Book Publication Day!!

Wow!!

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:  SmileSheets.com

My Book Kickstarter Campaign — We Did It!!!!!!!!!!!!

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!!

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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.

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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):

 

 

Wisdom from John Medina — and Lunch

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, and Development Molecular Biologist at University of Washington/ Seattle Pacific University, was today's keynote speaker at PCMA's Education Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

John Medina

He did a great job in the keynote, well organized and with oodles of humor, but what struck me was that even though the guy is a real neuroscientist, he is very clear in stating the limitations of our understanding of the brain. Here are some direct quotes from his keynote, as I recorded them in my notes:

"I don't think brain science has anything to say for business practice."

"We still don't really know how the brain works."

"The state of our knowledge [of the brain] is childlike."

"The human brain was not built to learn. It was built to survive."

Very refreshing! Especially in an era where conference sessions, white papers, and trade-industry publications are oozing with brain science bromides, neuroscience snake oil, and unrepentant con artists who, in the interest of taking money from fools, corral the sheep of the learning profession into all manner of poor purchasing decisions. 

The Debunker Club is working on a resource page to combat the learning myth, "Neuroscience (Brain Science) Trumps Other Sources of Knowledge about Learning," and John Medina gives us more ammunition against the silliness.

In addition to John's keynote, I enjoyed eating lunch with him. He's a fascinating man, wicked knowledgeable about a range of topics, funny, and kind to all (as I found out as he developed a deep repartee with the guy who served our food). Thanks John for a great time at lunch!

One of the topics we talked about was the poor record researchers have in getting their wisdom shared with real citizens. John believes researchers, who often get research funding from taxpayer money, have a moral obligation to share what they've learned with the public.

I shared my belief that one of the problems is that there is no funding stream for research translators. The academy often frowns on professors who attempt to share their knowledge with lay audiences. Calls of "selling out" are rampant. You can read my full thoughts on the need for research translators at a blog post I wrote early this year.

Later in the day at the conference, John was interviewed in a session by Adrian Segar, an expert on conference and meeting design. Again, John shined as a deep and thoughtful thinker -- and refreshingly, as I guy who is more than willing to admit when he doesn't know and/or when the science is not clear.

To check out or buy the latest version of Brain Rules, click on the image below:

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons to Write a Blog Post Debunking the Learning Styles Myth

To honor David Letterman soon after his sign off, I'll use his inverted top-10 design.

The following represent the Top 10 Reasons to Write a Blog Post Debunking the Learning Styles Myth:

10. Several scientific review articles have been published showing that using learning styles to design learning produces no appreciable benefits. See The Debunker Club resource page on learning styles.

9. If you want to help your readers create the most effective learning interventions, you'd do better focusing on other design principles, for example those put forth in the Serious eLearning Manifesto, the Decisive Dozen, the Training Maximizers Model, or the books Make It Stick, How We Learn, or Design for How People Learn.

8. There are already great videos debunking the learning-styles myth (Tesia Marshik, Daniel Willingham), so you're better off spreading the word through your own blog network; through Twitter, Hangouts, and LinkedIn; and with your colleagues at work.

7. The learning styles myth is so pervasive that the first 17 search topics on Google (as of June 1, 2015) continue to encourage the learning styles idea -- even though it is harmful to learners and wasteful as a learning method. Just imagine how many lives you would touch if your blog post jumped into the top searches.

6. It's a total embarrassment to the learning fields (the K-12 education field, the workplace training field, higher education). We as members of those fields need to get off our asses and do something. Haven't teachers suffered enough blows to their reputation than to have to absorb a pummeling from articles like those in The New York Times and Wired Magazine? Haven't instructional designers and trainers been buffeted enough by calls for their inability to maximize learning results?

5. Isn't it about time that we professionals took back our field from vendors and those in the commercial industrial complex who only want to make a buck, who don't care about the learners, who don't care about the science, who don't care about anything but their own special interests? Do what is right! Get off the mat and put a fist in the mouth of the learning-styles industrial complex!

4. Write a blog post on the learning-styles myth because you can have a blast with over-the-top calls to action, like one I just wrote in #5 above. Boy that was fun!

3. There's some evidence that directly confronting advocates of strong ideas -- like learning-styles true believers -- will only make them more resistant in their unfounded beliefs. See the Debunkers Handbook for details. Therefore, our best efforts may be to focus not on the true believers, but on the general population. In this, our goal should be to create a climate of skepticism in terms of learning styles. You can directly help in this effort by writing a blog post, by taking to Twitter and LinkedIn, by sharing with your colleagues and friends.

2. Because you're a professional.

1. Because the learning-styles idea is a myth.

Insert uplifting music here...

June is Debunk Learning Styles Month

June is Debunk Learning Styles Month in the learning field!

One of the most ubiquitous myths in the world today, learning styles has risen to a crescendo within the workplace learning field and in education as well. The idea is that if you diagnose learners on their learning styles and then tailor learning methods to the different style -- that learning results will improve.

It's a widespread belief, but it's actually false. Research evidence suggests that using learning styles to guide learning design does not improve learning results.

The good news is that there are several solid research reviews that demonstrate this. Indeed, The Debunker Club, which I organize, has compiled some excellent resources for folks who want to see the evidence.

To see The Debunker Club resource page on learning styles, click here.

To join The Debunker Club in debunking learning styles now (June 2015), click here.

To become a member of The Debunker Club, click here.

 

 

Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning — Afterword

I was honored to be invited to write an afterword to 3rd edition of the classic text, Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning.

In my afterword, I noted the following:

"Roy Pollock, Andy Jefferson, and Cal Wick have provided a proven conceptual structure—the 6Ds—as a foundation. We’ve been shown how the 6Ds approach works in real organizations. We’ve been given practical tools that have been refined and updated. We’ve been privy to one of the best compilations of industry wisdom ever assembled in one book. We’ve been read the riot act, heard the gospel truth, and made to wonder why so many of us are failing on the fundamentals. This book lays it out for us, if only we have the guts and perseverance to do the right thing."

I've been following the work of Wick, Jefferson, and Pollock since 2006 when I awarded the very first Neon Elephant Award to Cal Wick. I love these guys! Their work has had a major impact on the field.

The book publisher, Wiley, has been nice enough to let me publish my afterword separately, so I'm going to provide you the link just below. In my provocative piece, I show how the workplace learning-and-performance field is poised for a transformation based on four vectors. It's good stuff!

And of course, I highly recommend their book, which you can buy by clicking on the image below.

 

 

Video is the New Text…Hmmm!

For years I've been telling clients they ought to use more video in their learning programs, especially their elearning offerings. My arguments have been as follows:

  1. People react to well-crafted videos and audio with increased attention.
  2. The storytelling often inherent in video is powerfully seductive.
  3. Video is now fairly cheap; you don't necessarily need high production values, expensive equipment, or professional help.
  4. Nothing persuades our learners better than seeing real people who are like them -- giving testimony, telling their stories, giving their lessons learned.
  5. Video can utilize scenario-based decision making, which we know from the learning research is a powerful tool to support comprehension and remembering.
  6. More and more of our learners are everyday video watchers; their expectations for media consumption are more visual, less textual.


Video is the New Text

Today's headlines hint that video on the internet is the number one draw. Certainly, some of these are silly cat videos, but now serious sources are turning to videos. Take for example the TED videos, the New York Times, The Economist. Even National Public Radio (whose life blood flows through a non-visual medium) has a YouTube channel!

Video is here to stay. As of this day in 2015, more and more elearning is utilizing good video; but still more can be done. Still too many instructional designers don't have video skills or even knowledge. Still too many opportunities are lost for getting employees on video telling their stories and lessons learned. Still too few scenario-based decisions are wrapped in a video context.


But Isn't Video Hard to Do?

It's NOT easier than writing text, especially since most of us have more text-writing experience than video-creation experience. But it's not that hard and it doesn't have to be expensive.

My confession is that even while I was imploring my clients to use video, I rarely used it. So, six years ago I began to learn about video. I put in some time to learn it. I bought myself video equipment. I produced a few videos. Here's a sampling:

I still don't do very many videos. As a consultant I can't really afford to take the time, but I create them occasionally because of the value they provide. 

If you think you can't do video, check out the second video I ever produced (the last one on the list). As an on-screen presence, I was terrible, but overall the video is pretty good.


My List of Equipment:

So you can learn from my consumer research, here is the list of video equipment I use in my videos.

  • Consumer HD video camcorder. NOT a professional video camera. About 7 years old, so not the latest technology.
  • Inexpensive wireless microphone. (something like this)
  • Inexpensive tripod (something like this)
  • Inexpensive lighting (something like this, and this)
  • Inexpensive video-editing software (like this)
  • Inexpensive audio-editing software (like that included in most video-editing software).

I also endeavor to use some aesthetic sensibilities; developed over the years regarding audio, music, visuals, cinematography, etc. based on who knows what (going to art museums, listening to music, playing music as a kid, observing the craft while watching videos, movies, TV, etc.). I really don't know what I know or what I lack, but I do know that some aesthetic sensibility is important. I also know that real video pros have more of this than I do...so there are definite advantages to getting help from the pros.

One of my mentors in video production is Jason Fararooei of Yellow Cape Communications. I first met him at an ISPI conference where he talked about how he and his team created a video for a client learning engagement. I liked his thoughtful approach to the aesthetics and potency of video. I'm pretty sure the following video is from the talk I saw him give:

Jason's in the business of creating videos, so my videos certainly don't come up to his standards, but he does seem mindful that shooting on a budget can still produce good results. Here he talks about recording a conference session, but the idea can be used for recording short snippets from training as well.


Video IS the New Text...Sometimes

I don't really think that video will replace text, but it will replace some text. And remember this. In evaluating video vs. text, you can't just look at the costs. It's the cost/benefit that matters. In some sense you may have to do a comparison like the following (note the numbers are pulled from thin air as examples):

  • TEXT PASSAGE that only 20 out of 100 people read.
  • VIDEO SHORT that 70 out of 100 people view.

Your numbers will vary...but the point should be clear. Where video gets more eyeballs and more mathemagenic processing (learning-generating processing), it may be worth the extra investment.

Many times, you and your team will be able to create the video. Sometimes you'll have to get help from a professional.

Large organizations, or vendors who produce lots of instruction, should consider developing video capability in-house.

For all of us who call ourselves instructional designers, we ought to dive in and learn some video skills. If I can do it, you can too!

Dr. T, What Are You Thinking?

And, just to avoid 100 snippy comments, let me anticipate your next question...Hey, Dr. T, why did you use TEXT here, NOT VIDEO?

Roll the credits...SMILE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Pilot Participants — Leadership Development

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?

  • Subscription-learning tools are available.
  • Mobile-learning is gaining traction.
  • Substantial discounts for pilot organizations.

Next Steps!!

  • Contact Will Thalheimer, PhD to arrange an online discussion of the possibilities.
    • email: info AT work-learning DOT com.

 

What’s is our Conference Session Vendor Ratio?

I just read a great blog post by Dave Lutz of Velvet Chainsaw, a conference, meeting, and trade association consulting firm.

He makes the point that many vendors/suppliers don't attend the conference-education sessions in the conferences for which they exhibit their goods and services.

This really intrigues me because it cuts to the ideational health of an industry. Vendors control a large part of the information bandwidth in an industry. They’ve got sales people out talking to folks, they do a ton of content marketing, they produce the most webinars, white papers, and conference sessions in many industries. If they’re not learning and up-to-date, if they’re not hearing how ideas are connecting to practitioners, if they’re not hearing pushback from those who are debunking faulty information, a whole industry can suffer.

How Are We Doing?

How are we doing on this in the workplace learning industry?

I'm going to investigate this at the conferences where I speak. I'd love to hear what others know about this. Please let us all know in the comments below.