Evidence-Based Training Methods

Are you an intuitive designer, floating along by looks and good luck, creating fabulous learning experiences without knowing why?

Are you a new instructional designer sorting through all of the examples you’ve seen of e-learning and trying to figure out what actually works?

Now’s the time to stop the guesswork and go find out what works in e-learning and why.

To help you out, Ruth C. Clark has just released a wonderful summary and review of current learning research:Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals.

In this lively little volume, Ruth Clark cuts through myths like learning styles, provides evidence and examples of the best uses of audio to enhance visuals, and highlights some of the differences we need to consider when designing for the novice vs. expert learner.

Easy to read and backed up by loads of research, this will be the book you turn to when you need to explain to your content team why it’s not a good idea to narrate huge blocks of on screen text and other common elearning.

A key mantra throughout the book: "content covered is not content learned."Meaning, don't drown your poor learners in information dumps, but instead find ways to actively engage working memory, avoid cognitive overload and ensure effective knowledge transfer.

She identifies three key goals of the learner: acquiring knowledge (facts and concepts), building procedural skills (step-by-step tasks) and building strategic skills (complex tasks and problem solving). These neatly map to three learning architectures: show and tell, stair step and immersive architectures. She then provides into specific instructional methods that best support learning in each of these areas.

Some juicy nuggets that you can pull out in your next team meeting (all supported by research!):

  • On learning styles:"The learning style myth leads to some very unproductive training approaches that are counter to modern evidence of what works. " (p. 10)
  • On decorative visuals: "Because visuals are so powerful, graphics unrelated to your instructional goal at best do not contribute to understanding and at worst actually depress learning!" (p. 89)
  • On using audio:"Explain visuals with audio narration rather than text to maximize learning." (p. 100)
  • On using case studies and examples:"In training designed to build skills, examples are not only useful--they are essential!" (p. 148)
If you've already read E-Learning and the Science of Instruction (Clark and Mayer, 2007), one of the classics in the field, then you may already be familiar with many of the examples, some of the important research studies and many of her points. She knows her material well and reuses it liberally! That said, there are some new spins and new bits of research, so we'd say it's a worthwhile read no matter your Ruth Clark experience level.

Our recommendation?

Go out and get this book today. And then read it. And then start putting this evidence to work.

References:

Clark, Ruth C., (2010), Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals, Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

 
 

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