Stop the Disappointment

Need your team or a group of people to learn and embrace a new concept, skill or process? Stop planning single day trainings in hopes that they will become experts!

Since the publishing of the 70-20-10 model[1] in the mid ‘90’s, learning professionals have questioned how much can be achieved through formal training. Yes it is an important place to start. Yes we need the single day training, but the formal training alone is highly unlikely to produce the desired outcome. The proper conditions have to be present for people to take what they learned in a formal training and apply it to their work. It also helps if someone else (a team member, manager, leader, etc.) has been trained on the same concept, skill, or process – this way, one can get coaching and feedback on their application of the material.

Although the validity of the 70-20-10 model has been called into question due to sample size (only about 200) and the survey population (only high performers), what the model purports is now supported by newer research in Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning where the three authors apply recent findings in cognitive psychology to effective learning.

Spacing, retrieval, and interleaving are the methods that a single day training fails to achieve, but what cognitive psychology says is needed for effective learning. 

Using a new concept, skill or process when solving everyday work challenges relies significantly on memory. And to create memory, we can’t just learn something once. We must be exposed to a concept over a period of time (spacing). We must retrieve the information (call the information to mind) more of the time as well as interleave (mix the practice and study of separate but related topics). When individuals are asked to retrieve information over a period of time and when this information is taught and practiced across various arenas, individuals are more easily able to remember the new concepts, skills or processes they are being asked to demonstrate, hence effectively learning. 

So, next time you need a formal training on something, make sure the plan also includes spacing, post-training retrieval, and interleaving to make sure you get the outcomes you desire.  

“We harbor deep convictions that we learn better through single-minded focus and dogged repetition, and these beliefs are validated time and again by the visible improvement that comes during “practice-practice-practice. But scientists call this heightened performance during the acquisition phase of skill ‘momentary strength’ and distinguish it from underlying habit strength.”2

The techniques that build habit strength, like spacing, interleaving, retrieving and variation are integral to our approach to building capacity for change. 

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[1]  The 70-20-10 Learning Model, developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger, and Michael M. Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership, explains that seventy percent of professional learning and development takes place during real life, challenging on-the-job experiences. Twenty percent of learning and development comes from coaching, feedback, and observing and working with role models. Ten percent of learning and development comes from formal training that includes facilitated in-person training sessions, online programs and self-study.

[2] Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel