29th December 2023

Neon Elephant Award Announcement

Dr. Will Thalheimer, Consultant, Researcher, Speaker at Work-Learning Research, announces the winner of the 2023 Neon Elephant Award, given this year to Annie Murphy Paul for writing the book The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain—and for her lifetime of work bringing research wisdom to light through her books, journalism, writing, and speaking.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

 

2023 Award Winner – Annie Murphy Paul

Annie Murphy Paul is an acclaimed science writer whose decades of tireless research-inspired writings have illuminated myriad influential concepts in human learning and cognition. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Scientific American, Slate, Time magazine, and The Best American Science Writing, among many other publications. She is the author of The Extended Mind, which the Wall Street Journal lauded as “fascinating, sure-footed and wide-ranging.” Annie Murphy Paul is also the author of Origins, reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and selected by that publication as a “Notable Book,” and The Cult of Personality Testing, hailed by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker as a “fascinating new book.” Currently, she is a fellow in New America’s Learning Sciences Exchange. She has also received the Spencer Education Reporting Fellowship and the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship. Paul has spoken to audiences around the world about learning and cognition; her TED Talk has been viewed by more than 2.9 million people.

Her most recent book, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, is a luminous revelation and should be read by all learning and development professionals. I have read the book four times! Every time, I gain new ideas and conjure additional ways that we in L&D can make changes to improve the learning and performance of those we are charged to help—and improve our own work as well. She makes a very strong case that “thinking outside our brains” can bring significant improvements in our thinking and work performance.

There are a wealth of specifics in the book. Let me share just a few. She shows how Wall Street financial traders who are more adept at noticing their bodies’ signals make better decision about which stocks to buy and which to sell. The inference is that when decisions are wickedly complex—and our rationale minds fail to comprehend—many times our bodies can help us make better decisions. Gesturing helps us communicate and it helps us think more clearly ourselves. So much for presentation coaches who tell us to keep our hands at our sides! Larger computer screens help people perform better, partially by getting of the extraneous cognitive load of managing windows, but also because the larger screens let us use our hardwired human proficiency with location and place information. We can think better with other people, but we have to know how to do this to get maximum benefits. And so much more!

As I read Annie’s work I get a real sense that she is urging new futures into being. She discerns key ideas hidden in the research and brings them out into a world where they are not yet recognized. In her book, The Cult of Personality Testing, she critiqued the personality-testing industry and showed the damage that was being done in the worlds of education, business, government, and the judicial system. At the time of the original publication—in 2004—how many of us in L&D even thought to question the MBTI Myers-Briggs or DISC or any other of the ubiquitous and largely unproven personality tests we used in our training? I get the same sense reading The Extended Mind. Annie Murphy Paul is way ahead of us.

Notable contributions from Annie Murphy Paul:


With Gratitude

In her decades of work, Annie Murphy Paul has educated us about things we really need to know—information that can be utilized in our work and in our lives. She is said to read psychology journal articles for fun, but let’s not be fooled. Reading science is hard. Collating piles and piles of research from disparate paradigms is even harder. What is truly exceptional is weaving together constructs into meaningful whole cloth and making it resonate with the public. Annie Murphy Paul has a unique gift, one that we in learning-and-development should accept with gratitude. It is an honor to recognize Annie as this year’s winner of the Neon Elephant Award.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

 

21st December 2022

Neon Elephant Award Announcement

Dr. Will Thalheimer, Principal at TiER1 Performance, Founder of Work-Learning Research, announces the winner of the 2022 Neon Elephant Award, given this year to Donald Clark, for writing the book, Learning Experience Design: How to Create Effective Learning that Works, and for his collation of the Greatest Minds on Learning (both in the podcast series with John Helmer and in Donald’s tireless work researching and curating critical ideas and thinkers in his Plan B blog).

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

 

2022 Award Winner – Donald Clark

Donald Clark is a successful entrepreneur, professor, researcher, author, blogger, and speaker. He is an internationally-renowned thinker in the field of learning-technology, having worked in EdTech for over 30 years; having been a leader in many successful learning-technology businesses (both as an executive and board member); and having written extensively on a wide range of topics related to learning and development—in books, articles, and his legendary blog. Relatively early in his career, Donald earned success as one of the original founders of Epic Group plc, a leading online learning company in the UK, an enterprise subsequently floated on the Stock Market in 1996 and sold in 2005. Since then, as Donald has described it, he has felt “free from the tyranny of employment,” using this privilege to the advantage of the learning field. Donald has becoming an advocate for research-based practices and intelligent uses of learning technologies. He has also founded, run, and supported learning-technology enterprises, which has further helped spread good learning practices.

Donald Clark’s most recent book—Learning Experience Design: How to Create Effective Learning that Works—stands above and apart from most writing on Learning Experience Design. It is fully and thoroughly inspired by the scientific research on learning and on real-world experience in using and developing learning technologies. Chapter after chapter it shares an inspiring introduction, a robust review of best practices, and a concise set of practical recommendations. Anyone practicing learning experience design should buy this book today—study it and apply it’s recommendations. Your learners and organizations will thank you. You will build wildly more effective learning!

Donald Clark’s compilations of our field’s best thinkers and ideas is legendary—or should be! Over many decades, he has tirelessly curated an almost endless treasure-trove of golden nuggets on many of the most important ideas in the learning field. This past year, he has brought these to a larger audience through his excellent collaboration with John Helmer, known most famously for his Learning Hack podcast. Donald Clark’s and John Helmer’s Great Minds on Learning webcast and podcast collaboration is fantastic. Donald’s written reviews provide us with an overview of the deep history of the learning field. Here is a blog post that lists many of Donald’s reviews of the great thinkers in our field.

Notable contributions from Donald Clark:


With Gratitude

In his decades of work, Donald Clark has been a tireless advocate for improvements and innovation in the field of learning-and-development and learning technology. He often refers to his work as “provocative,” and deserves admiration for (1) urging the learning field to embrace scientifically-informed practices, (2) urging us to be more forward looking in our embrace of learning technologies (particularly AI), and (3) being one of our field’s preeminent historians—reminding us of the rich and valuable work of researchers, writers, and practitioners from the past centuries to today. It is an honor to recognize Donald as this year’s winner of the Neon Elephant Award.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

 

 

21st December 2021

Neon Elephant Award Announcement

Dr. Will Thalheimer, Principal at TiER1 Performance, Founder of Work-Learning Research, announces the winner of the 2021 Neon Elephant Award, given to two people this year, Clark Quinn and Patti Shank. Clark Quinn for writing the book, Learning Science for Instructional Designers. Patti Shank for writing the book Write Better Multiple-Choice Questions to Assess Learning—and for their many years translating learning research into practical recommendations.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

2021 Award Winners – Clark Quinn and Patti Shank

Clark Quinn, PhD is an internationally-recognized consultant and thought-leader in learning science, learning technology and organizational learning. Clark holds a doctorate in Cognitive Psychology from the University of California at San Diego. Since 2001, Clark has been consulting, researching, writing, and speaking through his consulting practice, Quinnovation (website). Clark has been at the forefront of some of the most important trends in workplace learning, including his early advocacy for mobile learning, his work with the Internet Time Group advocating for a greater emphasis on workplace learning, and his many efforts to bring research-based wisdom to elearning design. With the publication of his new book, Clark again shows leadership—now in the cause of giving instructional designers a clear and highly-readable guide to the learning sciences.

Clark is the author of numerous books. The following are representative:

 

Patti Shank, PhD

Patti Shank, PhD, is an internationally-recognized learning analyst, writer, and translational researcher in the learning, performance, and talent space. Dr. Shank holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation, Instructional Technology from the University of Colorado, Denver and a Masters degree in Education and Human Development from George Washington University. Since 1996, Patti has been consulting, researching, and writing through her consulting practice, Learning Peaks LLC (pattishank.com). As the best research-to-practice professionals tend to do, Patti has extensive experience as a practitioner, including roles such as training specialist, training supervisor, and manager of training and education. Patti has also played a critical role collaborating with the workplace learning’s most prominent trade associations—working, sometimes quixotically, to encourage the adoption of research-based wisdom for learning.

Patti is the author of numerous books, focusing not only on evidence-based practices, but also on online learning, elearning, and learning assessment. The following are her most recent books:


With Gratitude

In their decades of work, both Patti Shank and Clark Quinn have lived careers of heroic effort, perseverance, and passion. Their love for the learning-and-development field is deep and true. They don’t settle for half the truth, they don’t settle for half measures. But rather, they show their mettle even when they get pushback, even when times are tough, even when easier paths might call. It is an honor to recognize Patti and Clark as this year’s winners of the Neon Elephant Award.

 

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

 

 

21st December 2020

Neon Elephant Award Announcement

Dr. Will Thalheimer, President of Work-Learning Research, Inc., announces the winner of the 2020 Neon Elephant Award, given to Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner for writing the book, Evidence-Informed Learning Design: Use Evidence to Create Training Which Improves Performanceand for their many years publishing their blog 3-Star Learning Experiences.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

2020 Award Winners – Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner

Mirjam Neelen is one of the world’s most accomplished research-to-practice practitioners in the workplace learning field. On the practical side, Mirjam has played many roles. As of this writing, she is the Head of Global Learning Design and Learning Sciences at Novartis. She has been a Learning Experience Design Lead at Accenture and at the Learnovate Centre in Dublin, an Instructional Designer at Google, and Instructional Design Lead at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Mirjam utilizes evidence-informed wisdom in her work and also partners with Paul A. Kirschner in the 3-Star Learning Experience blog to bring research and evidence-informed insights to the workplace learning field. Mirjam is a member of the Executive Advisory Board of The Learning Development Accelerator.

Paul A. Kirschner is Professor Emeritus at the Open University of the Netherlands and owner of kirschner-ED, an educational consulting practice. Paul is an internationally recognized expert in learning and educational research, with many classic studies to his name. He has served as President of the International Society for the Learning Sciences, is an AERA (American Education Research Association) Research Fellow (the first European to receive this honor). He has published several very successful books: Ten Steps to Complex Learning, Urban Myths about Learning and Education. More Urban Myths about Learning and Education, and this year he published How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice with Carl Hendrick — as well as the book he and Mirjam are honored for here. Kirschner previously won the Neon Elephant Award in 2016 for the book Urban Myths about Learning and Education written with Pedro De Bruyckere and Casper D. Hulshof. Also, Paul’s co-author on the Ten-Steps book, Jeroen van Merriënboer, won the Neon-Elephant award in 2011.

Relevant Websites

Mirjam’s and Paul’s book, Evidence-Informed Learning Design was published only ten months ago, but has already swept the world as a book critical to learning architects and learning executives in their efforts to build the most effective learning designs. In my book review earlier this year I wrote, “Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner have written a truly beautiful book—one that everyone in the workplace learning field should read, study, and keep close at hand. It’s a book of transformational value because it teaches us how to think about our jobs as practitioners in utilizing research-informed ideas to build maximally effective learning architectures.”

Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner are the kind of research translators we should honor and emulate in the workplace learning field. They are unafraid in seeking the truth, passionate in sharing research- and evidence-informed wisdom, dogged in compiling research from scientific journals, and thoughtful in making research ideas accessible to practitioners in our field. It is an honor to recognize Mirjam and Paul as this year’s winners of the Neon Elephant Award.

 

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

Learner surveys are the most common method of measuring learning. I’ve been studying them for over a decade, ever since I learned of how they were deficient. Here, I will describe their benefits, but of course they must be well designed.

In 2016, I published a book on how to radically transform learner surveys into something useful. The title was Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form. 

In 2022, I published the book again in a second edition, after updating it considerably based on the knowledge I gained in consulting with organizations in their learning-evaluation efforts. The second edition is titled: Performance-Focused Learner Surveys: Using Distinctive Questioning to Get Actionable Data and Guide Learning Effectiveness (Second Edition). It’s available on Amazon and you can learn more by clicking here. (This is the US Amazon, it’s available worldwide).

In the first edition, I listed nine benefits of learner surveys, but I had only touched the surface. In the second edition I share 20 benefits. Here’s the list:

Supporting Learning Design Effectiveness

  1. Red-flagging training programs that are not sufficiently effective.
  2. Gathering ideas for ongoing updates and revisions of learning programs.
  3. Judging the strengths, weaknesses, and viability of program updates and pilots.
  4. Providing learning architects and trainers with feedback to aid their development.
  5. Judging the competence of learning architects and trainers.
  6. Judging the contributions to learning made by people outside of the learning team.
  7. Assessing the contributions of learning supports and organizational practices.

Supporting Learners in Learning and Application

  1. Helping learners reflect on and reinforce what they learned.
  2. Helping learners determine what (if anything) they plan to do with their learning.
  3. Nudging learners to greater learning and application efforts.

Nudging Action Through Stealth Messaging

  1. Guiding learning architects to create more effective learning by sharing survey questions before learning designs are finalized and sharing survey results after data is gathered.
  2. Guiding trainers to utilize more effective learning methods by sharing survey questions before learning designs are finalized and sharing survey results after data is gathered.
  3. Guiding organizational stakeholders to support learning efforts more effectively by sharing survey questions and survey results.
  4. Guiding organizational decision makers to better appreciate the complexity and depth of learning and development—helping the learning team to gain credibility and autonomy.

Supporting Relationships with Learners and Other Key Stakeholders

  1. Capturing learner satisfaction data to understand—and make decisions that relate to—the reputation of the learning intervention and/or the instructors.
  2. Upholding the spirit of common courtesy by giving learners a chance for feedback.
  3. Enabling learner frustrations to be vented—to limit damage from negative back-channel communications.

Maintaining Organizational Credibility

  1. Engaging in visibly credible efforts to assess learning effectiveness.
  2. Engaging in visibly credible efforts to utilize data to improve effectiveness.
  3. Reporting out data to demonstrate learning effectiveness.

If you want to keep learning from me, sign up for my list. https://www.worklearning.com/sign-up/.

If you want to contact me or set up a meeting, visit my contact page. https://www.worklearning.com/contact/.

 

Design Thinking is all the rage! Even now in the Learning & Development field. A powerful methodology if done right, but a process that can go wrong when applied inappropriately to learning design. In their new book, Sharon Boller and Laura Fletcher show us how to use design thinking right—when we apply it to learning design.

 

Background

First, a little background on design thinking. The folks from IDEO, one of the exemplars of design thinking, say this about their work, “Human-centered designers are unlike other problem solvers—we tinker and test, we fail early and often, and we spend a surprising amount of time not knowing the answer to the challenge at hand. And yet, we forge ahead. We’re optimists and makers, experimenters and learners, we empathize and iterate, and we look for inspiration in unexpected places.”

Let me highlight two key things: Iteration and Empathy.

Too often in learning design and development, we design in a lockstep ADDIE fashion, from point A to point E. Instead of rapid prototyping and improvement, we are so insular in our overconfidence, that we build learning that just doesn’t work that well.

We also have a tendency to trust our learners too much with their learning design intuitions, even though tons of research shows us that learners have large misconceptions about learning. Some of us have taken the empathy notion from design thinking too far, blindly trusting learners. The history of this goes back long before design thinking to the harmful optimism of Malcolm Knowles and his theory of Andragogy.

The Fix

Sharon Boller and Laura Fletcher have long been believers in evidence-based practice. Just as importantly, they spent years utilizing and fine-tuning their learning development processes to include design-thinking principles and techniques. In Design Thinking for Training and Development: Creating Learning Journeys that Get Results, Sharon and Laura blend evidence and practice into workable and pragmatic guidelines for using design thinking. They integrate the power of design thinking and eliminate the wrong turns that happen when research and evidence is ignored.

Even in the subtitle, “Creating learning journeys that get results,” you can tell that Sharon and Laura are talking about creating meaningful learning designs. They seek out learner data, but put safeguards on this process, including special review iterations, routine prototyping, and meaningful evaluation.

The Upshot

Boller and Fletcher, in Design Thinking for Training and Development, build a powerful tool-set for learning professionals. By augmenting Design Thinking with research-based wisdom and practical insights about learning, the book provides a new learning-development methodology—a worthy replacement for learning-neutral processes like ADDIE.

The book is available tomorrow on Amazon. Click on these words to get the book.

 

Today is May 15, 2020.

This week, I asked my publisher to take all 254 remaining copies of Performance-Focused Smile Sheets and throw them in the recycling bin!

Yes! The book was one of the most important books written in the learning-and-development field over the last decade.

But I threw it out!

Why?

Because I’m writing a new, completely revised edition based on my experience developing learner surveys for organizations around the world. My learner-survey approach has been used at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Bank, at Bloomberg, at Roche (Genentech), at Oxfam. It has revolutionized the moribund smile sheet!

But time doesn’t stand still, and I’ve gained a ton of insights building learner surveys over the past five years, hearing from clients and others, pilot testing learner surveys, and creating smile sheets for my own workshops.

The new book will have an all new set of recommended questions. It will have information on open-ended questions. It will describe how learner surveys fit into the new LTEM framework (the learning-evaluation model that is replacing the Kirkpatrick-Katzell Four-Level Model around the world). The new book will also share the thinking behind the new learning-evaluation approach, LEADS (Learning Evaluation As Decision Support), which I’m developing.

When will the new book be out? Within three months!

The book may still be available in some pipelines, but I’m working to get it off the shelves. My advice is don’t buy it!

Wait for the second edition, which I’ve re-titled, Performance-Focused Learner Surveys.

Stay tuned!

And sign up for my newsletter at https://www.worklearning.com/sign-up/ to be the first to know when the book is available.

Thanks for your patience,

= Will Thalheimer

Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner have written a truly beautiful book—one that everyone in the workplace learning field should read, study, and keep close at hand. It’s a book of transformational value because it teaches us how to think about our jobs as practitioners in utilizing research-informed ideas to build maximally effective learning architectures.

Their book is titled, Evidence-Informed Learning Design: Use Evidence to Create Training Which Improves Performance. The book warns us of learning myths and misconceptions—but it goes deeper to bring us insights in how these myths arise and how we can disarm them in our work.

Here’s a picture of me and my copy! The book officially goes on sale today in the United States.

 

Click to get your copy of the book from Amazon (US).

The book covers the most powerful research-informed learning factors known by science. Those who follow my work will hear familiar terms like Feedback, Retrieval Practice, Spacing; but also, terms like double-barreled learning, direct instruction, nuanced design, and more. I will keep this book handy in my own work as a research-inspired consultant, author, provocateur—but this book is not designed for people like me. Evidence-Informed Learning Design is perfect for everyone with more than a year of experience in the workplace learning field.

The book so rightly laments that “the learning field is cracked at its foundation.” It implores us to open our eyes to what works and what doesn’t, and fundamentally to rethink how we as practitioners work in our teams to bring about effective learning.

The book intrigues as can be seen in sections like, “Why myths are like zombies,” and “No knowledge, no nothing,” and “Pigeonholing galore.”

One of my favorite parts of the book is the interviews of researchers that delve into the practical ramifications of their work. There are interviews with an AI expert, a neuroscientist, and an expert on complex learning, among others. These interviews will wake up more than a few of us.

What makes this book so powerful is that it combines the work of a practitioner and a researcher. Mirjam is one of our field’s most dedicated practitioners in bringing research inspirations to bear on learning practice. Paul is one of the great academic researchers in doing usable research and bringing that research to bear on educational practice. Together, for many years, they’ve published one of the most important blogs in the workplace learning field, the Three-Star Learning blog (https://3starlearningexperiences.wordpress.com/).

Here are some things you will learn in the book:

Big Picture Concepts:

  • What learning myths to avoid.
  • What learning factors to focus on in your learning designs.
  • How to evaluate research claims.

Specific Concepts:

  • Whether Google searches can supplant training.
  • What neuroscience says about learning, if anything.
  • How to train for complex skills.
  • How AI might help learning, now and in the future.
  • Types of research to be highly skeptical of.
  • Whether you need to read scientific research yourself.
  • Whether you should use learning objectives, or not, or when.
  • Whether learning should be fun.
  • The telltale signs of bad research.

This book is so good that it should be required reading for everyone graduating at the university level in learning-and-development.

 

 

Click on the book image to see it on Amazon (US).

 

 

 

12th December 2019

Neon Elephant Award Announcement

Dr. Will Thalheimer, President of Work-Learning Research, Inc., announces the winner of the 2019 Neon Elephant Award, given to David Epstein for writing the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and for his many years as a journalist and science-inspired truth teller.

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…

 

2019 Award Winner – David Epstein

David Epstein, is an award-winning writer and journalist, having won awards for his writing from such esteemed bodies as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the National Center on Disability and Journalism—and has been included in the Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology. David has been a science writer for ProPublica and a senior writer at Sports Illustrated where he helped break the story on baseball legend Alex Rodriguez’s steroid use. David speaks internationally on performance science and the uses (and misuses) of data and his TED talk on human athletic performance has been viewed over eight million times.

Mr. Epstein is the author of two books:

David is honored this year for his new book on human learning and development, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. The book lays out a very strong case for why most people will become better performers if they focus broadly on their development rather than focusing tenaciously and exclusively on one domain. If we want to raise our children to be great soccer players (aka “football” in most places), we’d be better off having them play multiple sports rather than just soccer. If we want to develop the most innovative cancer researchers, we shouldn’t just train them in cancer-related biology and medicine, we should give them a wealth of information and experiences from a wide range of fields.

Range is a phenomenal piece of art and science. Epstein is truly brilliant in compiling and comprehending the science he reviews, while at the same time telling stories and organizing the book in ways that engage and make complex concepts understandable. In writing the book, David is debunking the common wisdom that performance is improved most rapidly and effectively by focusing practice and learning toward a narrow foci. Where others have only hinted at the power of a broad developmental pathway, Epstein’s Range builds up a towering landmark of evidence that will remain visible on the horizon of the learning field for decades if not millennium.

We in the workplace learning-and-development field should immerse ourselves in Range—not just in thinking about how to design learning and architect learning contexts, but also in thinking about how to evaluate prospects for recruitment and hiring. It’s likely that we currently undervalue people with broad backgrounds and artificially overvalue people with extreme and narrow talents.

Here is a nice article where Epstein wrestles with a question that elucidates an issue we have in our field—what happens when many people in a field are not following research-based guidelines. The article is set in the medical profession, but there are definite parallels to what we face everyday in the learning field.

Epstein is the kind of person we should honor and emulate in the workplace learning field. He is unafraid in seeking the truth, relentless and seemingly inexhaustible in his research efforts, and clear and engaging as a conveyor of information. It is an honor to recognize him as this year’s winner of the Neon Elephant Award.

 

Click here to learn more about the Neon Elephant Award…