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.
= Will Thalheimer
P.S. To learn more about the book, or buy it: SmileSheets.com