Every day we see articles on building organizational capability. There are also many questions about how to determine learning's value in an organization. Much of this discussion focuses around return-on-investment (ROI), effectiveness, and efficiency - essentially the connection between learning and the role it plays in higher sales, greater customer satisfaction, and successful goal accomplishment.

The ASTD Benchmarking Forum is developing an interactive Toolkit for Learning Practitioners on its collaborative virtual space that is devoted exclusively to reflective thinking tools and techniques. Self-reflection is critical when trying to act on new information. One Forum member refers to this concept as increasing the stickiness of the learning. It involves using tools and techniques to help individuals and teams

  • think through ideas or concepts
  • visualize changes or new conditions
  • question both the new information and the present reality
  • analyze and probe
  • make judgments
  • position the new content within one's own context.

To compile content for the toolkit, the Forum is connecting and collaborating with members to collect their recommendations. Gathering input from these seasoned practitioners not only ensures that these tools have worked in the real world but also allows for a point of contact for further probing as needed. The reflective thinking part of the toolkit started during the April 2009 Forum Spring Lab.

Many reflective thinking tools and techniques suggested by Forum members included journals, learning action plans, take-away sheets, learning logs, AhHa or to-do sheets, and six sentence stems. Some tools, such as mind maps and storyboards, add a visual component to words. Research suggests that the physical act of writing or drawing begins the commitment or ownership process. Other research suggests that writing helps individuals clarify and understand their thinking, beliefs, and work processes.

Some of the tools and techniques suggested by members for the toolkit were adaptations of published tools and techniques offered by noted learning professionals such as Thiagi (Thirty-five and Turntable). One member noted that commercial web-based products are now available either as associated with certain commercial training tools such as Crucial Conversations or as stand-alones such as Friday5s from Fort Hill Company. Several members shared websites such as those for Dr. Roger Greenway (reviewing.co.uk), Glenn Parker (www.glennparker.com), and the Center for Accelerated Learning (www.alcenter.com).

One of the reflective thinking tools, six sentence stems, can be used in classroom training to review the materials from the previous day. Each participant is given a sheet with the following stems: I learned; I relearned; I wonder; I was surprised; I hope; and I plan to. The participants are then asked to silently and complete all in writing. After about 10 minutes, the facilitator does a "whip around the room quote without comment" and each participant reads one sentence stem.

Placing the toolkit on a collaborative virtual space allows 24/7 access to all members.