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Friday, March 23, 2007

Design: Are You Designing Elementary Instruction?

Somehow I end up watching the show “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” Amusing show focusing on information to be memorized. The type of stuff presented in most corporate training programs (This is our policy on customer wait time. Here are the three features of product x.ARM means Adjustable Rate Mortage.)

The game on TV is being played by a blonde, energetic real estate agent named Avis. She is doing well but does get some assists from the fifth graders in her “class.”

Then she runs out of assists and the next to the last question is asked, “How many months of the year have 31 days.” It is a 2nd grade measurement question worth $300,000. She says she knows the answer because of “that rhyme.” If she gets the answer wrong, she wins nothing. If she is right, she wins $300,000 and a shot at the million dollar prize.

Jeff Foxworthy looks at her and sarcastically says, “So you are betting $300,000 on a rhyme you learned over 25 years ago in elementary school?”

“Yes,” Avis responds and after a long pause... “The answer is seven.” She is right and wins $300,000.

I challenge you to name one piece of information you learned in a corporate training program over 25 years ago which you would be willing to bet $300,000 that you can still recall in a stressful situation.

My guess is that you can’t name one. Yet, the use of a simple rhyme helped Avis encode information that she was able to recall, under stress over 25 years later. Remarkable.

Think of the training and e-learning programs you are developing today, any chance they will be remembered 25 years from now? Why not?

Perhaps you should consider putting some rhymes or songs in your instruction…or perhaps you think that's too elementary.

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Stacey Gawrys said...

I totally agree. I can remember countless rhymes and songs I have learned. I think the key thing is that not only were they catchy, but we repeated them over and over. Same with hearing songs repeatedly on the radio. In high school, I can remember my mom asking my sister how she can recite all of the words to a song, but cannot remember 15 vocab words for a test in English class.

Scott Fischer said...

Repetition is a strong reinforcer. As an undergrad in my one and only statistics class, the prof had us endlessly recite the following mantra, "Variance is the average squared deviation from the mean." It doesn't rhyme but I've never forgotten it. Of course, I've long since forgotten how to calculate variance.

Karl Kapp said...

Stacey and Scott,

I agree repetition is a great way to learn basic information, maybe the rhyme isn't as important as the repetition. However, in training classes and online learning designers typically tell the learners something once and assume they now know the information.

Perhaps we need more repetition in our learning designs...but would learners than claim to be bored?