Neon Elephant Award 2010

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22nd December 2010

Neon Elephant Award Announcement

Dr. Will Thalheimer, President of Work-Learning Research, announces the winner of the 2010 Neon Elephant Award, given this year to Richard Clark for his many years in leading the workplace learning-and-performance field by bridging the gap between academic research and practical application.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

2010 Award Winner – Richard E. Clark

Richard E. Clark is Professor Of Educational Psychology and Technology at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. He is also director of the Center for Cognitive Technology. Richard Clark is currently focusing on the design and practical application of research to the areas of complex learning, performance motivation and the use of technology in instruction. He teaches courses in adult learning theory, motivation research, and instructional design.

His most recent books include:  

  • Handling Complexity in Learning Environments: Theory and Research
    (2006, Elsevier, with Jan Elen;  
  • Turning Research Into Results: A Guide to Selecting the Right Performance Solutions
    (2002, CEP Press, with Fred Estes) which received the 2003 International Society for Performance Improvement Award of Excellence and
  • Learning from Media: Arguments, Analysis and Evidence
    (2001, Information Age Publishers).

In 2002, he won the Thomas F. Gilbert distinguished professional achievement award from the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI) and in 2003 he received the Socrates award for excellence in teaching in the Rossier School of Education. He is an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 15, Educational Psychology), a Fellow in the Association of Applied Psychology and a Founding Fellow of the American Psychological Society.

Richard Clark is honored this year for (1) his lifetime of research and (2) for his exhaustive efforts over the years in bringing research to practice (especially as represented in his association with ISPI and his book (Turning Research Into Results – A Guide to Selecting the Right Performance Solutions )

Dick’s 1983 research review of media effects has become a classic.

Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459.

With this one article, Dr. Clark brought a profound insight to the forefront: When two different types of instructional media (for example Video and PowerPoint) use the same learning method (in other words present the learning material in the same way), learning results will be equivalent. In other words, it’s not the media that matters, it’s the learning methods that matter. Of course, when different media utilize different learning methods, then results will not be equivalent. Dick’s grand insight helped pave the way for hundreds of thousands of instructional designers (and other learning professionals) to have intelligent conversations about learning media. While people will still ask us, “is e-learning better than classroom instruction?” we now know to counter their simplistic query with wisdom about how learning really works.

In 2006, Richard Clark contributed to another classic research review.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.

Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) argue that learners do better when instructional designers help provide appropriate guidance during instruction.This article launched a thousand ships—spurring research, discussion, and changes in practice.

And just last year, in 2009, Dr. Clark contributed to the enormously important book, Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure?, a book that pits researchers arguing each side of the issue to get to the bottom of this essential debate.

And here’s one little known fact: Dick worked as an Associate Producer for Television News and Public Affairs, WHYY-TV and WFIL-TV Philadelphia, PA back in 1964-1965, when I was a youngster in the Philadelphia area. So that I don’t flatter Dick too much, I’ll have to tell him that Gene London (a Philadelphia Mr. Rogers) was much higher on my radar back then. Still, I often wonder whether such practical experience is what allows some researchers to bridge the gap to practice, while other’s ideas lay dormant within the ivory tower.

For his lifetime of work and for his ability to speak practicality from the academy, we owe Richard Clark our most grateful thanks.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

Note: Because researchers pride themselves on precision, let me note that yesterday was the actual winter solstice, when the Neon Elephant Award is typically released. Something came up.