ERIC Identifier: ED296122
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Budke, Wesley E. - Kerka, Sandra
Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Human Performance Technology. ERIC Digest No. 74.
Training and development (T&D) professionals play a unique role in
helping people improve their performance by using all aspects of the work
environment to make those improvements occur. These practitioners are currently
debating the existence of an integrated theoretical framework and how it might
support practice in their field. This ERIC Digest examines the dimensions of
T&D and proposes human performance technology as an appropriate field of
study to support and guide practice.
DIMENSIONS OF TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
development is a relatively new professional career choice that embodies a
variety of specialties and responsibilities, whose general purpose is to foster
a desired change in the performance of a defined audience in an on-the-job
environment (Goldstein 1980). Most definitions of a profession include among its
attributes specialized areas of knowledge and skill, intensive preparation for
practice, and conformity to ethical and technical standards.
Recently, studies have been conducted to identify distinct areas of knowledge
and skill in training and development. For example, the MODELS FOR EXCELLENCE
(McLagan 1983) led to the identification of 15 distinct job roles and respective
clusters of knowledge and skill that support each: evaluator, group facilitator,
development counselor, instructional writer, instructor, manager, marketer,
media specialist, needs analyst, program administrator, program designer,
strategist, task analyst, theoretician, and transfer agent. A second major study
(Foshay, Silber, and Westgaard 1986) focused specifically on one T&D job
role and presented performance conditions as well as standards for their
measurement. This study identified 16 competencies for the certification of
instructional/training design specialists.
In terms of intensive preparation, there has been a dramatic increase in the
number of academic programs that prepare persons for T&D job roles. The
competencies identified in the studies just described have assisted curriculum
planning. In regard to the third characteristic of a profession, T&D's
relative youth means that issues of standards and ethics are still emerging.
HUMAN PERFORMANCE TECHNOLOGY
To contribute to the growth of
T&D as a profession, Jacobs (1987) proposes human performance technology
(HPT), a systems-based field of study for training and development. The goal of
the human performance technology field is to use systems approaches to ensure
that individuals have the knowledge, skills, motivation, and environmental
supports to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. The conceptual domain of
HPT can be defined by three key aspects:
o Guide, control, and facilitate the
development of human
o Examine all aspects of a problem
o Relate results from a set of decisions to other decisions
o Use resources to develop performance systems
o Provide a conceptual means of viewing
materials, events, and resources required to achieve goals
Understanding human performance is an integral part of the field. T&D
professionals address such questions as What type of performance requires
changing? and Who is doing that performance? Performance is usually measured in
terms of quality, quantity (or productivity), and cost; thus, human performance
is inevitably linked to organizational performance or success. Both individual
and organizational goals must be considered in attempting to improve
Use of systems approaches to develop human performance systems is one of the
most prominent aspects of the field. The end result of using a systems approach
is a combination of materials, events, peoples, and strategies called a
performance system. A performance system is the structure, within the work
setting, in which people use resources and tools to perform their work. Human
performance systems have five main components: (1) a job or context; (2)
individual abilities, motivations, actions, decisions, and behavior; (3)
responses required for performance; (4) consequences of the response; and (5)
feedback on the consequences.
HPT is about engineering human performance. Because human performance is
easier to measure objectively than human behavior, HPT proposes that knowing how
to engineer performance and the conditions that affect it is more important than
attempting to explain why certain behavior has occurred.
T&D professionals can use HPT to identify performance problems, needs,
and goals. Techniques include the Front-End Analysis Model, the Behavioral
Engineering Model, and the Performance Matrix. Assessment of needs and
identification of goals can assist in the definition of exemplary performance.
Once identified, knowledge of exemplary performance can be used to analyze why
some individuals have not achieved it and to specify necessary steps that will
lessen the gap between actual and ideal performance. Solutions to human
performance problems might include training, job performance aids, feedback
systems, employee selection, and organizational redesign.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PROFESSIONAL PREPARATION AND PRACTICE
the preceding discussion, HPT can be defined as the development of human
performance systems, and the management of that development, using systems
approaches to achieve organizational and individual goals. What are the
implications for professional practice? Boothe (1985) compared traditional and
systems approaches to T&D along eight dimensions. A traditional approach
might be defined as when the mission of T&D is primarily the design,
delivery, and management of training programs. The comparison illustrates that,
by using a systems approach, the goals of T&D activities become more
congruent with that of the organization. The success of T&D professionals
often depends on their effects on the organization's bottom line.
In terms of professional preparation, academic programs for T&D should be
based on a set of core competencies and a unique theoretical base, such as HPT.
T&D graduate programs should focus on specific job roles of professionals
and should include a structured practicum experience.
PROPOSITIONS OF HUMAN PERFORMANCE TECHNOLOGY
Jacobs (1987) lists 11 propositions that have emerged from his study of human
performance technology: 1. Human performance and human behavior are different,
and knowledge of the difference is important for achieving the goals of the
field. 2. Any statement about human performance is at least about organizational
performance as well. 3. Costs of improving performance should be regarded as
investments in human capital, yielding returns in terms of increased performance
potential. 4. Organizational goals as well as individual goals must be
considered to define worthy performance. 5. The domain of human performance
technology consists of management functions, development functions, and systems
functions. 6. Knowing how to engineer human performance and the conditions that
affect it is as important as explaining why the behavior occurred. 7. To
diagnose problems, one should analyze the present system and then examine the
differences between it and an ideal system. To avoid anticipated problems, one
should analyze the planned system and modify it to approximate an ideal system.
8. Exemplary performance provides the most logical referent for determining job
performance standards. 9. Human performance problems can have different root
causes, and these causes are generally classified as either originating from the
person, from something in the person's environment, or from both. 10.
Performance of one subsystem affects the performance of other subsystems in
somewhat predictable ways, requiring that problem causes be analyzed at more
than one level of an organization. 11. Many different solutions may be used to
improve human performance. Selection of any one solution is dependent upon the
cause and nature of the performance problem, and the criteria used to evaluate a
solution must include its potential to make a measurable difference in the
This ERIC Digest is based on the following publication:
Jacobs, R. L. HUMAN PERFORMANCE TECHNOLOGY: A SYSTEMS-BASED FIELD FOR THE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT PROFESSION. INFORMATION SERIES NO. 326. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career,
and Vocational Education, The National Center for Research in Vocational
Education, The Ohio State University, 1987. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service
No. ED 290 936).
Boothe, B. "How to Successfully Apply
Performance Technology in Organizations." PERFORMANCE AND INSTRUCTION 24, no. 7
(September 1985): 2-4.
Foshay, W.; Silber, K.; and Westgaard, O., eds. INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN
COMPETENCIES: THE STANDARDS. Iowa City: International Board of Standards for
Training, Performance, and Instruction, 1986.
Goldstein, I. "Training in Work Organizations." ANNUAL REVIEW OF PSYCHOLOGY
31 (1980): 229-272.
McLagan, P., ed. MODELS FOR EXCELLENCE: THE CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE ASTD TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT COMPETENCY STUDY. Washington, DC: American Society for Training and