The Battle of Evermore Semantical Differences Without Distinctions

The Beat Goes On

I recall orienting new staff to the world of performance-based T&D in the early 1990s when the shift in language was happening – thanks to Peter Senge and his “5th Discipline” and the Learning Organization.

I had already read the book – as one tended to read what their clients were reading – when my clients began this shift in their names – from T&D to L&D, of one sort or another.

Many made a clueless move – thinking that their T&D function/department – WAS the Learning Organization. They either hadn’t read the book, or hadn’t read it for comprehension.

So, 42 years into it, soon to be 43, I watched us go from IT – Instructional Technologists — to ID – Instructional Developers and ISD – Instructional Systems Developers — when MIS – Management Information Systems became IT – Information Technology.

I witnessed ID and ISD go from Instructional Developers and Instructional Systems Developers – to Instructional Designers and Instructional Systems Designers.

ADDIE – which the late Joe Harless wrote out, in 1983, as Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (without using the acronym) was the “framework” for Performance Improvement efforts (which included Instruction) – has also been subject of semantical parsing and revisionism.

And all too often set up quickly as a straw model to then be immediately bayonetted in some marketing ploy.

A recent podcast I listened to while sitting in my car while waiting on my wife at the urgent care center (strep throat) yesterday, had Tim Slade talking about (let me paraphrase here) that whatever you call it – it’s mostly distinctions without differences.

At least that was my takeaway, in the moment, in the parking lot.

In my 40+ years in the L&D field, I’ve seen the continuous battle over our language and labels – and most have been differences without much distinction.

Although precision in meaning is admirable – the constant churn of labels, often driven by marketing efforts in an attempt to differentiate – we have made climbing the Learning Curve for people new to the profession – damn difficult.

Damn Difficult.

I wish we could stop.

Can old Charlie grab the handle – and bring this Crazy Train to a stop?


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