The Knowing-Doing Gap in L&D

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

“Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”  ~ Abigail Adams

In a Re:Search article in July’s T+D, I report on a study that showed  that managers applied their knowledge only 32% of the time. (See Shocking Evidence of Managers’ Knowing-Doing Gap.) It got me thinking… how much do we apply our knowledge of L&D theory and research?


If the lessons of the Baldwin study (2011) can be extrapolated into our own field, an alarmingly small portion of the theoretical grounding we teach/learn in L&D gets applied in any real way back in our organizations. Do you think that might be true?

I have to say that as a consultant and professor – the worry that people are not able to apply the theoretical grounding and research of our field is what keeps me up nights. As an advocate for scholarly practice, I believe grounding our work makes us more effective in our jobs – but if my students don’t see how what they learn about learning theory is applicable, or they don’t feel it’s worth their effort to go looking for relevant theory and research for their projects, or if – as in Baldwin’s study – they don’t recognize where that theory would come in handy, well, then…  (sad face).

I would be interested in hearing from students and professors…  How do you apply the theory that you are learning? What kind of theory and research is most useful to you? How can we make the theory and research of our field easier to absorb into your modus operandi or more actionable?

About the Author
Catherine Lombardozzi is founder of Learning 4 Learning Professionals and author of Learning Environments by Design. Catherine’s work focuses on the professional development of designers, faculty, facilitators, learning consultants, and learning leaders. Catherine has been enthusiastically engaged in the learning and development field for over 30 years and integrates practical experience with academic grounding. Her areas of specialty include developing talent in the digital age, amplifying creative capacity in L&D, supporting social learning, and grounding practice in theory and research. She has frequently contributed to professional conferences and journals, and she teaches graduate-level courses in adult learning, instructional design, learning technology and consulting. Catherine holds a doctoral degree in Human and Organizational Learning from The George Washington University. You can learn more about her background at
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