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HRD’s broad scope of influence

July 28, 2009

When considering the relationships between training, education and learning from the perspective of HRD, one must first consider the challenges of defining the interdisciplinary nature of HRD as a discipline and a practice. Additionally, understanding the foundations upon which HRD has been built is also important from the standpoint of establishing a scope for HRD and its existence as an applied profession. To that end, Jacobs (1990) points out that after a practice has been established to meet a proscribed need the knowledge of that practice must be formalized into a logical structure thereby legitimizing it and increasing the reliability of its practice.

Chalofsky (2007) deconstructs the development of the seminal theories and concepts that have shaped HRD and the scope transcends oversimplified concepts of general training, education and/or learning to include the interaction of people, organizations and learning jointly and severally. Seminal theories from sociology, anthropology, psychology, management, education, economics, physical sciences and philosophy all have contributed to the primary constructs of HRD as a field (Chalofsky, 2007). There is a distinction to be made, however, when viewing HRD as either an area of scholarly study or a profession in that more specific roles are required. Pursuant to this, the body of knowledge, including the seminal theories, feeds the profession’s best practices and that reflection, in turn, feeds the body of knowledge.

The criteria for HRD being considered a discipline have been met despite the fact that there has been difficulty in achieving “consensus on the composition of the disciplinary base” (Chalofsky, 2007, p. 433) of the field beyond the establishment that it is highly interdisciplinary. The same rationale nonetheless establishes an argument for HRD as a discipline in that it meets King & Brownell’s (1966) ten characteristics of a discipline that include community interaction, imagination, domain, history and traditions, substantive theoretical and contextual framework, mode of inquiry, specialized language or system of symbols, heritage of literature and communication network, valuative and affective stance and an instructive community presence.

All of these elements, Chalofsky (2007) argues, have been demonstrated by AHRD and the literature to be contemporarily valuable within the context of HRD as a practice and as a discipline that goes far beyond the simple act of training, educating or facilitating learning and development. Ultimately these acts are inextricably bound together by context; however, to summarize them as the only elements of HRD would be to overlook the complexity of it as an applied practice with a two-pronged lineage in theory and practice.

Chalofsky, N. (2007). The seminal foundation of the discipline of HRD: People, learning and organizations. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 18(3), 431-442.

Jacobs, R. (1990). Human resource development as an interdisciplinary body of knowledge. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 1, 65–71.

King, A. R., & Brownell, J. A. (1966). The curriculum and the disciplines of knowledge: A theory of curriculum practice. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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