The concept of evidence-based practice is bubbling up all over. I started Work-Learning Research in 1998 to bridge the gap between research and practice. Ruth Clark has been talking about evidence-based recommendations for years. The medical profession has transformed itself to focus on evidence-based medicine. The No-Child-Left-Behind initiative was based on the concept of evidence-based education. Though No Child Left Behind has been poorly implemented, the core concept is sound. Kevin Kruse, CEO of the custom e-learning company Axiom Health, has trademarked the term, “Evidence-Based Training.” Management gurus, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton have recently written a best selling book (Pfeffer and Sutton, 2006. Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management). ISPI (the International Society for Performance Improvement) has been promoting evidence-based practices in their CPT certification program since the 1990’s.

Evidence-Based Practice is on an upward trajectory, but what does it mean for those of us in the learning-and-performance field? I’m not going to go into depth now, but I want to highlight a few critical points.

  1. Evidence-Based Learning (EBL) DOES NOT simply mean that we follow research-based prescriptions.
  2. Evidence-Based Learning (EBL) requires us also to measure our own performance. In other words, we ought to be routinely gathering good EVIDENCE about how well our learning interventions are working. Only by having feedback loops can we learn from our performance.
  3. Evidence-Based Learning (EBL) requires us also to build continuous cycles of improvement into our practices. After gathering and analyzing the evidence, we need to act on it. Then we need to evaluate and analyze and act again.

I spend an inordinate amount of time every year culling practical learning wisdom from the world’s preeminent refereed journals on learning, memory, and instruction. It appears that I am one of the most passionate advocates for learning research living today. Yet still, I believe that following research-based recommendations can provide us with less than half, probably less than one-third, of the power of a full practice of evidence-based learning.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that, as a field, we have only reached a small measure of our potential because we don’t utilize evidence-based practices. We don’t have adequate feedback loops. We act too often on superstition, on the ideas inherent in commercial messaging, and on our learner’s lowest-common denominator comfort zones.

The bottom line recommendation is this: Only with true evidence-based practices, not warmed over attempts to follow a few research-based prescriptions, can you build a maximally effective learning program.

Sorry I can’t provide more specifics in this short blog format. If you want to know more, feel free to get in touch with me.