Jay Cross helps people work and live smarter. Jay is the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. He wrote the book on it. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.
There’s no point in learning something if you forget it before you can put it to use. Yet research finds that people forget the majority of what they learn in workshops and classrooms. Typically, only 15% of what’s covered in a workshop ever shows up on the job!
Many L&D departments act as if their work is (more…)
Effectiveness, Chief Learning Officer magazine, June 2013. This is the article as submitted; the printed version may vary.
Most columnists in CLO magazine advocate something they’re sure of. This column is different: it’s about an issue I’m not at all sure of but I think it important and would enjoy getting your opinion.
In 1959, British scientist/novelist C.P. Snow wrote an essay describing the “two cultures, whose thesis was that ‘the intellectual life of the whole of western society’ was split into two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Snow contended that scientists did not understand the humanities and humanists did not understand science. As the world grew more complex, the two groups grew further apart.” (Wikipedia)
Half a century later, the world grows more complex everyday and the two cultures have grow further apart. It’s worth a revisit because the growing divide will shake the training industry to its roots. I am going to use the concept to describe two different sorts of knowledge and the different way we learn them. #1 is intuitive knowledge and #2 is logical knowledge. They are different as night and day.
Intuitive knowledge is what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow as System 1. It’s the province of the emotional brain. Intuitive knowledge works with patterns; it knows no words. In other words, it is tacit. Since the emotional brain is much older and works faster than the logical brain, intuitive knowledge is the first to come to mind; the rational brain uses logic to weigh whether or not an intuitive response is valid or must be tempered. Intuitive knowledge is also known as muscle memory.
Intuitive knowledge is complex and hence unpredictable, inductive, volatile, and emergent. It’s the realm of imagination. It deals with people’s interpretations. It lives in the minds of the people who pull it together.
Examples of intuitive knowledge: how to dance and to sell. Training departments can’t do much with the increasingly important Intuitive skills. Intuitive things are learned by doing: experientially. People “get” the skills of dealing with complexity: critical thinking, prioritizing, working with people, design thinking, and so forth — by doing them.
“I do things I do not know how to do by doing them.” Picasso
Experience can be supplemented with stories (someone else’s experience), simulations (fake experience), trial and error (the school of hard knocks), and mimicry (copied experience).
Rational knowledge is the opposite of Intuitive knowledge. It’s the province of the rational brain. It works with logic. It is explicit and can be explained with words.
Rational knowledge is straightforward (or complicated, which is several simples mushed together.) It’s Newtonian clockwork, an equal and opposite reaction for every action. It is formulaic, yes or no, and reductionist. It deals with facts. It’s true no matter who is looking. Training departments help people learn the Rational. Workshops, programmed instruction, and Kahn Academy can teach Rational Knowledge. Example of rational knowledge: programming PERL, the states and their capitals, multiplication.
The Explicit and the Tacit
As the world becomes more complex, people need to rely more on the interpretive power of Intuitive knowledge. So what does this have to do with a CLO? (The editor here gets on my case if I don’t relate topics to the needs of chief learning officers.) Well, here’s the punch line: people learn Rational knowledge and absorb Intuitive knowledge by different means.
The basic difference is that you get to know Rational Knowledge. Intuitive Knowledge, on the other hand, transforms your identity. For example, I can know a lot about plumbing but until I have Intuitive Knowledge, I can’t call myself a plumber. It’s learning to know vs. learning to be.
While different parts of the brain deal with Intuitive and Rational knowledge, these are not the old (and discredited) left/right brain theories. This is more about the conscious and subconscious minds.
Dave Snowden, a oracular figure in interpreting complexity for business ends, says the greatest danger is confusing a complex situation for a merely complicated one.
If you are concerned only with helping people learn rational knowledge, you’re abandoning a vital facet of learning. Facts are impotent until coupled with feelings. Feelings without facts are mute. A successful learning organization is bi-cultural; it melds the intuitive with the rational
Bi-culturalism melds two originally distinct cultures into a holistic co-existence.
Ask yourself: is your learning bi-cultural?
The last three minutes of this RSA Animate on using your whole brain rather than favoring one hemisphere is sheer poetry. One inspiration after another, staccato, overloaded by circuits. My mental movie was nodding in agreement. Yes, yes, yes, right, right on, of course, yes, yes, right, yes.
Start here and then go back to the beginning.
I’d been trying to reconcile Dan Pink’s bi-cameralism and other’s put-downs. The Divided Mind clarifies it.
Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century by Cathy N. Davison, a polymath professor at Duke. 2011. 292 pages. $11.68 (paperback) (more…)
At Online Educa, I chaired a session on neuroscience and learning, Here’s a synopsis from Online Educa’s News Portal.
Neuroscientists are progressing rapidly in their research into areas highly relevant to education. Educators are eager to learn about their discoveries. Numerous teachers already use “brain-based” programmes in order to enhance learning. But can neuroscience really help to improve teaching? Experts at OEB 2009 called for caution.
By Andrea Marshall
Hauke Heekeren, Professor of Affective Neuroscience and Psychology of Emotions at the Freie Universität Berlin and Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development, gave a brief summary of the function of the brain and the basic methods of neuroimaging. “We must be very careful interpreting the results of brain imaging,” he warned. “What we are measuring might be far removed from what we are actually looking for.”
To illustrate this point, Heekeren suggested an analogy: “It is like trying to investigate how a car works – but you examine it with a sensor that is mounted on a geo-satellite.”
Quite a few myths have spread from misleading interpretations of neuroscientific data, Heekeren explained. A famous one is “the left side of the brain is responsible for language and the right side for abstract thinking”. However, it is far too simplistic to ascribe one specific function to one clearly defined ‘centre’ in the brain, Heekeren pointed out. “It is a popular myth that there are all these ‘centres’ in the brain. There is even supposed to be a shopping centre,” he smiled.
So how does the human brain work? According to Heekeren, different brain regions form dynamic networks. In other words: Several regions “cooperate” when carrying out certain cognitive tasks. The complexity of the system is one of the reasons that makes it difficult to apply neuroscientific results directly in the classroom. “From a neuroscientific point of view, it is not possible to conclude that – for example – online education works better than other forms of education.”
For more information on Hauke Heekeren, please refer to http://www.heekerenlab.org/
Daniel T. Willingham, Cognitive Scientist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, was connected to the ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN audience via the Internet. He holds a slightly different view. In his book Why Don’t Students Like School? he explains the biological and cognitive basis of learning – with clear applications for teachers. However, he also made the point that it is difficult to ‘translate’ neuroscientific data to behavioural analysis. His main argument: There is often a mismatch in the levels of analysis that neuroscientists and education researchers work with (see below).
Willingham gave a “note of caution” to teachers: “So-called brain experts take ordinary findings, throw in a few ‘brain things’ and sell it as revolutionary in education,” he said, likening the ‘experts’ to quack doctors selling “snake oil”.
The suggestions of these ‘experts’ are often banal: “They explain how a low glucose level in the brain metabolism affects learning. But everyone knows anyway that children who are hungry don’t learn well,” Willingham said.
What can neuroscience do for education then? At OEB, both experts pointed out that neuroimaging studies are descriptive but not prescriptive. For example, they can pinpoint the neural systems responsible for reading, writing or arithmetic. But they do not tell teachers “what works” in the classroom. It is not possible, for example, to advise teachers on certain strategies for so-called visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. Brain research has not found any evidence that these learning styles exist.
Neuroscientists study these cognitive functions in isolation for the sake of simplicity. They do not study the entire nervous system (…).
For educators, the mind of a single child is the lowest level of analysis with any payoff. Higher levels include the classroom, school, neighbourhood and country.
The information that education researchers most often try to import from neuroscience concerns a single cognitive process in isolation, but the interactions with other systems will be part of the educational context. For example, we know that repetition beneﬁts memory, but a teacher cannot ask students to repeat work without considering the impact on motivation.
Neuroscientists usually cannot characterise these interactions.”
Daniel T. Willingham (2009)
Brains are Applesauce
What Do Brains Have to Do With It?
Who’s in Charge Here?
The No-One-in-Charge World
Learning Takes Brains
Managing with the Brain in Mind
…and finally, from The Onion, Parents of Nasal Learners Demand Odor-Based Curriculum