’s formal and easily accessible. The reason it’s so widely available is that it’s easy to document and transfer. For example, it’s effortless for a manufacturer to write down how the gadget they made works. So, when you buy it from the store and open the instructions manual full of organized and formatted information, you’re accessing explicit knowledge. Whether someone’s learning a new language and needs to study grammar rules or is in the onboarding phase of their new job and must master company policies, explicit knowledge is there.
Sometimes we possess a certain kind of knowledge without even realizing it, and this is called tacit knowledge. In short, it’s more intuitive and based on instinct. For instance, talented fiction writers often have a great deal of tacit knowledge, which allows them to create unique stories. Likewise, skilled guitar players may not be able to explain why they’re good at what they do; they just have an intuitive understanding of how to play the instrument. In L&D, tacit knowledge appears in hands-on training or through mentoring and coaching programs.
Think about all the information you can easily state and explain, from simple facts to how-tos. All these are examples of declarative knowledge that help you make sense of the world around you. Declarative knowledge has three types: factual, conceptual, and procedural knowledge. Historical dates, vocabulary, or countries’ capitals are factual knowledge. Knowledge of concepts like gravity or photosynthesis is conceptual, while driving a car or knowing what to do in case of an earthquake is procedural knowledge. Declarative knowledge is significant in L&D, as it sets the foundation for learning. Without knowing general facts and basic information, it’s hard to grasp more complex concepts. Moreover, this type of knowledge is easily transferable and can be applied to various topics and subjects.
The core of experiential knowledge is that people’s primary way of learning is through hands-on experience. It values learning processes that engage learners and prompt them to apply their knowledge, thus increasing retention. First, learners get involved in practical projects, from simulations to workshops. Then, they reflect on what they saw and felt and link the information they gained with their existing knowledge. Lastly, they apply it themselves through problem-solving, crafting something, or making a decision. The most classic example is school science labs. Students observe their teacher conducting experiments and then try themselves. There are plenty of opportunities for experiential learning in L&D. Companies use on-the-job training, simulations, case studies, and workshops to train their employees, engaging them in direct learning experiences.
Have you ever looked back on your past experiences and learned something valuable from them? That’s what we call reflective knowledge—the ability to analyze our past and gain insights that can help us in the future. It’s about reflecting on everything you’ve learned and asking all the whys and hows. This way, you profoundly understand concepts, hence your own actions, behaviors, and decisions. For example, an eLearning course designer reflects on the results of their most recent course. What could they improve? How did learners benefit? By doing this, they can apply the insights they gain to create better courses. So, reflective knowledge is a fundamental part of L&D, as it fosters self-awareness and drives you to improve yourself and your projects continually.
Social knowledge is everything we learn from others through social interactions and communication. People are social beings, so it makes sense that knowledge must also be gained through relationships with others. So, let’s say someone is studying at a library. They can read books, search on the web, or keep notes. Now, imagine multiple people in the classroom studying together. They exchange information, share ideas, ask questions, and hear different opinions. Social media platforms are a great example of social knowledge, as people are constantly exchanging information about their areas of expertise. As an L&D professional, social knowledge helps you keep up with the latest trends and insights to make your training programs more engaging and impactful. Plus, it’s a great way to equip your learners with the essential critical thinking skills they need to succeed in today’s job market.
While social knowledge is gained through social interactions, collaborative knowledge is shared in more structured and formal environments. For instance, in a classroom, students collaborate through discussions and group projects. In L&D, collaborative knowledge is encountered in peer learning, as mentioned above, where learners are also teachers and have a sense of responsibility for their peers’ learning experiences. This approach is also called a “flipped classroom,” where each learner engages with the course material on their own, and then, during class time, everyone discusses what they’ve learned and proceeds to apply it. LMSs, virtual collaboration tools, and forums are the ideal tools of choice.
Everyone deals with technology in virtually every aspect of their lives. Our ability to use and adapt to new and existing technologies is called digital knowledge. The L&D industry has experienced firsthand the shift to the digital world since learning doesn’t always happen in traditional settings. Classrooms, workshops, printed learning content, and many face-to-face training sessions have been replaced by eLearning and digital material. So, everyone needs to have digital knowledge to navigate the world and adapt to changing roles.
Being culturally knowledgeable is crucial nowadays, as we live in a diverse world. Understanding and being aware of different cultures, backgrounds, norms, values, and beliefs is called cultural knowledge. L&D plays an important role in promoting it because more and more organizations have started embracing diversity in their corporate cultures. Since you work in L&D, you’ll probably have to create a training program for global teams at some point. You wouldn’t be able to build successful courses without cultural knowledge. From providing lessons in different languages to creating team activities that respect diverse employees, you must promote cultural knowledge at every level. It’s not just about making people feel inclusive; it’s about encouraging different perspectives and innovation.
All these types of knowledge play a unique role in the learning journey. You may notice that most companies heavily rely on explicit knowledge because it’s easier to document and distribute. But as someone who works in L&D, it’s crucial to help companies understand that explicit knowledge isn’t the be-all and end-all. Promote a culture where all types of knowledge are valued and shared, and ensure your training programs reflect this.