To Push or to Pull?

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Learning approaches – which is the most effective? Is there a right or wrong approach? We have been looking at the different approaches and of course the evidence. 

As is typical of our learning world, we have labels to describe learning approaches – Push and Pull Learning is just one of these. But which one is the most effective? and what is the evidence behind it?

Push – where learners are encouraged to go through a predetermined curriculum

Pull – where learners are given more responsibility to find their own way
So what did evidence show?
Multiple sources are indicating that the support for pull learning is expanding at an increasingly fast rate (Scholnick, 2016).

To an extent, this approach plays to a philosophy that we at Prosell hold dear to our hearts. That of Carl Rogers – the psychologist who coined that poignant quote “the only kind of learning that significantly influences behaviour is self discovery”.

However, most of the research tends to focus on the approach itself rather than the quality of the approach. In essence, too much on “what” approach rather than “how” the approach is deployed.

We would also gently challenge the idea that one approach fits all situations. Indeed, based on the principle that “you only know what you know”, sometimes it is important for the learner to be given some clear guidance on critical learning for their role or subject. Without this, the learner can become confused and begin to flounder. We find this particularly important with “new hire” programs, where the learners seem to relish clear guided curriculum with ongoing line manager/mentor support.
* To this end, we are currently collating our own research in this space.

Similarly, regarding poorly executed push strategies, if the learner takes no responsibility or ownership for their development, then you run the risk of poorly motivated learners who just read information, sit in classrooms and complete tests. However, they are unlikely to apply any of this learning in the workplace. Over the last 30 years, we have seen our fair share of this scenario play out.

So, in the words of Thomas Hardy, can’t there be a “middle distance” in our perspective on learning approaches. Why do we have to polarise our approaches? For example, why can’t you have a voyage of self discovery with learner centric activities within a guided set of learning topics. This interestingly supports the work done on learning effectiveness which emphasises the importance of “near learning”.

This means that the learner needs to see the relevance of the learning to their role if they are going to be fully engaged and have a desire to apply the learning in the workplace.

Think about:
The learner in the Push experience

Is all information relevant to all learners?
Do we all learn in the same way?

The learner in the Pull approach

Do we know what we need to learn?
How self motivated are we to learn?

Perhaps we need to consider the following points before deciding on one approach:

So which is the best approach?

The best approach might well be a combination of the two approaches to ensure learner and commercial needs are met. In our experience the most effective mobile programs have a mix of push and pull. However as mentioned before it is not about Push or Pull, it is about the quality of the execution – this is key.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the Pull and Push approach. And if you would like to discuss how they could be implemented in to your training programs or mobile learning solutions, please do get in touch, we would love to hear from you.


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