How to spot an L&D myth


There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about learning, training and education. They can cause us to make bad decisions, create ineffective training and make us look silly in meetings. But how do we avoid them?

Instead of compiling a Buzzfeed-esque “7 things about learning that you won’t believe are myths” article (we’ll do that next month), let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to debunk dodgy beliefs.

Ask yourself “How do I know this is true?”

It’s important to challenge your assumptions from time to time. Reflect on the concept and think about why you think it’s true. If you don’t have any concrete evidence or just 'feel it’s true' then it’s worth delving a little deeper and investigating the idea.

Acknowledge that you don’t know if something is actually true. Then get sceptical…

Be sceptical of round numbers.

A lot of incorrect stats use round numbers, but it’s not often that a study will produce findings with a set of numbers that are all divisible by 10. Human behaviour is too erratic to produce nice, clean numbers. For example, did you know that you only remember…

…10% of what you read

…20% of what you hear

…30% of what you see

…90% of what you do.

Yup. Not true. In fact, when you look at those numbers critically it seems just a little too neat and tidy. What a nice little pyramid it would make…

Doubt general rules that don’t account for variability.

Another 10% myth (there are a lot of them) is that only 10% of training transfers to the job.

Aside from the round number, let’s think about this in terms of the real world. Is this 10% of good or bad training? If your training was absolutely incredible are you still going to only get a 10% benefit?

Here’s a possible scenario: Someone trains you to use a piece of heavy machinery. Do you then go off and operate it with only 10% of the skills you need?

If in doubt, Google it.

This is a really quick and easy way to see if you’re on the right track or if you’re believing the L&D equivalent of voodoo.

Step 1. Google it.

Step 2. Google criticism of it.

Using the example of Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic (VAK) learning styles, let’s perform a google search:

Now let’s add 'myth' to the search term and see what pops up.

Explore the links and validate the information. What sounds more credible? Who raises some good points? What do the actual studies say?

Delve deep into the studies.

Finally, the most important thing is to look at the research that is being cited. Follow the links to the original studies (if available), get the books that are quoted etc.

What if it doesn’t have any studies to back it up? This is a big red flag. Probably a big red flag that says 'Myth'.

A final note:

It’s impossible for someone to be right 100% of the time. Everyone gets caught out with biases, misinformation and myths. We’re all busy trying to create meaningful training and no one has time to be truly sceptical about everything, or research every belief and fact in their industry. If you uncover something that isn’t right, be respectful of others who may not know it yet. Take the time to explain things properly, without condescension or judgement, and show them how they can avoid misinformation in the future. After all, we’re in this industry because we want to help people learn new things.