Monday, February 26, 2007

The Learning Show

Thanks to Will Thalheimer for continuing to provide great learning resources. I just watched/listened to The Learning Show: Don't Forget Forgetting. A 26-minute presentation with just the right mix of theory, practical information and humor.

The focus of the presentation is how to maximize the learning experience in order to minimize the forgetting experience; to "minimize the ravages of forgetting." Since learners are bound to forget what we teach them, what strategies can instructional designers use to transfer that info to the learner's long term memory?

Some notes (by writing these notes, I am creating an activity of repetition, aren't I?)

  • Since learners are bound to forget, it's best to cover the high priority information. Don't cram everything into your e-Learning program. Instead, focus on the most important stuff -- provide repetition, spacing, extra time. Then put the other information into references, performance support and follow-up courses. (I cringe thinking about the amount of material I've tried to cram into a course -- because that's what the client told me they wanted.)

  • Well designed training should include performance support. We know the learner is going to forget, so make sure they'll have access to the information they need when they need it. (The only performance support I've actually ever written are bulky user-guides to go along with a software training program. "Job aids" and "printable tip sheets" are often discussed in the pre-planning stages, but somehow always seem to disappear.)

  • Tests are usually too low-level. Better to test decision making skills. Try to mimic the performance environment as much as possible, create that connection of context for the learner which will better enable information retrieval. (Think simulations and branching scenarios).

  • Delay testing. Immediate tests are biased -- they test what is "top of mind". Which is why most of us do really well when we cram for a test. A delayed test is more predictive of long term retrieval. (In e-Learning -- how best to implement a delayed test? Have the system send a link to a test a week or two after the learner completes the course? Do LMS's do this automatically?)

More nuggets:

  • Retrieval practice
  • Space the learning experiences
  • Make learning as realistic as possible -- in context/on the job
  • Don't cover too much material
  • Don't forget about performance support
  • Provide for more authentic practice -- practice & decision making in context (simulations!)
  • Spacing Effect -- space our learning over time. Will admits this is not always an easy thing to do. But if we "chunk" out our learning events into smaller pieces....
  • Assess learning with authentic tests
  • Assess learning after a delay
  • When doing an upfront needs analysis, ask how will learners use this info on the job? How often? If they will use it right away, may not need extra repetition. If only using it every once in awhile, think about "booster events". If not so often, remember performance support.
A lot of useful information in a short time. Thanks, Will! Let's just hope I don't forget it all...

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