This is the question that Dr. Brian McGowan, co-founder and chief learning officer of ArcheMedX, a healthcare informatics and e-learning company, was determined to answer.
As a research scientist and educational technologist who’s designed, implemented, and evaluated educational interventions, Brian is constantly looking for science-backed, data-driven approaches to learning.
In his second appearance on the Leading Learning Podcast (last time we interviewed him he discussed research related to flipped learning—see previous episode), Brian talks to Celisa about his latest research related to learning and engagement. He shares information about the Learning Actions Model, an instructional model he and his team created aimed at improving the process of teaching and learning, as well as findings from his recently released white paper, Learner Engagement is a Key to Educational Effectiveness.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:20] – If you are getting value from the Leading Learning podcast, be sure to subscribe by RSS or on iTunes. We’d also appreciate if you give us a rating on iTunes by going to http://www.leadinglearning.com/itunes.
[02:09] – Introduction to Brian and some background information about who he is and what he does.
[03:28] – It is noted that this is Brian’s second time on the Leading Learning Podcast. In his first podcast, Serious Flipped Learning with Dr. Brian McGowan, the focus was on flipped learning data, which he then shared information about in a Content Pod at our two-day May event, Learning • Technology • Design (LTD),
[03:52] – What is the Learning Actions Model? Brian shares that this model started with a research question about 5 years ago, which actually gave rise to ArcheMedX. He questioned how we could feel comfortable with the assumption that learners know how to learn, particularly in the field of medicine. He wanted to find definitive data about the process of learning so he began a research study about this.
[06:29] – Brian talks more about what he came across in his research on the process of learning. He shares that as he interviewed people, he discovered they engage in a variety of natural learning actions, one of which is taking notes. He says that while note taking is a critical first step to learning, it isn’t nearly as valuable if the learner doesn’t spend any time reflecting or re-exposing themselves to those notes.
[07:59] – Brian shares the second and third elements that emerged in his research related to natural learning actions: the idea of a reminder system, or an individualized spaced learning component and searching for information in real-time. Brian explains how in the process of doing all of these things (note-taking, setting reminders, searching for information) aimed at trying to learn, they found that these practices were actually distracting them from the learning itself.
[10:50] – Brian reveals the fourth natural learning action that emerged in his research which was that the faculty and environment are critical to nudging the learners to keep their attention focused (external nudges). They found that the inefficiency in the first three actions make this fourth action unbelievably critical for the learner. All of this is what led to the Learning Actions Model.
[12:57] – Brian adds that as these actions were uncovered, they also found that very few acknowledged ever intentionally focusing or studying these actions as they related to their own ability to learn. Almost universally, as critical as these actions are to learners, they are almost universally a matter of habit and convenience and almost never a matter of trial and error. This means that the community of learners, regardless of the profession, are dependent on a series of actions where most have never evolved.
[14:40] – Brian says because learners haven’t evolved in terms of their natural learning actions, this puts an obligation/opportunity in the hands of the educator. He now helps create content that applies the Learning Actions Model. Recently, they have started to study what about the Learning Actions Model is really driving more effective, engaging learning. The ArcheMedX system can track these behaviors and this data allows for comparative/correlative analyses between how this distinct definition of engagement tracks with the effectiveness of an educational experience.
[17:16] – Brian defines how he’s using engagement and effectiveness in the study (which he then summarized in a white paper, Learner Engagement is a Key to Educational Effectiveness). He says engagement is based on a calculation in the system that tracks 14 actions a learner can take while they are engaging with content. He makes the point that many educators define engagement by attendance.
[18:25]: Celisa argues that Brian’s calculation of engagement is perhaps underreported since it is based on engagement that results in an action — and the learner could be engaged and not taking any outward actions. Brian agrees and adds that another reason engagement is likely underreported is because there are likely other actions they are taking to learn that just aren’t tracked in their system. He reports that on average their data shows a learner is taking about 3-5 actions in the software as they are consuming a piece of content. If they rank ordered each of the learners based on the number of actions each took, they would end up with a least engaged quartile up to a most engaged quartile.
[21:12] – Brian explains that for effectiveness they used an immediacy measure of matched pre and post tests that addressed changes in knowledge, competence, or performance. They then used the average change in pre and post scores and correlated those to the different quartiles of learner engagement. They found that when a learner is consuming the content, the more engaged they are and the more effective the education is.
[22:53] – You have a pretty big data set (over 3,000) but what’s your take on how broadly applicable your findings are? Can we extrapolate these findings to other situations and scenarios? Brian talks about how the research is based in their proprietary software and that although other gold-standard learning may take place elsewhere, those experiences are still susceptible to the Learning Actions Model to either support or undermine their success.
[25:40] – What beginning steps would you recommend for organizations that want to improve effectiveness of their e-learning or learning in general? Brian suggests mapping the flow of your sessions to see if you can uncover where the key elements live. From the learning objectives and assessment approaches, you should be able to find the highlights or hot spots”. Use these to find something outside the norm at those moments to make sure the learner’s attention isn’t ebbing when it should be flowing. He reiterates that the Learning Actions Model gives a variety of tools for educators to use to create an effective learning experience and emphasizes why this research is so important to consider.
[30:05] – When we asked you last time on the podcast about your approach to your own lifelong learning, you talked about using nets and filters (automated searches)—are you still doing that? And what else are you doing? Brian says in addition to casting the right filters and nets, it is how you structure those findings after they are collected. He shares his experience tweeting out information to support his own professional growth for over 2 years using #socialqi and how he ended up writing a book about everything he learned from it.
[33:23] – How to connect with Brian and learn more:
[34:15] – Wrap-Up
A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development.
Thanks again to CommPartners for sponsoring this podcast episode.
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[35:47]- Sign off