Welcome to the Science of Learning Community

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The level of what we know about how people learn is expanding all the time. And more and more practitioners are becoming interested in linking research-focused disciplines (cognitive psychology, organizational behavior, neuroscience, etc) to training and development in a practical way. It is for this reason that the Science of Learning Community came into being.

As I’ve taken part in conversations with numerous curious professionals in the last several months, I’ve been asked, “Is this all about neuroscience and 'brain-based' learning?” And the answer is, not exactly. Fields such as neuroscience, neurolinguistics, and neurochemistry (sometimes grouped under the generic term “brain science”) are extremely popular right now, and will be a big part of what this community will discuss. But it does not end there. There is research changing what we know about learning and organizational development that is completely outside of neuroscience; for example, studies on organizational and group behavior, and other areas that rely on qualitative data to make conclusions.

Another question I’ve been asked is, just what do we mean by “research” or “evidence based?” Patti Shank, a phenomenal expert and great friend to the Science of Learning (SL) community, has stated simply and elegantly that research is, “collecting data and analyzing it.” Of course we can (and will) dive far deeper into the implications of research and expand upon it in numerous ways, but this is in its simplest form, what it’s all about. It’s not scary, and it’s far less complex than some might make it seem.

In terms of “evidence based,” while there are research-based models, frameworks, and best practices that those in this community seek out and adhere to, L&D and HRD practitioners often make decisions using their instincts, prior experiences, and sometimes, anecdotal, or just plain bad information. Together, this community will rally together and seek to change all that by

  • becoming skilled consumers of research, learning to separate good data from flawed, and independently evaluating what is useful for their work
  • actually using data to support their everyday tasks and to become more competitive
  • testing some of what the data has to show us, and sharing it through the community blog and other social resources

So, some might be wondering whether SL is kindof like one of those “manifestos?” I would probably say no…or at least not yet. But much like a manifesto, the SL community has the power to make a strong statement, and it certainly has the backing of some equally strong voices. With that, I’d like to thank the first Advisory Group for Science of Learning, who have offered their time, ideas, and great passion for research to help us create a foundation for many more good things to come: Catherine Lombardozzi, Karl Kapp, Jim Kirkpatrick, Ruth Colvin Clark, Patti Shank, and Wendy Kirkpatrick. Thanks a million for your dedication and thanks to all of you early contributors as well. I can’t wait to share what you’ve come up with.


The really great thing is that there is a place in this community for everyone who wants to get involved, and you don’t need to have spoken at a single conference or written a single book. Join in the conversation and let us know:

  • If you’ve tried a research-based model in your own work. How did it go?
  • If you have gathered your own data and wish to share your findings with your peers.
  • If you have an affinity for scouring through research and know how to synthesize it into best practices people can actually use.

I look forward to hearing from you. You can email me at [email protected] or reach out on Twitter @ASTDSciLearn. And of course, don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter!

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