I began the day by reading and recording quotations about learning.

Nominally, these are for the marginalia of Real Learning.

Practically, some of them provide insight but most (I’m doing the filtering here) reaffirm what I already believe.

Speaking of which, I’ve revisited my fundamental beliefs. They have not changed in a while and since the world has changed since I wrote them, that’s a problem. Excerpt:


Perception is reality. (See The User Illusion)

  • Placebos work.
  • Hawthorne effect.
  • Halo effect.
  • There need be no commodities.
  • Reality is relative: we each have our own.

Mental expectations set real limits.virgil

  • Learned helplessness.
  • “They are able because they think they are able.” Virgil
  • Optimism works better than pessimism.
  • Logic = blinders to intuitive exploration.

Modern people have cro magnon brains.

The Joy of Learning

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning

Judy Willis MD

Positive motivation impacts brain metabolism, conduction of nerve impulses through the memory areas, and the release of neurotransmitters that increase executive function and attention. Relevant lessons help students feel that they are partners in their education, and they are engaged and motivated.

The highest-level executive thinking, making connections, and “aha” moments of insight and creative innovation are more likely to occur in an atmosphere of what Alfie Kohn calls exuberant discovery, where students of all ages retain that kindergarten enthusiasm of embracing each day with the joy of learning.

Joy and enthusiasm are absolutely essential for learning to happen — literally, scientifically, as a matter of fact and research. Shouldn’t it be our challenge and opportunity to design learning that embraces these ingredients?


from Clark

Community of improvement?

by Clark Quinn

In a conversation I had recently, specifically about a community focused on research, I used the term ‘community of improvement’, and was asked how that was different than a community of practice. It caused me to think through what the differences might be.  (BTW, the idea was sparked by conversations with Lucian Tarnowski from BraveNew.)

First, let me say that a community of practice could be, and should be, a community of improvement. One of the principles of practice is reflection and improvement.  But that’s not necessarily the case.  A community of practice could just be a place where people answer each other’s questions, collaborate on tasks, and help one another with issues not specifically aligned with the community.  But there should be more.

What I suggested in the conversation was that a community should also be about documenting practice, applying that practice through action or design research, and reflecting on the outcomes and the implications for practice.  The community should be looking to other fields for inspiration, and attempting experiments. It’s the community equivalent of Schön’s reflective practitioner.  And it’s more than just cooperation or

collaboration, but actively engaging and working to improve.Basically, this requires collaboration tools, not just communication tools. It requires: places to share thoughts; ways to find partners on the documentation, experimentation, and reflection; and support to track and share the resulting changes on community practices.

Yes, obviously a real community of practice should be doing this, but too often I see community tools without the collaboration tools. So I think it’s worth being explicit about what we would hope will accompany the outcomes.  So, where do we do this, and how?


Driscoll (2000) defines learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…[which] must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world” (p.11). This definition encompasses many of the attributes commonly associated with behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism – namely, learning as a lasting changed state (emotional, mental, physiological (i.e. skills)) brought about as a result of experiences and interactions with content or other people.

Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights, MA, Allyn & Bacon.

“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).”

Stephenson, K., (Internal Communication, no. 36) What Knowledge Tears Apart, Networks Make Whole.Retrieved December 10, 2004 from http://www.netform.com/html/icf.pdf.


Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.

Siemens, Connectivism http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome.  It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess (based on Moon 1999)
Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page.

What? So what? Now what?



Double-loop learning is an educational concept and process that involves teaching people to think more deeply about their own assumptions and beliefs. It was created by Chris Argyris, a leading organizational trainer, in the mid-1980’s, and developed over the next decade into an effective tool. Double-loop learning is different than single-loop learning which involves changing methods and improving efficiency to obtain established objectives (i.e., “doing things right”). Double-loop learning concerns changing the objectives themselves (i.e., “doing the right things”).

Chris Argyris coined the terms “Double Loop Learning” and “Single Loop Learning. Single loop learning has often been compared to a thermostat in that it makes a “decision” to either turn on or off. Double loop learning is like a thermostat that asks “why” — Is this a good time to switch settings? Are there people in here? Are they in bed? Are they dressed for a colder setting? — thus it orientates itself to the present environment in order to make the wisest decision.


Training “a waste”

Why Your Employee Training Is A Waste Of Time And Money — And What To Do About It


There’s a science to this. As David Rock explains in Your Brain at Work, when you learn anything for the first time, you rely on the pre-frontal cortex. Doing so takes a lot of cognitive power and energy. Once you repeat something again and again, it moves to the basal ganglia of the brain and becomes a habit. Tapping that knowledge is not energy intensive. That is why we find it easy to drive from home to work every day, but very difficult to navigate a new city from behind the steering wheel. Once what is learned becomes a habit, someone is ready to move onto the next piece of training.

Training without implementation is just an intellectual journey – and most of us would rather go to the movies or read a great book. At the end of the day the question to ask yourself is:  Will the training change the way we do stuff around here? If not, don’t waste your timeand money. Take your team to the movies instead.