Interactive Learning Leads to Better Results, Surprising Students

If the research shows that Interactive Learning is a far better approach than Passive Learning, why is it not used more often? The answer might lie in the way students are swayed by skillful lecturers into thinking they are learning more than they actually are.

As you may know, here at 2Time Labs we have been advocating the introduction of interactive learning wherever possible. It’s not by accident.  The research is clear that involving students in material ways works. Taking this message to heart, about a year ago I brought it to the planners of a future virtual summit. After some discussion, the ideas were included in the design and implementation of the actual event which was recently concluded.

For example, during the online conference summiteers were required to join a community platform (Mighty Networks) which was used as the technological base. They were invited to make full use of its features, which many did to interact with each other, presenters and exhibitors. They were all invited to remain as permanent members.

They were also given the opportunity to engage with nine digital interactive learning tools  – quizzes, games, assessments etc. Each supported the objective of the summit, focusing on a single key area of learning.

Finally, at the end each day summiteers were invited to join a live networking lounge in the form of a video group chat on Zoom.

Consequently, this is the first virtual summit I know of that attempted to go the extra interactive  mile. Every other one I have either presented at or attended has been almost 100% passive. (A few allowed a few questions at the end.)

Knowing the power of a community and digital interactives from personal experience, I wondered why this could not be different. The technology to provide an interactive experience has been available for some time at a low price.

Then I read this article and it struck a chord:  The Dangers of Fluent Lectures..

According to the author, “A study says smooth-talking professors can lull students into thinking they’ve learned more than they actually have — potentially at the expense of active learning.”

Call it a version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect if you will. In this case, the student over-estimates how much learning is happening because the teacher using passive learning is skilfully taking them from start to finish, requiring little or nothing of them in return.

By contrast, their counterparts in the interactive learning classroom actually learn more, but think they are learning less, according to the research. The reason? Apparently, they are confronted with their (true) shortcomings early on in the process. This makes them feel inadequate.

Also, they are forced to undergo a real, public struggle in real time which requires a show of effort and failure. Finally, they are lulled into thinking that the delivery of active learning isn’t as “polished” as that of passive learning due to its inherently discontinuous nature.

As a result, teachers using active learning receive lower student evaluations. According to the article, it “inadvertently promotes inferior (passive) pedagogical methods.”

Maybe this explains why the ratio of passive to interactive time spent at virtual summits is almost 100% to 0%, even though there is abundant technology to create more of a balance. The problem lies in the attendee-learner’s perception.

I have a suspicion that this may continue to be the case for some time. However, in a  cynical corner of my mind I predict the change will finally come only if hosts start to notice that predominantly interactive summits produce more sales than  their counterparts. In other words, when money starts to talk.

At that point, perhaps, the drumbeat for interactive summits would begin for all to hear.

By the end, the study shared a little unintended light. According to one of the it’s researchers in a message to teachers everywhere: “If you use (inter) active properly, your students will learn more and they will enjoy and appreciate it, especially once they see evidence of their learning.”

This hints at the power of a gamified approach in which learning/summit attending is deliberately engineered to produce an intrinsically motivated, fun experience. While providing such learning isn’t easy, my experience at the recently concluded summit is that it adds a dimension which participants relish. In fact, some said they were sad to the see the event draw to a close.

As I move into the planning stages of 2Time Labs’ own Time Blocking Virtual Summit slated for March 2020, I am inspired (but informed) by these research results. Real learning (vs. entertainment) is a slippery objective to attain in even traditional settings. We just don’t know much about how it should be conducted in these new, online, multi-attendee environments such as classrooms and virtual summits.

The Problem with Procrastination

There’s a popular confusion that exists around the phenomena of procrastination.

First of all, people who study the challenge it poses often fail to account for the fact that procrastination is a psychological object. As such, according to Kurt Danziger, the history of the word’s usage must be studied as well as the term itself, because meanings change over time.

Unlike physical objects (like a broken arm), there are a wide range of interpretations flying around but little guidance about defining the phenomena while it’s actually taking place. In other words, it’s far too easy to trick yourself into thinking that you are not procrastinating when you are, and vice versa.

Here’s an example of an interesting study which asked:

Do you overcome procrastination by breaking projects into pieces and rewarding yourself for completing a piece?

In the results paper published several months later, the authors report:

The professionals in the right tail with the highest productivity scores were particularly adept at overcoming procrastination, getting to the final product, and focusing on daily accomplishments. Low ratings on these three habits were typically reported by professionals with the lowest productivity scores.

Notice that the reported result lacks enough specificity to be useful. In fact, there may be some circular reasoning: describe yourself as overcoming procrastination and the survey rewards you with a high productivity score…which means that you are adept at overcoming procrastination.

Also, you have no idea what definition of procrastination the surveyors meant the subjects to use, or the one they actually used.

Finally, if you hope to become less of a procrastinator you can take a guess – the cure has been defined in the question as “breaking projects into pieces and rewarding yourself for completing a piece.”

But is that the only cure?

It’s a bit like asking: “Do you take aspirin when you get a cold?” If you answer negatively, then the conclusion a weak survey would draw is that you get a lot of colds. The possibility of other cures and of being completely free from colds don’t enter into the equation.

This may seem like splitting hairs but once you see psychological objects for what they really are, you  are able to see them everywhere, and are forced to question findings like these. Kurt Danziger ended up challenging a great deal of social science research based on statistical techniques used for the physical sciences. He was not a favorite son in the academy.

While we are fortunately free from numbers in the example I have cited, we must still use his logic, especially if we are serious about making real improvements. Ultimately, we need to translate all improvements into actions otherwise they may as well be flights of fancy.



Speeches in Washington DC

During the month of May, I’ll be visiting Washington DC to give a couple of speeches. The latter is free to the public, although space is limited.




Let’s Form a Community

What would a community of the busiest one percent look like? Could it benefit those who find themselves alone,  looking for company among those of like practice? And, could they also learn what practical approaches could be used to make a tangible difference at the same time?

If you believe there’s value in answering the above questions,  you may also know that no such group exists.

But it may be coming soon here at 2Time Labs.

Recently, I had the experience of creating an online community of HR practitioners across the Caribbean. In fact, I have been building an active mailing list of such professionals for over a decade. Now that the technology exists to bring them together, I started climbing the learning curve last year to bring them together on a single platform.

The community just left Beta testing and its success leads me to think that we can do the same here at 2Time Labs.

Interested? Contact me here and let me know why, and whether you would like to be part of the team that pulls this vision together in the next six months.

Let’s change the game.


LiveLab 02 – Defining an Email Health Calculator

How would you define the state of your email inbox? What would it be like to have an indicator of its current condition? With it, you could decide how to intervene.

Today, most of us use a crude metric – the total number of unread messages. But is that good enough?

Here at 2Time Labs, I have always thought there should be a more refined method. But I only started to develop one by including a few lines in an overall productivity diagnostic tool.

That initial attempt was turned into a first draft, which was the trigger for me to make a call to Dr. Michael Einstein, an email expert.

Eventually, we recorded a set of conversations which were edited down to three episodes (57-59) of the 2Time Labs podcast.

These were quite challenging, involving and number or formulae, plus a slew of assumptions about email management.

Here is the first episode in the series. In each episode, I documented the progress we were making on the index in the show notes. Of course, you can just skip to the end-result but how much fun would that be?

I encourage you to leave your feedback on the episode’s page itself.


LiveLab 01 – Comparing Auto-Schedulers

In this first show in the new series, I invite Dr. Melanie Wilson back on the podcast to help me create a comparison between six modern auto-schedulers and to build a tool that helps people choose between currently them.

We spent several hours together and ended up speaking for several hours, edited then split into two episodes (55 and 56).

Her book – A Year of Living Productively –  was released just before the show aired.

I also took the opportunity to launch a Patreon page for anyone wishing to support 2Time Labs with a financial contribution. The reason why you may want to consider getting involved at this level can be found here.

Here’s the episode.


Explaining the New Podcast Format

As I explained a few months ago, I’m coming up with a new kind of podcast.

It’s so different, in fact, that I produced an episode just on this topic… by itself. In half an hour, I explain what I’m trying to do in this new series.

It consists of deep dive, multi-episode shows rather than light-weight quickies which just repeat a bunch of stuff you already know. There’s much to think over in these shows.

Here is the link to Episode #54 – Introducing a New Format – a LiveLab!