Human Performance Improvement and Postindustrial Learning

This week I want to look at two concepts and how they relate to educational environments: Human Performance Improvement (often used interchangeably with Human Performance Technology) and Post Industrial Learning. Let’s take a look at some definitions:

Stolovitch and Beresford detail Human Performance Improvement (HPI) in terms of its vision, concept and desired end. The vision is “to achieve, through people, increasingly successful accomplishments” valued by stakeholders; the concept is “to achieve, through people, increasingly successful accomplishment” tied to organizational goals, valued by stakeholders (performers, managers, peers, the organization, etc.); and the desired end includes a cost that is significantly lower than the calculation of worthy performance (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, pp. 135-6). HPI is the improvement of performance through human capital. Very much like the fact that as the knowledge and performance of populaces (human capital) improve, the economy improves; when workplaces improve their human capital, it translates into profit.

line graph

Image licensed under Creative Commons.

HPI is closely tied to Human Performance Technology (HPT), “a process of analyzing an organization’s needs and applying processes and tools to help the organization meet its needs and quality expectations in a timely, cost-effective manner”, characterized by being systematic, systemic, improving productivity and analyzing and intervening to close the performance gap (Collier, Heldmann, Hyder, Li & Shrestha, 2005, p. 2). While HPI and HPT are used interchangeably, the HPT definition focuses more on the general, holistic process (the ‘what’) while HPI focuses more on the specific, individual process (the ‘how’). All in all, both concepts are useful in increasingly performance and productivity, the desired end of both HPI and HPT.

Reigeluth (2012) characterizes the current, industrial education model as one fitting a world where most people survived by performing manual labor. In this system, many students were expected to ‘flunk out’ while the ‘smarter’ students stayed on to be trained as the future managers and professionals (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012). His ‘Core Ideas for the Postindustrial Paradigm of Instruction’ are:

  1. learning-focused vs. sorting-focused
  2. learner-centered vs. teacher-centered instruction
  3. learning by doing vs. teacher presenting
  4. attainment-based vs. time-based progress
  5. customized vs. standardized instruction
  6. criterion-referenced vs. norm-referenced testing
  7. collaborative vs. individual
  8. enjoyable vs. unpleasant

By Hcogg001 at en.wikibooks [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

By Hcogg001 at en.wikibooks [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Sir Ken Robinson also sees the current educational system as outdated. He likens a modern-day school to a factory, with specified areas for specified activities and ‘batches’ of children being ‘produced’ for employment. Instead of only using an ‘academic’ standard of learning intelligence, he proposes a broader definition that takes in multiple views of learning intelligence that defines his version of Postindustrial learning (RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms, 2010).

Both HPI and the change to the Postindustrial learning paradigm have implications that can effect education right now, today. They just need to be realized and put into practice for positive impact. HPI can be used at all levels of educational institutions, from administrators to teachers to managing students, making each stratum more efficient in achieving their goals. (There really is no drawback to increasing efficiency…is there?!) The eight Core Ideas for the Postindustrial Paradigm listed above shows trends toward individualized, collaborative, learner-centered teaching (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012). Treating students as individuals with customized instruction instead of batches of manufactured graduates with customized instruction seems like another no-brainer to me! Additionally, eLearning fits in both frameworks of HPI and Postindustrial learning, giving diverse learners the opportunity to learn in their personal context.

Photo by Bradley Opatz.

“Be Top Quality University, and Excellence based on Innovation and Thai Wisdom” Photo by Bradley Opatz.

HPI could impact my educational environment of tertiary, English language learners (ELL) through its systems theory approach for efficiency. The change from a teachers college to a full-fledged university has not been successfully realized for Muban Chombueng Rajabhat University (MCRU) because the standards are still not being met. It is a widely-held view among the staff that the university lacks the more rigorous level of study that is present in other Thai universities. By using HPT, the university could couch these problems in the language of performance needs, training needs, environment needs, enhancers, barriers, interventions, performance analysis, cause analysis and performance gap (Collier, Heldmann, Hyder, Li & Shrestha, 2005). Through this approach, students’ performance gap is measured through analysis, translated into various needs, enhancers, barriers and interventions in order to improve human capital and become knowledgeable, future primary and secondary English teachers in Thailand.

For the university to reach and stay competitive in terms of producing quality English teachers, the feedback from student-training and pre-service teaching, as well as from schools after graduation needs to improve. This leads to increased credibility and enrollment. For the students to have a better working knowledge and understanding of the English language improves their self-confidence in teaching and translates into the potential for better job placement, thereby leveraging their human capital. What else can help the university’s goal of becoming a quality institution? Postindustrial paradigm-thinking!

MCRU is heavily rooted in the endemic Thai, teacher-centered ‘sage on a stage’ lecture model. Rote learning that only activates the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy is the norm. Specialized instruction available to learners with disabilities, as they are invariably given passing grades, no matter the effort. More change is needed in re-aligning the curriculum to allow for more collaborative activities, learner-centered teaching styles and the maximization of learner enjoyment, trends prevalent in Postindustrial paradigm theories.

Can HPI be viewed as a theory under the Postindustrial paradigm? I’m looking forward to your thoughts below!


Collier, G., Heldmann, S., Hyder, T., Li, Y., & Shrestha, R. (2005). Human performance
Technology: A reference manual. Retrieved from   

Reiser, R. & Dempsey, J. (2011). Trends and Issues in instructional design and      technology. (3rd
ed.) Allyn & Bacon. ISBN-10: 0132563584 | ISBN-13: 978-0132563581

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms. (2010). [Video file]. Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>