Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Bogus research data on effectiveness of learning methods

Jay Cross got me straight on fraudulent information concerning the effectiveness of learning methods. Will Thalheimer who has a great blog with research-based commentary on learning and performance got some mails out on this topic and … those mails surely got me gasping for air.

In a previous presentation I have mentioned William Glasser and I put in statistics that I thought he used to divide learning methods. Some of those circulating statistics turn out to be myths linked to professional names like Glasser and others.

The first post in which Will Thalheimer refers to those fraudulent results dates from Monday, 1 May 2006: People remember 10%, 20%... oh really?

His central point being that learning results depend on too many variables to enable such precision. He then searched for the origins of this faulty data and he found the data was first published by an employee of Mobil Oil Company in 1967. Read the full post, it is really remarkable. Will Thalheimer’s arguments are SO simple, I could not help but hit myself over the head, because although sometimes I was thinking the right thoughts I dismissed them as being errors of my own judgement. One of his remarks is so simple and true: “Everyone who uses a citation to make a point (or draw a conclusion) ought to check the citation.”

One thing is for sure his comments are well constructed with strong arguments and data. I will get him on my blog roll, that is for sure. He also mentions experts in those particular fields, for example Michelene Chi of the University of Pittsburgh that were miss-referred regarding this data.

And a follow up post on bogus numbers mentioned in wikipedia in regard to Edgar Dale’s cone of experience.

Those posts were the best proof that thanks to social media and participation exchanging correct data is being facilitated. Like the much sited article of Kulik and Kulik on feedback which left out a big impacting factor.

At these sort of times I sigh deeply and tell myself that I will never be able to stop learning, and I definitely always should keep a questioning mind. Unfortunately there are times in which I just want to be gullible just out of sheer laziness. On the upside, these kinds of posts make me more vigilant towards myself as well.