Learning Styles & the Importance of Critical Self-Reflection

Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection | Tesia Marshik | TEDxUWLaCrosse

The video is just over 18 minutes in length.

From YouTube…

Published on Apr 2, 2015

The belief in learning styles is so widespread, it is considered to be common sense. Few people ever challenge this belief, which has been deeply ingrained in our educational system. Teachers are routinely told that in order to be effective educators, they must identify & cater to individual students’ learning styles; it is estimated that around 90% of students believe that they have a specific learning style but research suggests that learning styles don’t actually exist! This presentation focuses on debunking this myth via research findings, explaining how/why the belief in learning styles is problematic, and examining the reasons why the belief persists despite the lack of evidence.

Dr. Tesia Marshik is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Her research interests in educational psychology include student motivation, self-regulation, and teacher-student relationships.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx


Have your L&D Team watch this video prior to a meeting to discuss this and any implications for your team to address.

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70-20-10? … As Always – It Depends.

70-20-10? Oh Really? How Coincidental. 

Every…one? I’m sorry – and – it also smacks of L&D Navel Gazing – IMO.

First – the Numbers … with my definitions. Note that there are many sets of definitions out in use.

  • 70% – Learning via OTJ Assignments– Informal Learning & Development through day-today tasks, challenges and practices, and tough assignments. Also known as: On-the-Job (OJT).
  • 20% – Learning via Coaching– Informal Learning & Development via coaching from others in one’s personal networks.
  • 10% – Learning via Training & Education – Formal Learning & Development through courses and programs, workshops, elearning, webinars, etc.



The 70-20-10 Focus

As a model, what does it communicate?

What is its focus?

It’s just not externally focused enough, and is too internally focused – IMO – unless dumping that 70% and 20% on the customer is the external focus. 

For THEY – Our Clients – are in control of those two components of the model – the 70 and 20 – not that we cannot help them there too. But they own that … no?

And they have final say about making those two happen – all three really – but those two especially – and – they have to then live with the potential disruptions and consequences to their business, to their Processes – for them – when they address the 70 and 20 … and most of the time they have to really believe that there is that short term pain for that long term gain in order for them to really follow through. 

Or – they – just – let – it – go.

Because… It’s Informal. Or guided Informal.

Note: not that their assessments and final say judgments about what to do and how to the 70 and 20 are always right. Guiding the Informal is critical IMO.

And – those numbers – 70-20-10 aren’t right – IMO.

The concepts are good, right. The numbers are wrong.

Me – I’ve spent most of my career working for Fortune 500 firms formalizing learning when the informal approach wasn’t cutting it. Developing comprehensive, performance-focused T&D Paths … and then designing/developing the gap content when what they had already didn’t fit the bill.

And I’ve never seen the ideal solution fall out so neatly as 70-20-10, but I have it seen pretty much the reverse. And many of my designs of Learning Paths called out for those varied approaches … guiding the Learning via Formal and Informal means down a path of Performance Competence development.

And – ONLY IF – the upside to Performance Impact made it worth addressing. Sometimes the modules of modular content did not seem worthwhile. Not everything needed to be formalized. 

Note: those Knowledge/Skills determined to not be worthy of Formal treatment – were left to Unstructured OJT – also known as Informal Learning. “Oh, they’ll figure it out.” and “We’re not spending another nickle on it.” “They’ll ask their neighbor.”

And most of the time these decisions to let it go – to leave it to unstructured on-the-job learning – seemed to me like reasonable business decisions … to leave some of the K/S Requirements to “less-than-formal” means and to “completely-formal” means. 

An aside: Many times – one of the key things that the Learning Path Analysis/Design Team – and even the Project Steering Team – wanted – was a face-to-face forum, annually if not quarterly – where people could share their questions and seek information and instruction. That was one of the varied approaches of several the Design Teams I’ve worked with. It was interesting to me that that mechanism was often seen by the Master Performers engaged in the effort as something highly desirable. Social.

It Doesn’t Begin With The End In Mind

It – 70-20-10 – is a prime example of promoting the Cart Before Horse – IMO.

It is either a prescription – or a suggestionbefore having any understanding via some sort of analysis/diagnosis … of the current state’s performance context requirements and results, and the specific gaps from goals or ideals, and without understanding the worth or value of those gaps, and then an estimate of any reasonable upside performance potential – for making an investment in dollars and time to address any, or all of it …

Sometimes your context requires an estimate … in advance … of the potential ROI … for comparison purposes. Especially if doing one project over another is the larger context for you – because there just aren’t enough Resources to go around to meet every need regardless of their comparative worth. Not for a good shareholder of shareholder equity.

So … to avoid investing in Learning with little hopes of a return … or of a sufficient enough rate of return – depending on your local requirements for same – ya gotta understand the Context. The “as is” and “could be” gaps of the context.

The Performance Competence Requirements “context” that is.


Where is the Analysis of what – in 70-20-10?

Is it analysis or assessment agnostic? Can it get along without any data at all?

And what data do I need to determine what goes into which bucket … the 70 … 20 … 10? 

Note: Data that I’ve been collecting in 30+ years of Instructional Analysis of Performance and Performers and then designing Instructional Courses or entire Curricula – T&D Paths/ Learning Paths – it’s my view that some jobs need widely different “methods and amounts” of Instruction and Information – for the Learner to participate in and/or access – to develop the Performance Competence they require … than the 70-20-10 model prescribes or suggests.

The 70-20-10 Model’s Source

The 70-20-10 model itself is based on an “As Is” or “Current State” opinion survey (self reported) of 200 managers – about their personal beliefs as to how they learned. Hmm.

Small sample size of such as a huge domain … management. Hmm.

And again … it’s their Current State … and seemingly assumed by most to be the same as the Ideal State already. Hmm.

That’s seems like so very little – to go on – to over-generalize – for everybody else – that this is close to what is needed – IMO. Hmm.

Maybe there is a worthy upside – or – maybe not.

The ROI for Improvement to the Levels of the Master Performers

Model Suggests Averaging or Rounding

And Round Numbers always make me suspicious. Even the 80/20 Rule.

An aside: I liked that Deming used 94% when stating which problems (deviations from goals) where attributable to THE SYSTEM and therefore to Management and therefore not the individuals or teams. Management.

And now 70-20-10 seems like a fit – to some in the field – for every job -management or non-management, high risk jobs and lower risk jobs.


Astronauts and Jet Pilots and Waiters and Bus Boys?

Computer Systems Administrators and Cafeteria staff?

Which is my segue to…

One Size Does Not Fit All

One size fits all. Not.

Each Performance Context Is Unique – either just somewhat or lots – in the requirements for Products/Services in their marketplace.

Then, their unique Processes for Development and then Delivery of those P/Ss might be unique – somewhat or a lot.

The Inputs required and available might be unique – somewhat or a lot. And the other Environmental Resources required of the Processes, and then the required Human Resources to use/manipulate those Environmental Resources within the Process to deliver – or make Accessible – the Products/Services – might be unique – somewhat or a lot.

Note to self and others – always look to the Process first – and its adequacy in meeting the demands of its Stakeholders – before jumping on any Learning Bandwagon.


If Learning is the Answer – What Again Was The Problem?

How does a 70-20-10 framework – specific targets or general guidelines – assist with any of that?

It presumes too much IMO.

It presumes – or inadvertently suggests – that Learning is a primary solution when it may really be secondary or tertiary. It does not account for the incoming knowledge and skills of the target audiences – and that variance.

Wouldn’t that variance cause the numbers to vary?

It’s means versus ends.

Reminds me of a client who made sales calls internally proclaiming that they “Asked Why 5 Times.”

Their clients were generally not impressed – as THAT did not scream I’m here for YOU, and it’s all about YOU….

IMO – we need to be focused first and foremost on our Clients/Customers and their Stakeholders – and their Processes – IMO.

Learning – and other enablers of Processes (in my models) are secondary to the Process design itself.


Maybe fix the Process – and then make everyone aware of the changes, or knowledgeable about the changes or skilled in the changes. Whatever the situation calls for. As always – it depends.

How can anyone in L&D – or whatever flag you fly under – begin to discuss/promote a solution-set framework targets or guidelines without a full understanding of the situation – and the hard data and soft data that exists from within that Performance Context and its Performance Context(s)?

Premature? I think so.

And focused internally on ourselves, again, rather than on the customer and their situation and stakeholders and those specifics.

We shouldn’t care – nor forecast – what their solution looks, or “frames” like. Not before seeking to understand the context, current and near-or-mid term/future.

And again, how can one set of numbers be universally true … or universally true enough … to warrant promotion as a prescription or suggestion … or as a brand?

Reminds me of a former firm’s client back in the 1990s, Boston Chicken, and them needing to do a name change to Boston Market, once they decided to expand and sell meatloaf too.

Branding can communicate – as well as trap.

And if it’s not about the numbers, why use them at all? What value add do they deliver?

  • 70% – Learning via On-the-Job Assignments – Informal Learning 
  • 20% – Learning via Coaching & Networks – Informal Learning 
  • 10% – Learning via Training & Education – Formal Learning

To whose benefit is it to “get” this – and then go “beyond” getting this – to “applying” this?

If it’s to help the Learning Supply-side Community and/or the Customer-side Community understand that Learning How To Do The Job takes a mix of formal learning and informal learning – well, then, duh. Tell us something we didn’t already know.

If it is about helping the Learning Supply-side Community and/or the Customer-side Community understand that…

  • 1) we still need our budgets for the 10%, and
  • 2) the informal learning portions of 90% are under the control of you and your managers, and we in L&D cannot be held responsible for that

– is also, well, then, duh, thanks for your help.

Move along now. We all get that – that we the customer are mostly on our own here.

But then again, so what?

If Deming were to be believed, with his non-round number of 94% – that 94% of Problems were in the System itself – and that that was in the control of management – and that no exhortations, beatings, rewards or teachings/learnings of the worker force – was going to move any metric needle up – other than the expense needle – then why focus and promote a solutions-set framework?

Why not talk about how to identify gaps and then to address them – regardless of whether or not they have much to do with Learning.

Hint: Learning will be a portion, most of the time, for many of the Solution-sets.

New software required? New Policies required? New Regulations to deal with?

Will those require Learning – or Performance Support?

Maybe a Job Aid is needed – sometimes online – and sometimes laminated and taped to the desk. AS always – it depends.

Why Not Just Focus On Performance?

And let the solutions-set percentage chips fall where they may?

And then address those needs with the client – as a partner – partnering with all other enabler providers whose products and services are not adequate to the specific need of the targeted Process and/or People.


It’s not all about Learning. It’s all about Performance.

Help the client/customer figure out the desired state and the current state and then value the worth of addressing those gaps.

Address the worthy needs – gaps – with Learning – and Job Assignments – and Coaching – as that specific situation requires – after determining the other changes required to the other enablers of a future, ideal set of Enterprise Processes.

Here is my page of Foo Foo about 70-20-10 – here.


IMO – 70-20-10 is an unfortunate formalization of a general truism: that the learning required to achieve Performance Competence and then maintain it – will require a blend of means and modes – to be deployed and made accessible – including both performance-based Instruction (both static and dynamic) and Information (both static and dynamic).

The right blend/mix could be very different than this model suggests.

70-20-10 variances

The numbers could be exactly reversed and be exactly right for some Performance Contexts and its Performers given their incoming knowledge, skills and experiences.


Models in L&D 1

So … Drop the numbers.

Models in L&D 2

Focus on enabling and measuring worthy Performance.

Who could complain?

70-20-10 CS not FS

Please don’t consider some other group’s “current state” as the appropriate target for your future state for each target audience you address.

That would not be good stewardship of shareholder equity. IMO.

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Invalid Learning Practices Waste Limited Resources

Unless Your Resources Are Limitless 

And where do you find that?


They Are Not Harmless. To the Enterprise. To your internal and external Stakeholders. To your Team. And to yourself.

Go here for more…

Foo Foo/Myth Fighting

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Being Process Centric In Learning and Performance Improvement

Identify and Map the Key Value Chains

Map the major Task-sets for all of your Products and/or Services – P/Ss.

From conception to production to delivery – etc.

Don’t worry – we won’t forget about sending the invoices. And then the paychecks.

Focus on the P/Ss.

An Organization Chart of “Departments”

Then look at your Organization Charts. But look at them as both collections of people – and as collections of Processes.

And call them functions, or divisions, or strategic business units. And if higher than a function – such as Engineering – then break them down to their sets-of-departments grouping. Get to the department level.

Org Chart in L-C-S Mode

Imagine that the Org Chart above represents groups of people trying to get a set of tasks done.

At the 1st Tier level – are the people, including the CEO (or other title) running the show/business.

At the 2nd Tier level – which can itself become multiple levels – so adjust your picture of the graphic in your mind for addressing your context as this “level/levels” can include  the Division people … or the SBU people … or the functional people in such major functions such as Marketing, Finance, Engineering, Manufacturing, Merchandising, Distribution, Retail Operations, HR, etc. Look at your own Org Chart.

And see it at the department level…

At the 3rd Tier level – are the Department levels. For the Sales function it might include Sales Operations, Field Sales, Inside Sales, Sales Support, etc. Think about your sales function – at the department level (or Team level).

Don’t let the labels/language hang you up. Change my language here to yours – from the git go.

Next – identify the Processes that the target Department is involved with – either as the Process Owner organization – or some Process Player organization.


See the Process framework along these lines below – and adapt my language to yours as needed.

What are the boxes in the above graphics?


The Analysis/Breakdown Continues

If the Department above was the Field Sales Organization – this is the set of AoPs – Areas of Performance – for an Account Representative (the sales people).

AoPs Sales Rep

Here is one page of their Performance Model charts for one AoP…

ABC Sales PM Chart Example

After doing these for the entire job – or the narrower focus – project scope depending/limiting – one would move next to the enablers. If the project effort is targeted at Learning/ Training/ Knowledge Management – the next step is to analyze the enabling Knowledge and Skill enablers – the K/Ss.

I use 17 categories to derive the enabling K/Ss for a set of Performance Competence requirements. Here they are.

K-S Categories

Here is an example of the data captured as a result of my Analysis methods for systematically deriving the enabling K/Ss. This is one page of perhaps 20-25 of such charts/matrices.

K-S Matrices w Call Outs

The key thing – utility – affordance – with the above derived set of data- is that when you are packaging the content in Performance Support tools content, or Performance Based Content (Instruction and/or Information).

Those sets of Content can be organized at a module level – or sub-module level (again – change my language to yours if that makes sense).

PACT Processes and the EC Arch

But – it’s almost always about something other than Learning-Knowledge/Skills of the Performers that is at the root of any business issue (problem/opportunity).

Learning just rears it’s head when the implementation of the real solution – dealing with the gaps from ideal in the other sets of enablers – is being planned (planned well or poorly).


It’s not all about Learning – even if it starts out as being all about Learning.


It’s all about Performance.


Too much of Formal Learning is Not Authentic Enough – and won’t transfer – and wouldn’t lead to any improvements if it did transfer. It’s not authentic content that is being delivered that reflects, in the first place, the required Performance Competence.

Too much of Informal Learning is Not Instructional Enough – and won’t transfer – and wouldn’t lead to any improvements if it did transfer. It’s not a valid delivery method for first enabling and then maintaining, the required Performance Competence.


And worse – Learning isn’t often going to address the real issue(s) – all by itself – and it too often is expected to do so.

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2 of My 4 Analysis Data Frameworks

Performance Models and Knowledge/Skill Matrices

I have four analysis outputs in my PACT Processes for T&D:

  1. Target Audience data
  2. Performance Requirements data
  3. Knowledge/Skills Requirements data
  4. Existing T&D Assessments data

We will focus on the two in the middle of those 4.

PM-KS used in design

The 4

1- Target Audience data … tells you who is coming to the series of learning events on the path toward Performance Competence – and what their incoming knowledge, skills, experiences are, so that the front end of their learning path is modified as appropriate and within reason.

2- Performance Requirements data … tells you what the real-world job requires, within the context of the department or the division of the enterprise, and all of the processes that the job participates in, either as a solo agent, or as a team member.

3- Knowledge/Skills Requirements data … tells you what awareness, knowledge and skills are needed to be a Performance Competent performer. This is the bill of materials for any future state curricula, a blend of formal and informal learning, to take the Target Audience through an accelerated development and assessment sequence … if/as needed by the enterprise.

4- Existing T&D Assessments data … tells you the fit or not of existing content to the analysis of #2 and #3 above. This enables ReUse of content to build shared learning experiences and to see the links/contributions of all groups to the common goals of the enterprise.

Quit reinventing the wheels of content.

The 2.

Performance Models

Performance Models are sets of data. Hopefully useful to your downstream needs.


Then for an AoP, a Performance Model chart is completed.

Here for a different job, is an example of that. Here is the data that needs to be used downstream – or should be skipped from the collection effort.

ABC Sales PM Chart Example

K/S Matrices

I use these 17 categories of K/S…

K-S Categories

Here is an example of a completed Matrices.

TMC KS Matrix Example

The analysis would get more complex at this point if it weren’t constrained to Learning/Training.

If it weren’t constrained to training or learning – then additional categories of enablers of the Process – would be added to the analysis effort.


This breakdown of Performance Requirements and the enabling K/Ss might lead to many modules.

Maybe that is good. Maybe that is not good.

But in any event … no module of content should ever be used as a single one off.



Focus on the Performance – and Enable That.

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Unlearning Is Often Needed Prior To Learning

And That Requires Analysis

Sometimes Informal Learning might be effective, and sometimes it might not be effective.

Same with Formal Learning.

If you’ve ever taught, or measured and evaluated self-paced learning pre and post, you may have found that sometimes the Learners believe that they already know the subject and/or have the skills – when they don’t.

Sometimes they have it wrong.

golf 2

If it – Informal Learning – didn’t teach the tasks and/or thinking correctly enough – THAT might have to be unlearned prior to correct Formal Learning or … correct Informal Learning.

I believe it all comes down to the analysis – of the Tasks/Topics and the incoming knowledge and skills of the Learners.

Too often this is just skipped.

Informal Learning happens regardless of whether or not that is desirable. It is desirable when the source is accurate.

Accurate in terms of being aligned with the Performance Competence Requirements – and is proven to be effective in causing Learning to occur that meets those requirements.

But how often are the product (Outputs of Behavior) and the process (Required Behavior) not clear to all involved?


Too often IMO.

The kind of analysis required need not take a long time or be costly. It can be accomplished using what I have been calling a Group Process since the early 1980s. Here is the first publication of the Analysis methods I refer to:

Models and Matrices- NSPI PIJ -1984 – 5 page PDF – the first publication of the performance and enabler analysis methods for ISD, from NSPI’s (ISPI’s) Performance & Instruction Journal, November 1984.

An application of the use of such analysis was also published in 1984 … for Curriculum Architecture … for producing what much later was called Learning Paths … suggested menus or strict sequences … of ReUsable sets of Content across multiple audiences.

CAD – Training Mag – 1984 – 6 page PDF – the first publication about Curriculum Architecture Design via a Group Process – published in Training Magazine in September 1984. Original manuscript (30 pages) – How to Build a Training Structure That Won’t Keep Burning Down.


This is all covered in my 1999 book: lean-ISD – available as a free PDF (or a paperback for $):

1999 lean-ISD Book Cover

Note: the cover design for “lean-ISD” was created by the late Geary A. Rummler.

Note: Guy W. Wallace’s book “lean-ISD” – was a recipient of a 2002 Award of Excellence for Instructional Communication from the International Society for Performance Improvement.

lean-ISD is also available as a $30 paperback book – for more and to order – please go – here.

But Wait – There’s More!

And these methods were also covered in my 2011 6-Pack – available 1 book (paperback and/or Kindle) at a time:

PACT 6 Pack

Click on the graphic above for information about these 6 books – and other related books.

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