Deeper Learning

What Works to Get the Best Results

Patti ShankSanta Rosa, CA (USA), November 2018 - As a learning designer, analyst, author, and president of Learning Peaks, USA, Patti Shank is internationally recognized. She works with organizations to analyze and find solutions for organizational performance needs and is regularly asked to speak at conferences and to train trainers, instructors, designers, and experts. At OEB Global 2019, you can hear her in two sessions: in the Debate Plenary on Thursday evening and in "Managing Memory for Deeper Learning" on Friday, 07 December from 11:45 to 13:00.

You’ve authored several books on the subject of learning. Is there a "core message" for learners in the digital world?
Patti Shank: The core message is that learning practitioners must understand what works and what doesn't and intentionally apply what works to get the best results. It isn't nearly enough to build learning "stuff" (e.g. content) without worrying about what works and the strategies and tactics that enable these outcomes.
The digital world, according to research, can improve learning outcomes, mostly by improving access. But cognitive and other sciences show us that the digital world also has the potential for interfering with learning by fragmenting focus, overloading memory, and making it harder to learn. The New York Times, for example, reports of research showing a new digital divide. Children from economically challenged households may now have too much access to screens but less access to the best teaching methods and critical human interaction. 

Overwhelmingly, research points us towards what really matters. And it shows no real differences between technology-based instruction and instruction that doesn't use it. Technology isn't what matters. What matters most is quality (depth) of learning and the research-driven methods that enable quality. Technologies can make these accessible - or not.

The core message is to use what we know works. People's livelihoods and organizational outcomes depend on it.

What quality improvements do you see the "Deeper Learning" approach producing today?

Patti Shank: I have heard from readers and workshop participants that my Deeper Learning tactics are helping them find, understand, and apply what works. One reader tested and rewrote instructional content (onscreen text, workbooks, video scripts) based on research about making content clear (Write and Organize for Deeper Learning). A client is adding valuable practice and feedback to her courses so people are more likely to remember and apply and not simply know how to answer recall questions (Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning).


How is it changing course offerings and learning behavior?

Patti Shank: Here's one example that seems negative but is actually positive. A Deeper Learning approach may take more effort (to design and use). At first people told me they simply didn't have the time, but many now realize that not putting in the effort leads to greatly reduced or no results and wasted resources. Few results and wasted resources are not what today’s organizations need.


What technical developments do you expect in the next three to five years?

Patti Shank: Three to five years for technological developments is a long time, so I’m not really sure. I think it’s likely that we’ll soon see wearables helping people perform on the job and machines that provide background performance support, so we can do more and make fewer mistakes. Humans have limited memory capacity, so these technologies can improve productivity. However, technology makes mistakes (for example, GPS taking us to the wrong place), so humans will need to be able to interpret whether what is happening makes sense.