I am thoroughly enjoying Ruth Clark’s Evidence Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals. Not only does it provide practical advice for instructional design that is actually based on research, but Clark’s writing is quick and easy to read and her recommendations clear and memorable.
This is partly because Clark adeptly practices what she preaches. The book itself is a superior “learning environment,” using key techniques recommended by the research: informational graphics, stories and examples, “organizing” questions to spark engagement.
One of my favorite insights comes early in the book: the knowledge that short-term memory consists of both visual and audio centers leads to the concept of “dual channels” for learning delivery:
When you read a concrete word such as flower, you are more likely to process it in two ways, as phonetic data and also as the image that your mind forms when reading the word. In contrast, a word such as moral is not as easy to visualize, and in many cases you encode it only in a phonetic format. Concrete words that can be encoded in two ways have a greater probability of being stored in memory. (page 31, paperback edition).
Every poet and copywriter knows that concrete words are stronger and “stickier” than abstract words, but now at last we have the brain science to explain why!
So here’s a little poem I wrote in praise of Clark’s insight. It might help you remember the idea of dual channels:
Abstract’s Less Durable than Concrete
Elephants are bigger than enormous,
A pear more memorable than appear.
Names of things are sounds and pictures:
Pointed’s less pointed than a spear.
A comforter is warmer than comfort,
Compared to being, a bee has more sting;
Any one star is clearer than brightness:
Ideas vanish faster than things.
Even pain is less painful than a punch in the nose,
And the rarest beauty holds no candle to a rose.
6 hours ago