Makin’ Waffles: Human Performance Technology vs. Wishful Thinking

Technology of making waffles

Lego my Eggo

A teacher colleague of mine was infamous amongst his students for many reasons, one of them being his “waffle story.”

Around the midterm for his science class, he would tell the story of a young man who was keen on making waffles.

This young man, the story goes, wanted nothing more than to get a job making waffles at an establishment specializing in waffles 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  He worked very hard to learn to make waffles, acquired a great amount of knowledge about the process of making waffles, and had incredibly strong motivation to make the waffles. However, despite all of his efforts, his waffles were awful.

Makin' Waffles Video

WATCH THIS VIDEO: Human Performance Technology at odds with Waffle Making

[Click for NPR story about the technology used to create the video on your left: Behind the Rise of Xtranormal, A Hilarious DIY Deadpan]

Now, for this teacher, the point of his waffle story was not one of instructional design, but more of a Darwinian approach to teaching. He was trying to tell his students–products of “if I try hard enough I’ll get a good grade” generation, bolstered by the ubiquitous leveling principle in our society of “everyone who participates deserves a reward,”–that, at  the end of the day, he didn’t care how much they studied, how much they “knew,” how much they cared about doing a good job in his class. If, when the rubber hit the road, their classroom performance was analogous to the waffles, i.e. awful, they wouldn’t pass his course.

I was reminded of this waffle story when reading about human performance theory and one of the principles emphasizing the myriad of factors that affect how people perform their work, from Gilbert quoted in Stolovitch(2007):

“Hard work, great knowledge, and strong motivation without valued accomplishment is unworthy performance” (p.137).

Individuals can be hard workers, have great knowledge, and strong motivation, but if they do so without producing valued accomplishment, then the performance is considered unworthy.

Granted, there are many other things at work in my colleague’s class and his rationale for sharing this story with students. For example, if the student has “great knowledge” along with a good work ethic and motivation, it seems that the teacher should recognize a disconnect in the teaching of content and the assessment if the performance is bad. However, this story aligns with another principle that has driven the development of the human performance industry, namely the inability of knowledge and skills to transfer into the workforce.

This concept of transfer of knowledge and skills from an academic setting to a workforce or professional setting is what drives my research agenda of both theorizing, as well as designing and developing, a humanities-driven pedagogy for STEM pursuits in k-12 with the goal of producing a more successful, qualified and motivated workforce for STEM careers.

A more immediate project that I hope to develop for this course involves a design-research agenda focusing on the technology integration of a video analysis tool into mediation resolution training. The status of the current mediation training involves minimal to no use of technology, and our instructional design solution to improve performance of participants in the training includes the use not only of video, but of video analysis technology. This technology will allow both students and teachers to reflect critically on student performance, providing all participants greater access to the perceptions of performance.

More on that to come…

Stolovitch, H. (2007).  The development and evolution of human performance involvement.  In Reiser, R. & Dempsey. J. (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (134-146). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.



Filed under Human Performance Technology

2 responses to “Makin’ Waffles: Human Performance Technology vs. Wishful Thinking

  1. I’m curious if your teacher friend ever saw his teaching as unworthy – I mean, if he was willing to fail students because they weren’t performing, did he ever see himself as the failure?

  2. Unfortunately, I can answer your question with a firm and resounding, “No.” I did not respect his methods at all, but found his waffle analogy very useful in describing performance gaps that we, as instructional designers, can help close through human performance improvement techniques.

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