Send me your tired, your salaried, your harried Chief Learning Officers (and other Talent Development Executives) so that I can collect data on the state of our industry — focusing on a practical science-of-learning perspective.


Areas Covered in this Research Effort:

  • what is your organization asking of the learning function?
  • how are your results measured? what matters to management?
  • what are the key struggles for your learning units?
  • research utilization — how utilized? who utilizes?
  • current strengths of learning professionals.
  • development needs of learning professionals
  • sources of knowledge for these learning professionals.
  • how does your organization deal with learning myths?
  • how do you separate good information from bad?
  • what vendors provide valuable research/data?
  • what vendors provide training that is science-based?
  • what do your learning units need to be most effective?

Organizations who contribute will be entitled to the full report. An executive summary will be available for free to others.

Send me names and contact information to


Now that my book publishing responsibilities are out of the way, I'm ready to begin a research effort designed to find out more ways to improve the effectiveness of our smile sheets.

If you're organization would like to participate in this effort — and be among the first to see the results of the research — check out the full announcement on my book's website:

Next week, I'm headed to Denver, Colorado for ATD's Annual Conference for 2016. The largest conference in the workplace learning and development field, it brings together all kinds of folks for a wondrous bacchanal of learning.

I'll be talking about smile sheets (learner response forms) on Tuesday May 24th, 4:30 – 5:30 pm
TU420 – Utilizing Radically Improved Smile Sheets to Improve Learning Results at Room: 708/710.


I'll also be joining a "Science of Learning" panel on Monday May 23rd, 1:00 – 2:00 pm
M1CE – Community Express: Science of Learning Fast Track
along with Sebastian Bailey, Justin Brusino, Paul Zak, Patti Shank at Room: Mile High 1c.


If you're there at ATD's ICE — and you want to meet to discuss your organization's needs for a practical research-based approach to learning or evaluation design — send me a note at


I almost can't believe it. Finally, after 17 years of research and writing, I'm finally a published author.

Today is the day!

It's kind of funny really.

When I began this journey back in 1997 I had a well-paying job running a leadership-development product line, building multimedia simulations, and managing and working with a bunch of great folks.

As I looked around the training-and-development field — that's what we called it back then — I saw that we jumped from one fad to another and held on sanctimoniously to learning methods that didn't work that well. I concluded that what was needed was someone to play a role in bridging the gap between the research side and the practice side.

I had a very naive idea about how I might help. I thought the field needed a book that would specify the fundamental learning factors that should be baked into every learning design. I thought I could write such a book in two or three years, that I'd get it published, that consulting gigs would roll in, that I'd make good money, that I'd make a difference.

Hah! The blind optimism of youth and entrepreneurship!

I've now written over 700 pages on THAT book…without an end in sight.


How The Smile-Sheet Book Got its Start

Back in 2007, as I was mucking around in the learning research, I began to see biases in how we were measuring learning. I noticed, for instance, that we always measured at the top of the learning curve, before the forgetting curve had even begun. We measured with trivial multiple-choice questions on definitions and terminology — when these clearly had very little relevance for on-the-job performance. I wrote a research-to-practice report on these learning measurement biases and suddenly I was getting invited to give keynotes…

In my BIG book, I wrote hundreds of paragraphs on learning measurement. I talked about our learning-measurement blind spots to clients, at conferences, and on my blog.

Where feedback is the lifeblood of improvement, we as learning professionals were getting very little good feedback. We were practicing in the dark.

I'd also come to ruminate on the meta-analytic research findings that showed that traditional smile sheets were virtually uncorrelated with learning results. If smile sheets were feeding us bad information, maybe we should just stop using them.

It was about three or four years ago that I saw a big client get terrible advice about their smile sheets from a well-known learning-measurement vendor. And, of course, because the vendor had an industry-wide reputation, the client almost couldn't help buying into their poor smile-sheet designs.

I concluded that smile-sheets were NOT going away. They were too entrenched and there were some good reasons to use them.

I also concluded that smile sheets could be designed to be more effective, more aligned with the research on learning, and designed to better support learners in making smile-sheet decisions.

I decided to write a shorter book than the aforementioned BIG book. That was about 2.5 years ago.

I wrote a draft of the book and I knew I had something. I got feedback from learning-measurement luminaries like Rob Brinkerhoff, Jack Phillips, and Bill Coscarelli. I got feedback from learning gurus Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, and Adam Neaman. I made major improvement based on the feedback from these wonderful folks. The book then went through several rounds of top-tier editing, making it a much better read. 

As the publication process unfolded, I realized that I didn't have enough money on hand to fund the printing of the book. Kickstarter and 227 people raised their hands to help, reserving over 300 books in return for their generous Kickstarter contributions. I will be forever indepted to them.

Others reached out to help as well, from people on my newsletter list, to my beloved clients, to folks in trade organizations and publications, to people I've met through the years, to people I haven't met, to followers on Twitter, to the industry luminaries who agreed to write testimonials after getting advanced drafts of the book, to family members, to friends.

Today, all the hard work, all the research, all the client work, all the love and support comes together for me in gratitude.

Thank you!


= Will Thalheimer


P.S. To learn more about the book, or buy it:

I've been running Work-Learning Research for 17 years. Over that time, my websites have morphed many times, getting easier to use, getting more powerful, getting better looking.

I've always built my own websites, even going so far as to program some eCommerce functionality way back in 2000 or 2001. This is bootstrapping. Sure, I wish I could afford a brilliant web designer, but alas…I muddle through, often slowly.

Now, motivated by my impending book release, I decided to take my designs to another level, at least for my book website.

Here is the result:

I'm kind of psyched about the new design, but I may have some blind spots. Please send your feedback to me at or leave a comment here.



= Will Thalheimer

I'm delighted to be attending the eLearningGuild's DevLearn conference in Las Vegas coming up in late September and early October.




The eLearning Guild always puts on a great conference and I'm excited to learn the latest and greatest on elearning and mobile learning. This year, I'm going to be keeping my eyes out for examples of micro learning and subscription learning — as I see more an more interest in smaller learning nuggets.

Also, I'll be speaking on "Measuring eLearning to Create Cycles of Improvement." In my session, I'll share research-based findings and their implications for elearning measurement designs.

Come join me 10:45 AM – 11:45 AM Thursday, October 1.

I created a video to help organizations fully understand the meaning of their smile sheets.


You can also view this directly on YouTube:

Update 2017: This Pilot has Concluded

Original Post:

Organizations Wanted to Pilot Leadership-Development Subscription Learning!!

I am looking for organizations who are interested in piloting subscription learning as a tool to aid in developing their managers and energizing their senior management’s strategic initiatives.

To read more about the benefits and possibilities for subscription learning and leadership development, read my article posted on the ATD (Association for Talent Development) website.

Potential Benefits

  • Reinforce concepts learned to ensure remembering and application.
  • Drive management behaviors through ongoing communications.
  • Utilize the scientifically-verified spacing effect to boost learning.
  • Enable dialogue between your senior leaders and your developing managers.
  • Inculcate organizational values through scenario-based reflection.
  • Prompt organizational initiatives through your management cadre.
  • Engage in organizational learning, promoting cycles of reinforcement.
  • Utilize and pilot test new technologies, boosting motivation.
  • Utilize the power of subscription learning before your competitors do.

Potential Difficulties

  • Pilot efforts may face technical difficulties and unforeseen obstacles.

Why Will Thalheimer and Work-Learning Research, Inc.?

  • Experienced leadership-development trainer
  • Previously ran leadership-development product line (Leading for Business Results)
  • Leader in the use of scenario-based questions
  • Experienced in using subscription learning
  • Devoted to evidence-based practices
  • Extensive experience in practical use of learning research

Why Now?

  • Employees have less and less time for long training sessions.
  • More than ever training has to deliver on-the-job results.
  • Learners demanding that learning come to them when they are mobile.
  • Microlearning is the future of elearning and talent development.
  • Because Work-Learning Research and Will Thalheimer are dedicated to subscription-learning — Will plans to write a book on it — we are offering substantial discounts for pilot organizations.

Next Steps!!

  • Contact Will Thalheimer, PhD to arrange an online discussion of the possibilities.
    • email:   info AT worklearning DOT com
    • phone:   617-718-0767

In just two short weeks, the Kickstarter Campaign to get my book printed and marketed has reached it's goal!!

Over 160 people made pledges, selecting Kickstarter rewards to get over 200 copies of the book: Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form.

While I was nervous at first as I launched my campaign, I couldn't be more thrilled that so many people have showed interest in the book! And in the summertime no less!

I'm deeply grateful to all those who pledged to contribute! Thank you everyone!!


Kickstarter Campaigns can't be turned off once started, and this one is still scheduled to continue through September 4th.

If you or your organization is interested in getting a copy of the book at a discount, this will be your best chance!

There are also some very attractive rewards that are offered, including some new ones that were just added in the last few hours.


To see my official Kickstarter update:

To make a pledge or to get a book:

Official book website (where you can get a free sample chapter):



Today, about 10 in the morning, I launched my Kickstarter Campaign. It's now about 12 hours later and already the campaign is 30% to its goal. Un-freakin-believable! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

For me, I'm awestruck. And grateful — deeply grateful to those who have pledged to contribute should the campaign reach it's goal.

Thank you!

I am Grateful to Many

This book would not be possible without:

  • academic researchers, journals, libraries, and database developers.
  • all the folks who have given me wisdom about book publishing and concrete help.
  • all the folks who have reached out over the last 17 years to thank me for my research-to-practice work.
  • my clients who help pay the bills and inspire me with their dedication and passion.
  • the learning-measurement experts who helped me improve the book immeasurably (get it!?).
  • the folks who read an early version of the book and offered a testimonial.
  • the astonishing generosity of the folks who read early versions of the book and gave me detailed substantive feedback.
  • the extreme and longstanding patience and forbearance of my wife and daughter, and the humor and support of my extended family.

Now I have more people to thank…

  • Those who interrupted their day to make a Kickstarter pledge in the early hours of this campaign. This is very important — the Kickstarter experts tell me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Wow! I'm buzzing with warm fuzzies… Thank you!


Links of Interest