Most Association And Conference Beliefs About Attendee Learning Are Wasted Efforts

wasted hours

The empirical research on how we learn and remember shows that…

…Most of what we know as truth about learning is nothing more than wasted effort!

The learning opportunities that we offer to our customers and members are based on outdated theory, lore, past experiences and gut instincts. And the empirical evidence says much of our education offerings are nothing more than wasted effort and time!

Our Intuition About Learning Is Wrong

“People generally are going about learning in the wrong ways,” say the authors of Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning.

These authors even call out college, medical and STEM groups as relying on widely accepted practices that are rooted in theory, lore and intuition. Here’s the catch, they state, “The most effective learning strategies are not intuitive.”

Did you catch that last phrase? The most effective learning strategies are not intuitive. We’ve got to move away from what we’ve always done and what we think is right.

We Are Poor Judges Of Learning

Most of us grossly misunderstand learning! And we propagate, promote and sell learning opportunities based on our own experiences and a sense of what works. The empirical research shows those methods are WRONG!

Association professionals and conference organizers have deluded themselves and their organizations with illusions of knowing.

It is time to acknowledge the body of growing evidence about the science of learning. It is time to replace less effective, although widely accepted practices, with highly effective, evidence-based learning strategies.

We overestimate our competence about learning. We overestimate our proficiency about the learning opportunities we offer to our customers. And therefore we see little reason to change!

Four Changes We Need To Make To Our Education Offerings

Here are four changes we need to make about our education offerings.

1. Learn More About The Science Of Learning And Apply It

We have to become more accurate judges of what we know and don’t know regarding learning. We have to realize that we lack proficiency when judging if our attendees are truly learning. We need to spend more time learning about learning based on empirical research. And then we have to apply it!

2. Adopt And Promote Accurate Learning Strategies

Too much of what we think we know about learning is based on myth and a false sense of knowing. We need to turn to the biology of learning and cognitive psychology to understand the science of learning. Then we need to adopt and promote accurate learning strategies in all of our education offerings.

3. Better Objective Evaluation Processes

We’ve got to move away from the traditional smile sheet evaluation. We need better ways to track learning and progress. We should ask attendees to rate how prepared they are to act on the new knowledge they’ve received. We should ask how motivated they are to put new skills into action.

4. Bridge The Gap Between Learning Research And Learning Practice

Our presenters need to be more focused on learning design than delivery of information. They need to spend more time thinking about what their attendees will do beside sitting passively and listening. We have to focus on how the attendee receives and interprets the information.

What type of culture do we need in order to bridge the gap between learning research and learning practice? What should we need to expect of speakers that we secure for our education offerings?

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  1. “Our presenters need to be more focused on learning design than delivery of information.” This week MPI announced a new speaker directory would be developed with over 8,000 speakers (!) and I wonder how many on a percentage basis would have formal training or an informal interest in learning design and neuroscience? The college I teach at has an evaluation form that is so not “smiley face” I had a hard time interpreting the results when they were sent to me – and then about a week later I had an email from the evaluation team asking what I was doing in the classroom as I had some of the highest learner engagement scores they had ever seen – and what I have done is take many of the principles I have learned about instruction – ALL of which you have written about at some point in your very excellent blog – and applied them. 11 minutes maximum before applying new knowledge in discussion, allowing learners to seek relevance by understanding why they are there, the list of what you share is full of great tips and thoughtful musings – thank you and I look forward to continually learning from you!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thank you so much for extending the discussion about this topic and for reading.

      We’ve got to move away from being speaker-, expert- and content-centric and instead focus on attendee learning! Information delivery is out. Facilitating learning and designing learning experiences is in!

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