Saturday, 20 February 2016

Modern workplace learning

Nigel Paine is an internationally renowned thought-leader in learning and organisational development. With decades of experience in corporate learning, including several years as Head of Training and Development for the BBC, Paine understands the evolution that is currently taking place in workplace learning and the opportunities this presents for learning practitioners.

In his book The Learning Challenge - Dealing with technology, innovation and change in learning and development (2014), Paine explores the change work landscape and makes the case for learning to be at the centre of a transforming workplace.
Using interviews with learning professionals from diverse companies, case studies and expert knowledge, Paine gives advice to learning and organisational development practitioners on how to transition to a redefined role of contemporary learning professional.

Work is no longer 9-5 and office-based, but takes place anywhere at anytime. Rapid advances in technology is changing how we work, communicate and learn. There is a shift underway from instructor-led to learner-focused, from courses to curation, from synchronous to just-in-time learning, from formal to informal learning.

After detailing these changes, Paine then explores 'new ideas for learning'. Here he makes a passionate case for the 70-20-10 model of learning, popularised by Charles Jennings, and the need to measure impact. He cites Brinkerhoff's approach to evaluation and the business success case model, as a means for measuring learning transfer. He also looks at performance support and the evolving role of instructional design.  He concludes with 'the game changers' - learning analytics, neuroscience and technology - and how they will impact workplace learning.

I had the good fortune to hear Mr Paine speak at an Australian learning and development conference in 2014 and I was impressed by his ability to reinforce his ideas with relevant case studies and practical tips to apply in my own work. He does the same thing in this book, as each chapter ends with ideas to immediately start applying the concepts he describes.

This book is clearly written for learning and organisational development professionals and will benefit both those new to the profession as well as established practitioners. However, it should also be read by a broader audience including business leaders seeking to build an engaged, innovative workforce. There are lessons here for all of us as we rise to the learning challenge.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Stella Longlist 2016

The Stella Prize is an annual literary award celebrating women writers of both fiction and non-fiction. Named after Australian author Stella Miles Franklin, the Prize was created in 2013 in response to the lack of diversity in nominees for literary awards. It is hoped that through the promotion of excellent books by women, more people will be drawn to their works and inspiration will be given to emerging female writers.

Past winners include:
  • Carrie Tiffany for Mateship with Birds (2013)
  • Claire Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (2014)
  • Emily Bitto for The Strays (2015)
On 9 February 2016, the longlist for the 2016 Stella Prize was announced with 12 nominees from over 170 entries. There is a great mix of genres (essays, short stories and novels) and a blend of new writers and established authors.

I must admit, I have not yet read any of the longlist. But there are a few on my 'To be Read' list. So, let's take a closer look at the longlist.

The Women’s Pages by Debra Adelaide 
Adelaide is an established author of both fiction and non-fiction. The Women's Pages is a novel about the decisions women make, their compromises and experiences of loss. The main character Dove reads Wuthering Heights to her dying mother and is profoundly influenced. She decides to write her own novel about an independent woman named Ellis.  As Dove writes her book, The Women's Pages becomes a novel within a novel.

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop 
Set in the 1960s, Charlotte is struggling with her life as a wife, parent and artist. Her husband Henry suggests travelling to Australia in the hopes of regaining their life before children. As they emigrate to Perth the novel explores themes of home, nostalgia, family and love. Bishop is an established writer and was previously shortlisted for the Vogel Literary Award as well as named one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Australian novelists. 

Panthers and the Museum of Fire by Jen Craig
This is a novella by Sydney based writer and micro-fiction blogger Jen Craig. The protagonist walks from her Glebe home to a cafe in Surry Hills with a manuscript written by a friend who has passed away. Another book within a book, Craig has been praised for her stream-of-consciousness style writing. I am particularly intrigued by this book as I know the Glebe to Surry Hills path well, and the title is taken from a sign on the highway in Western Sydney that I pass en route to the Blue Mountains.

Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight  (read review)
At the 2015 Sydney Writers Festival, Daylight moderated a number of the sessions I attended and I was impressed by her critical engagement with fiction and writers. She mentioned this new collection of short stories about that awkward period between adolescence and adulthood through which we all pass. Many critics have compared her work to Alice Munro. This book is definitely on my list for reading soon.

Hope Farm by Peggy Frew
In this coming of age story set in the 1980s, thirteen year old Silver is taken to a hippie commune by her mother.  Silver longs for stability, while her mother is infatuated by the new man in her life. Mother-daughter relationships, growing up, belonging and first loves are explored. This is the second novel from Frew, after her award winning debut House of Sticks (2010).

A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories by Elizabeth Harrower 
Harrower is an internationally known author of five novels including The Watch Tower. This book is a collection of twelve short stories she has written over five decades. It includes the story "Alice" which was published in the New Yorker in 2015. I love short stories and I am interested in reading this collection.

A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones 
The title of this book is drawn from a Nabakov short story in 1925, written when he lived in Berlin. Jones has set her sixth novel in a wintery Berlin and uses Nabakov as a catalyst. A group of international travellers gather in empty apartments to share memories and talk about the Russian author. Blending literature, history and storytelling this novel sounds intriguing.

The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau
Juchau is a well regarded Australian author who has previously been shortlisted for various literary awards. This, her third novel, is about the Muller family who reside on a farm on the north coast of New South Wales. Grieving the loss of a child, Evangeline is no longer able to paint and struggles to care for her remaining daughters. Her apiarist husband also mourns and seeks solace in drink. 

A Short History of Richard Kline by Amanda Lohrey 
Tasmanian author Amanda Lohrey's allegorical novel follows Richard from childhood to middle age, and is described by the publisher as a 'pilgrim's progress for the here and now'. As a middle class, middle aged man, he is is still trying to determine what he wants. While I have heard good things about this book, the subject matter - one man's first world problems - doesn't interest me.

Anchor Point by Alice Robinson
This is a debut novel of a Melbourne based writer. A woman disappears from a farm without a trace, leaving her family behind. Her ten year old daughter Laura takes on as much of the household duties as she can. Spanning the next 35 years of Laura's life, the novel explores families, nature, secrets and loss. 

The Natural Way of Things
 by Charlotte Wood  (read review)
Wood's novel has been compared to Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale and as such is definitely on my reading list. Two women are drugged and taken to an isolated property where they find they are imprisoned with eight other girls. Each has a common past for which they are being punished in this powerful feminist novel.

Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright
The only non-fiction on the longlist, Australian poet Fiona Wright draws together ten intimate essays about anorexia and body image. In high school Wright developed an eating disordered that almost killed her after ten years with the disease. 

The Shortlist will be announced on 10 March 2016 with the prize announced on 19 April 2016.