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The multidisciplinary nature of what is contended to be HRD makes attempts to precisely define HRD difficult. There is some evidence in the literature of ideological or descriptive-normative models for aspects of HRD. For example Walton (1999) has identified 'Strategic HRD' as a distinctive and almost freestanding dimension of HRD.


There is often a futuristic focus, with prescribed contingent outcomes. Although there are often attempts to address both the practice and the conceptual aspects of HRD, the drive to express HRD in relation to models, frameworks and typologies could result in a distancing between rhetoric and reality, similar to that found in HRM debates. As Hatcher argues, 'Without a focus on the theoretical foundations of research and practice, HRD is destined to remain atheoretical in nature and poor practice will continue to undermine its credibility' (2000:45).
Historically, the development of HRD can be traced from training and instructional design, to training and development, to employee development, to human resource development. Traditionally, the field of HRD was defined by practice, not from a theoretical frame or set of research. Pat McLagan (1983) postulates the boundaries of HRD as individual development, organization development and career development. O'Brien and Thompson (1999) apply a similar framework in the Irish and European context. More recently, the emergence of HRD related journals have presented an opportunity to define the field on the basis of theory and practice. There is also a blurring of the boundaries in relation to the affiliation of researchers. ...
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