Active Learning Myths and What Really Works

Graphic of an open brain being filled but this is not what works...active learning does

Active Learning Works
Active learning works because real learning is not passive.  Listening to experts or watching others can provide an initial sense of how it’s done, but that’s not how you learn to perform on the job.  If behavior change or performance improvement is the objective, then learners must get involved and actively learn, practice, fail, succeed and receive feedback.

Active Learning Myths
While most conceptually agree that learning by doing makes sense, do not be fooled by two popular active learning myths:

  • Read, See, Hear, Write, Do Myth: The first myth that has been circulating since the 1960s is that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they see, 30% of what they hear, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say and write, and 90% of what they do. Michelene Chi is often cited as the source and says that the data did not come from her.Our experience is that different learning approaches work for different objectives and circumstances.
  • 70:20:10 Learning Myth: The second popular active learning myth is the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development pioneered by McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger. While the idea that 70% of learning occurs from challenging assignments, 20% from developmental relationships and 10% from coursework and training makes sense intuitively, it is difficult to find any empirical data to support it.Similar to the previous active learning myth, our experience is that each situation requires a unique combination of approaches that are aligned to specific learning and performance objectives.

Active Learning Research
While corporate data on active learning is hard to find, Research of 225 studies that compare STEM classes taught using various active learning approaches with classes taught via lecture found:

  • Average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sessions
  • Students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning.

Additionally, our clients report a 4-to-1 performance improvement when participants are frequently, consistently and actively held accountable and provided coaching for the desired new behaviors.

Real Learning Takes Effort
As tempting as it make be for those of us in the corporate learning and development field to just expose employees to what they need to know through eLearning, job aids or videos, we recognize that simple exposure is not enough to sustainably change most behaviors.  Our job is to develop the talent our organization needs to perform at its peak.  And performance improvement takes real effort and active learning.

Beware of “Easy” or “Lazy” Learning
Real learning is not easy.  There must be a degree of difficulty involved to really engage your thinking power.  Though learning can be fun in the sense that you like a challenge or a bit of competition, it requires real focus in order to stick.  And if learning doesn’t stick, it is wasted.

Beware of “Checking the Box” Learning
One of the reasons that some executives scoff at training is that they have not seen any improved business results.  Our research covering 800 training programs found that only 20% of participants change behavior or performance from training alone.  This is our fault.

We need to be sure that:

  • Training is highly relevant and supports a strategic business need
  • Senior management stands behind it
  • Employees recognize its value to them and their company
  • Learners are engaged and “stretched”
  • Reflection, practice and feedback are built into the learning experience on-the-job and in the workshop

This is how to develop talent.

The Bottom Line
Learning should be challenging rather than easy, concrete rather than abstract, and immediately useful. Have your learners undertake real-world, hands-on tasks using simulations, role plays and projects to deepen learning and the transfer of training.  Don’t squander your credibility as a talent developer or your company resources on anything less than what we know works.

To learn more about active learning and the transfer of training, download How to Change the Game by Increasing the Adoption & Impact of Training

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LSA has been a tremendous asset to my portfolio, both at my current company and my past company. As an HR leader, I am always looking for ways to find external resources that can provide a solution to our management training needs. LSA does that for me. Their solutions are presented in a much more leadership-oriented manner so as to be crisp, business relevant, and easy to apply right back on the job. I will continue to augment our programs using LSA solutions.

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LSA helped us design and deliver a blended learning solution for our leaders to help drive our growth plans in a way that aligned with our specific culture and values. LSA understood our business, had deep expertise in the content areas, tailored the programs to fit our specific needs, and delivered great results. They constantly strive to deliver business impact and align their solutions with our business initiates, culture, and performance management systems. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to take their leaders to the next level.”

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Thoratec

LSA is an instrumental training outsourcing partner in helping us to build management capacity and strategically invest in our people. Their flexibility, depth, and breadth of expertise allows us to deliver top quality solutions that are directly tied to key business plans. Their ability to custom design, deliver, and evaluate our Management Curriculum has been excellent. They are true business partners and a pleasure to work with.

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Hyperion

LSA helped change our entire culture around meetings, making them more effective and efficient, thus enabling us to concentrate on driving more business.

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I have worked with LSA Global at previous companies and welcomed the opportunity to bring them in to support my new organization. We worked closely with LSA to design a solution for our Client Partner Teams and Management Training on both coasts. LSA designed a customized solution for our business and organizational culture. LSA is a quality organization, one that I’d recommend to any company looking for a first class training and consulting partner that makes an impact.

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Chief People Officer

LSA’s Employee Engagement Consulting and Survey work has provided critical visibility into: how well our people are holding up under the general economic environment, as well as, the specific challenges that face biotechnology companies in their efforts to discover and develop new medicines; their level of alignment and commitment to XOMA’s Vision and mission critical strategies; how leadership practices and management systems support an environment that engender commitment, and the specific actions that our leaders can take to improve on areas that are important to our people. I highly recommend LSA’s employee engagement solutions.

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Fujitsu

We consider LSA Global our outsourced learning and development partner. We worked closely with LSA to customize a management development program to meet our growing business needs. I would highly recommend LSA to any company wanting to deliver quality learning solutions.

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I am very impressed with the quality of work and talent. LSA did a great job of listening to my needs and providing the exact management training program expertise I needed to get the job done.

Don Pryor
Director, Business Planning & Analysis

Hyperion has a commitment to lifelong learning. LSA helps us provide the right business sales training, management training programs, and leadership development programs at the right time to meet the needs of both individuals and departments. I especially appreciate their ability to listen to my needs and recommend the appropriate facilitators, solutions and content.

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Senior Project Manager

Hyperion

Thank you to LSA Global for their partnership and support in helping us to design and roll-out our valuable management development training program. I personally have partnered with LSA Global at four of my previous companies. It continues to be a delight working with LSA. We look forward to partnering with them at Blackhawk Networks for future training and consulting needs.

Suzanne Kinner
VP Human Resources

Blackhawk Network

LSA custom designed a Management Development program that is absolutely “on target” for our technical managers. Their facilitator has done a superb job delivering the material in a way that is fast paced, highly interactive, and fun. She presents practical solutions to the people situations that our managers face every day. I regard LSA as an excellent partner that understands our business needs and a virtual member of our HR department.

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VNUS Medical has been very pleased with the effective management development programs that LSA Global has delivered for us over the last four years. The programs have been universally facilitated by experienced and best in class instructors. The knowledge gained by our management team has been put into practice very quickly. VNUS is very happy to be working in partnership with LSA because they consistently deliver excellent programs that receive exceptional feedback from our management team.

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