What does 'learning' mean to you, and how do you measure it?

I'm not setting out to engage in a hissy fit here. I am hoping for a genuine debate and/or exchange of ideas.

Much as I find his presentation style engaging, I have trouble with the fact that Dr Itiel Dror appears to equate learning with recall. In order to assess learning, he tests recall.

When I was a child, committing material to memory was something of a party trick - something to be admired. While I was deeply impressed by Tony Buzan's story of the man who could remember a 200+ digit number, having heard it only once, I can't help wondering what the point is of such a skill.

Nowadays, the shelf life of information is so short, there seems little point wasting brain resource on committing it to memory. When information... any information at all... is so immediately available via the technology at our disposal, I'd rather my learners knew how to find some or other piece of information in its latest incarnation, when they need it.

One of the presenters at the conference gave a stated goal of her project as being the reduction of 'nudge learning' from a neighbour. I'm having a hard time seeing nudge learning as a problem. In fact, I think it's great, and I try to find ways to build into my solutions the means to nudge the right person on any given topic.

So, in this age, what is learning, if it isn't recall? How do we assess it? Do we need to assess it?

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Actually Karyn - my company aren't all that up to speed on virtual stuff - yet, but getting there s l o w l y.
My company manufactures video surveillance cameras, and our marketing channel consist of a wide network of partners. These partners have to be trained. In one of our training classes we teach people about how to design a complete system. Through lectures and excercises, the students learn about different components and determining factors when for system design.

Then we hand out a case which basically gives a lot of bacground info about a certain site, and the learners are tasked to design a system for that site. The sub task they receive are targeted towards the individual learning objects for the class, but it is tied together so they have to reach the higher level of Bloom's cognitive domain. To further emphasise the learning experience, we set the learner up in teams, and let them present their sollutions to each other.

The teams being presented to act as skilled (or sometimes ignorant) customers, and are responsible ofor evaluate the presented solutions. Our learners often get an a-ha moment and the feedback we get on this setup is great.
As far as my kids are concerned - I think they learn faster from my mistakes than from my everyday work at setting a good example....
Chortle. I am just remembering an instance when I had to slam on anchors in my car and my (then very little) boy shouted from the back seat the single word "*sshole!" I had never previously realised that this was my stock response to anyone doing anything that caused me to have to brake suddenly. I hadn't meant to teach him that, but teach him I did!
So how did you measure it? ;-)
Hi Karyn,

Great topic. For me it's the process of moving from a state of not to a state of have. So learning is an acquisition process. Recall is important too. If I just need to know where I can find the knowledge I need then if I didn't have recall I'd be pretty stuck.

Measuring learning is an interesting topic. I would tend to agree with you about measuring application over recall although I can't dis-agree that recall is part of application. Measuring application is hard though and as someone pointed out earlier it's not done because it's hard. But should we measure at all?

In corporate land, when we design learning interventions (I don't like that phrase but it'll do for now) we need to have a clearly defined intent. We can then measure intent using some metrics and some management practices. We're not measuring learning, we're measuring the overarching aim. This I believe is more practical and useful to the business. Let me give an example then I'll shut up.

Let's say the intent of the Learning Intervention is to help users be better at supporting X. We know how the business measures the support of X currently (resolution times, high severity issues etc) so we know that to be better we must improve those numbers. We run our learning piece and afterwards we can look again at the business metrics. We can see if resolution times are reduced, if the number of high severity issues has decreased etc. The important point is that we're NOT measuring the learning. We're measuring whether the learning was effective in improving business performance measured using their own metrics.




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