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ATD Blog

Use Science to Improve Learning Design

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

In the past two years, many of us have seen firsthand—or at least heard or read about—what it looks like when employees are stretched beyond their limits. Decreased productivity, missed deadlines, higher turnover, and increased errors are just a few of the signs that individuals have surpassed their capacities.

L&D professionals need to understand and consider capacity when planning learning solutions. For example, how difficult is the new content you’ll be offering? How recently has the C-suite asked employees to undergo change or embrace another major initiative? What are you assuming about the current learners’ skills and knowledge?

Capacity—the volume of information competing for learners’ working memory—is the first element of the CLICS framework, a design method to create science-based learning and development solutions that Janet Ahn, Mary Slaughter, and Jon Thompson outline in their new book, Learning That CLICS: Using Behavioral Science for Effective Design.

In addition to capacity, the other framework elements are:

  • Layering, the optimal structuring and sequence of concepts and information to ensure deep learning
  • Intrinsic enablers, the conditions to enhance learners’ intrinsic motivations that will generate personal relevance and foster lasting learning
  • Coherence, the cognitive ease with which information connects with knowledge the learner already holds
  • Social connections, the interpersonal support (physical, emotional and psychological) that employees have in place for learning to be optimal and effective

Understanding those elements, learning designers can use specific tactics to improve retention. For example, to avoid cognitive overload, an L&D professional may use chunking or mnemonic devices. Chunking, or recoding smaller elements into larger units, can help learners remember information, such as phone numbers or social security numbers, that can be grouped—for example, dividing a 10-digit US number into three groups. Using acronyms, models, or rhyming can also help learners remember, such as ROYGBIV for the colors of the rainbow or I before E, except after C or when sounding like A, like in neighbor and weigh for spelling help.

Layering can be used via context mapping or deliberate practice and repetition. Intrinsic enablers may involve reward systems or experiential methods, while coherence can be capitalized on by drawing parallels to existing knowledge. For social connections, think feedback and modeling as well as performance support.

Ahn, Slaughter, and Thompson presented their CLICS framework on Tuesday. Learning That CLICS will be available for advance purchase at the ATD Bookstore.

About the Author

ATD22 News is your source for news, updates, and session coverage for ATD's 2022 International Conference & EXPO.

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