How Does Learning Stick? 5 Resources that Help Answer This Question.

I had been working in training and instructional design for several years and was feeling pretty good about myself. I was creative. I was charismatic. I loved being in front of people in a room. I loved using Mr. Sketch Markers to create fun (and great smelling) flip charts. And people seemed to love my presentations.

People would come up to me after presentations, telling me they were some of the best presentations they’d ever attended. Ever!

Yet when I looked around, I didn’t see people doing many things new or differently or better as a result of my presentations and training programs. So I spent a lot of money and a couple years’ worth of time on earning a master’s degree in organizational development in order to study how better to make training stick. I learned that there were a lot of other, non-training factors that go into whether or not a training program is successful.

That said, training professionals and instructional designers have an obligation to do everything in their power to make sure a training program is well-designed so that their learners have the maximum opportunity to remember what they’ve learned.

Here are five resources that can help you better figure out how learning will stick:

1. Will Thalheimer’s “Decisive Dozen”

Will Thalheimer has sifted through tons of research in order to distill evidence-based practices down into 12 key concepts.

2. Make It Stick

Looking to go further in depth on the topic? Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III and Mark McDaniel have written the best book I’ve read on this topic in a long time. It’s both informative and filled with ideas on both how to design learning programs more effectively and how to boost retention long after the event has passed.

3. Transfer of Training

This book is a little older (written in 1992), but the concepts that Mary Broad and John Newstrom have laid out in this book continue to influence the way I design training programs today. One of the most fundamental pieces to this book is the importance of both the trainee’s manager and the trainer, who can both play a more significant role than the learner him (or her) self when it comes to whether or not the content will actually be put to use.

4. Art Kohn’s monthly column in Learning Solutions magazine

Art Kohn’s presentation at DevLearn 2014 was my first introduction to the concept of learning boosts. Since that presentation I’ve been a pretty faithful reader of his column, which offers bite-sized chunks of brain research and its role in how people learn.

5. Meta-analysis: Is Blended Learning Most Effective?

Every once in a while I still hear the question: isn’t in-person delivery better than online? In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education studied this question and cited research that concluded… well, I’ll let you read the study for yourself (click on the link above!).

What did I miss? I’d love to hear about other resources you use to figure out how learning best sticks.

2 thoughts on “How Does Learning Stick? 5 Resources that Help Answer This Question.

  1. I am in the middle of reading Make It Stick and am fascinated! so much of what we THOUGHT worked, does’t!! It does reconfirm so much of what we do in participant centered instruction!

    • Priscilla – yes, and yes! It is interesting how re-reading highlighted notes or re-reading a passage in a book or article doesn’t really do anything. AND it is totally affirming of the participant-centered approach. I definitely saw a lot of Bob Pike Group lessons as I read Make It Stick.

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