How Can Mental Models Illuminate Decision-Making and Learning Processes?

HRD cover[We’re pleased to welcome Robin Grenier of the University of Connecticut. Dr. Grenier recently published an article with Dr. Dana Dudzinska-Przesmitzki in the Human Resource Development Review entitled “A Conceptual Model for Eliciting Mental Models Using a Composite Methodology.”]

In the Adult Learning Program in the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, we are interested in studying how mental models shape and influence adult learning, both at work and in personal development.

Individuals hold numerous mental models, which are formed through experience, observation, and learning. These models are used in decision making to understand, predict, and solve problems. There is a lot of interest in mental models, like in business and , and a lot is written about mental models both in scholarly publications and in the popular media. However, my co-author and I found that there is still much to be learned about how to utilize these tacit models. Our paper was an investigation of how mental models are usually elicited and an introduction to a possible new model for mental model elicitation (MMME) that can be applied in research and practice.

Given that Forbes, The Wharton School, and The Harvard Business Review, among others, have recently highlighted the importance of understanding one’s mental models, we found it interesting that there was not more written on how to best elicit mental models and apply theses models to the shaping and informing of organizational practice or individual learning.

Our MMME has the potential to offer techniques that more closely resemble what practitioners might actually use in an organizational context. It is a practical approach to elicitation that combines three methods. The combination of methods enable better and deeper access to participants’ mental models using both recall and recognition, which may help with the retrieval of more information. Compared with single methods of elicitation, MMME can improve elicitation through systematic steps used for increasing accuracy and contextualizing responses. For scholars and researchers, the application of MMME may help to expand the field of human resource development by supporting exploration of how individuals’ mental models shape learning, organizational development, and change.

You can read “A Conceptual Model for Eliciting Mental Models Using a Composite Methodology for free by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest news and research from Human Resource Development Review? Just click here to sign up for e-alerts!


Robin S GrenierRobin S. Grenier, PhD, is an associate professor of Adult Learning in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Connecticut. She earned her PhD in adult education from the University of Georgia, as well as a certificate in qualitative inquiry. Her research interests include expertise development, informal and experiential learning in the lives of adults, museums as places of life-long learning, and qualitative inquiry.

Dana Dudzinska-Przesmitzki, PhD, earned her doctorate in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut and now serves as an education specialist for the U.S. Federal Judicial Center in Washington, DC. Her research interests include museum studies, and training and development.

What’s Wrong With Leadership Development?

Are leadership development specialists missing the forest for the trees?

An article in Advances in Developing Human Resources finds that instead of promoting generic traits, behaviors and competencies, we should be focusing on how these strategies relate to the specific needs of individuals and the organizations they work for:

2ADHR06.qxdThe Problem.

Leadership Development research and practice has consistently focused on specific methods and interventions to the degree that our understanding of what good leadership development looks like is much clearer. The problem however, with current thinking on leadership development and the evaluation of leadership development is that we are not exploring the extent to which the individual leader and the organization they work for are connected and aligned. For evaluators of leadership development this exploration is a key aspect in measuring the systemic nature of leadership development and not merely the intervention. How do individual leaders navigate their personal leadership development journey and how do the organizations for which they work interface with them to provide effective development opportunities and practice?

The Solution.

This article makes the case that we need to evaluate and articulate the leadership development process differently; to move away from isolated methods and toward an interconnected process of personal and organizational discovery and learning. When leaders and organizations activate the interconnectedness of leadership development, learning may become more reciprocal and aligned which could drive better development outcomes and value. The Leadership Development Interface Model, developed through research and literature data, provides an interconnected perspective of leadership development and explores a “whole system” view so both leaders and organizations can engage, plan, and evaluate their development effort in an aligned and supported way.

The Stakeholders.
Leaders and their direct managers in organizations, HR and development specialists

Read “The Leadership Development Interface: Aligning Leaders and Organizations Toward More Effective Leadership Learning” in Advances in Developing Human Resourcesand visit ADHR’s e-alerts page if you’d like to get related research in your inbox.

Gender and Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Kathryn Thory of Strathclyde University Business School in Glasgow, Scotland published “A Gendered Analysis of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Issues and Concerns for Human Resource Development” in the Human Resource Development Review June 2013 issue. The abstract:

Drawing on a sociological analysis considering gender, this article explores how emotional intelligence (EI) abilities are socially constructed and valued. It presents a range of societal trends including “the HRDR_72ppiRGB_150pixWfuture is female” to explore how both men and women are perceived and judged against symbolic representations of masculine and feminine when they perform gendered conceptions of EI. The article illuminates how women and men may be encouraged to take up feminine and masculine interpretations of EI skills but women fare less well. It then examines the effects of EI’s assessment and therapeutic methods in training and work-based use. It argues that these approaches are damaging to individuals when deployed in work environments where masculinized management resides as the dominant framework. Finally, the article discusses the findings in relation to HRD to reveal important theoretical guidelines for practice.

Click here to read the full article, and here to learn more about Human Resource Development Review. You can also sign up for e-alerts to be notified about new articles from the journal published in OnlineFirst.