Saturday, October 26, 2013

HPT Models and Concepts

Human Performance Technology exploration continues today with concepts and models. In the first reading, Welmoth, Prigmore, and Bray (2010) explore some of the major models in HPT. Then, Brethower (1999) discusses the relationship of general systems theory and behavioral psychology with regard to HPT. I'll finish up with some of my own observations.

First, let's take a look at the models, beginning with some of the early ones. Thomas Gilbert started things off in the field of HPT by stressing the importance of removing environmental barriers to performance. However, it was Joe Harless who gave us one of our first HPT models. His focus was on front-end analysis and the ADDIE stages. Later, Robert Mager's model brings in the notion of objectives focused on what you want the learner to be able to do. He provided a chart to help analyze the perceived performance problems. Geary Rummler's contribution was his focus on organizational performance, as well as individual performance.

Beyond these early ones, models can be classified as diagnostic models, process models, or holistic models. In simplest terms, diagnostic models tell us where to use HPT, while process models tell us how to use HPT. Holistic models are integrated. The four diagnostic models used as examples include William Deterline's Performer-Centered HPT Model, David Wile's Synthesized HPT Model, Tosti and Jackson's Multiple-level Model, and Danny Langdon's Language of Work Model. Many of the early models were process models. You can identify a process model by looking for five characteristics that are usually present in them. These include:
  • Linear or sequential method
  • Phased or grouped activities
  • Gap analysis
  • Intervention-oriented
  • Including a feedback mechanism
 Finally, holistic models are non-linear, with overlapping domains. Examples include the Holistic HTP Model and the Three-Dimensional HPT Model. The bad news is that none of these models apply to every situation. We still have to use our critical thinking skills to determine which one to apply or adjust for the task at hand.

Underlying the models are two major concepts HPT is built upon. General Systems Theory isn't really just one concept. It actually borrows from many different concepts from many different fields. To make things simpler, Brethower (1999) conveniently breaks it up into seven principles. These are:
  • Open systems - resources need to come from outside
  • Information processing - exactly what it sounds like
  • Guided systems - energy is directed
  • Adaptive systems - also what it sounds like
  • Energy channeling - prioritizing
  • Environmental intelligence - understanding the environment
  • Subsystem Maximization - limitations imposed by environment
Behavioral psychology relates back to behaviorism. There seems to be no end to the ways behaviorism can be linked back to every aspect of IT. In this case, it is used to determine why people do what people do. Once we know that, we can link it back to general systems theory, which tells us what people need to do to thrive, and come up with good solutions to performance problems.

Half of my professional life is spent designing and/or maintaining professional development programs and resources. When I look at my own methods of addressing performance problems, I notice I tend toward the process models more than the diagnostic models. I'm not completely sure why, and will have to give that some thought. Perhaps, it is simply that I'm new to all this. There is some evidence that novices need the crutch of a process to follow until they are confident enough to branch out from that. Maybe the rapid design world I live in does not allow me the time to think diagnostically. It will be interesting to see how I develop in this topic area as I continue with my program.


Brethower, D. M. (1999). General systems theory and behavioral psychology. In H. D. Stolovitch & E. J. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of Human Performance Technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 67-81). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer. 

Wilmoth, F. S., Prigmore, C., & Bray, M. (2010). HPT models In R. Watkins & D. Leigh (Eds.), Handbook of improving performance in the workplace, vol. 2: Selecting and implementing performance interventions (pp. 5-26). Silver Spring, MD: International Soceity for Performance Improvement.

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