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What happens when we hold on to old beliefs (even when they’re not true)?

The answer is: we look foolish.

A few weeks ago at the Online Learning Conference, I sat in a room and I was amused by a question the keynote speaker posed to the audience. She asked: what color is a yield sign? I turned to the person sitting next to me and said: yellow! She smiled and nodded. Such an easy question!

The problem was: we were wrong.

Not such an easy question. And when the answer was revealed, there was a collective palm-slapping-forehead sound that rang out across the ballroom.

In case you were wondering, a yield sign you’d see on the road today (and every day since 1971) actually looks like this:  


What’s the equivalent of an L&D professional walking around like someone claiming that yield signs are yellow? I can think of two prominent examples (both of which I’ve certainly been guilty of sharing in my young and more ignorant days):

  1. Learning Styles. I used to give everyone a learning style inventory/assessment during my facilitation skills courses. Then I read this article from Will Thalheimer’s blog. In short, there’s no research in existence that says outcomes are different if you design for distinct learning styles. While I think incorporating elements of auditory, visual and kinesthetic activities helps to make a lesson more engaging, we need not cater to distinct learning styles. Nor should we spend any time in our sessions discussing learning styles.
  2. “Dale’s Cone”. Variations of the following image (and accompanying statistics) are everywhere! And even though this is credited to Edgar Dale and even though it has an official looking date on it, apparently there is no data or research connected to Edgar Dale – in 1969 or any other time – that actually supports this information. It’s fun to talk about how much people remember when they hear something vs. when they see something vs. when they do something… but stop. There’s no research to back it up.


Wondering if you might be spreading some half-truths or flat out lies when you’re talking about concepts from L&D that you think are simply conventional wisdom? Check out Will Thalheimer’s Debunker Club site for some other interesting myths.

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