Came across a fantastic article by Andy Matuschak called “Why books don’t work.”
This was a very great read about how some of the fundamental ways in which we learn information – from books, from podcasts, from lectures – is based on an implicit cognitive model that is flawed.
The model called “Transmissionism” in learning sciences, implies that when you read/hear/watch something, you understand it.
Explicitly stated like that, I’m sure it’s obvious to everyone that this is false. However, it is the underlying model behind many of the ways in which we learn – although as Andy states in the article and as multiple projects in the real world show, we are slowly moving away from this in various education programs and policies. I’m sure many people have heard of “flipping the classroom” for instance.
Much of what’s missing from these ways of learning, is any form of active learning. We don’t just passively learn by being exposed to information, we need to actually think about it. Much of the latest neuroscience backs this up. The online course “Learning How To Learn” which itself is structured to provide active learning shares a lot of the data, techniques and neuroscience behind learning.
As a researcher and human-centered designer, this raises some questions though. In our process of seeking to understand a domain, we go deep – and we have various methods that naturally help us with active learning. It’s one of the main reasons that HCD practitioners can enter a brand new context and very quickly get up to speed and designing solutions. But very often, the people who receive that research, who will act on it, or the people who ultimately build out an offering are not involved in the process of learning.
This means that they don’t have that component of active thinking – they only receive the result. In many places this is a report, sometimes a prototype, in some other places it’s a library of research nuggets.
In HCD or Service design there is co-creation that is sometimes used to address this issue, and agencies have their own ways to involve stakeholders in the process – but ultimately, much of the same flaws that are inherent to learning are also present here – as researchers we are essentially teaching stakeholders. And many of the models – whether a research report, a slide deck of main insights, or a library of research nuggets – have the same underlying cognitive model of “transmissionism.”
It makes me wonder how I can improve in my own practice, how might we deliver research in ways that encourage active thinking?
I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing that the work that I do ultimately creates actionable insights and change in an organization.
Has anyone else started exploring ways in which we might be able to create more active thinking upon delivery? How to better share what we’ve learned with others?
I’d love to learn from your experiences 😀