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Hello and welcome to Learning Science Weekly, the newsletter that’s the smarter way to stay on top of updates related to the science of learning; we focus on research related to workplace learning and customer education.

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This week, we’re focusing on the following questions:

  • How can an organization’s gamification strategies influence their employees’ use of a mobile learning app?
  • How does psychological safety impact team performance?
  • How can we use Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction to support learning?

Next week, we'll be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, but we'll be back in December with fresh learning science news!

Gaming on the Go

In a study involving 293 frontline employees, researcher Sehoon Kim explored whether gamification elements of Competition, Challenge, Compensation, Relationship, and Usability would influence learners’ behaviors using a mobile learning app -- specifically, their continuance intention and their sense of flow (see Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Results from the study indicated that:

  • Competition and Compensation, two common elements of gamification strategies, did not influence continuance intention or flow.
  • Challenges and Relationship-building game elements influenced flow but not continuance intention.
  • Usability had a positive effect on both flow and continuance intention, and Flow (measured independently) also had a positive effect on continuance intention.

So, what does this mean? Kim states that “engagement and positive experience from flow are decisive factors to users' intention to use the system” (2020) and suggests three practical implications:

  • First, managers and HRD practitioners should understand the benefits of gamification and emphasize smart learning strategies using technology.
  • Custom-made gamification strategies can stimulate an environment for self-directed and creative learning capabilities. It will provide a context where users can immerse themselves and learn continuously, blurring the boundary between formal and informal learning, and will make informal methods become an official form of corporate learning.
  • Third, strengthening bottom-up learning through learner interaction is required. Realizing a cooperative learning system can maximize the effectiveness of learning.

Key Takeaway: We keep repeating ourselves: leveraging just one gamification strategy (for example, Competition) won’t motivate all of your learners, and in fact, can lead them to disconnect from your learning content and discontinue using your mobile learning app. Mix it up!

Read More ($): Kim, S. (2020). How a company’s gamification strategy influences corporate learning: A study based on gamified MSLP (Mobile Social Learning Platform). Telematics and Informatics. Article in press.

Psychological Safety

We’re following along with the research of Sehoon Kim, who collaborated with Lee & Connerton on another article this year (busy bee!); this one is related to psychological safety (PS), a shared belief that people can feel safe about the interpersonal risks that arise concerning their behaviors in a team context (see Edmondson, 2018). PS has also been defined as “a condition in which one feels (a) included, (b) safe to learn, (c) safe to contribute, and (d) safe to challenge the status quo, without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized or punished in some way” (Clark, 2019). If your ideas and suggestions are shot down harshly in a team meeting, PS says that you probably won’t feel encouraged to speak up again in front of your colleagues. (It’s happened to me, and it sucks. -- Julia)

In this study, Kim, Lee, & Connerton examines whether PS can influence a team’s efficacy at work, with the premise that teams perform better than individuals working alone. Their results indicated that, while PS did not influence team effectiveness, it did positively influence team learning behavior, which did affect team effectiveness. “Psychological safety is the ‘engine, not ‘fuel’ for performance,” according to the researchers. “If individuals are under an atmosphere that highly values their ideas and actions, employees can adapt themselves even to challenging tasks” (Kim, Lee, & Connerton, 2020).

Key Takeaway: Put simply: don’t be a jerk. Toxic workplaces that don’t foster psychological safety have an impact on more than just individual employees -- the performance of entire teams can be indirectly impacted. By valuing each individual and his/her/their contributions to the team, you can foster an environment that supports the overall effectiveness of your teams.

Read More (open): Kim, S., Lee, H., & Connerton, T.P. (2020). How psychological safety affects team performance: Mediating role of efficacy and learning behavior. _Frontiers in Psychology, 11(_1581).

Blast from the Past

We’re including this piece again for two reasons: 1) we have new subscribers who may have missed it back in May and 2) we had a chance to talk to THE Dr. M. David Merrill this week -- what a treat! He’s releasing some new books this year and has a few workshops with Allen Interactions coming up; if you’re a fan (like Julia is) then be sure to check those out.

In his First Principles of Instruction, Merrill posits that learning is promoted when:

  • Learners are engaged in solving real-world problems
  • Existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge
  • New knowledge is demonstrated for the learner
  • New knowledge is applied by the learner
  • New knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world

Merrill tells us that, when comprehending a new task, the learner needs to understand four things:

  1. The problem
  2. The tasks required to solve a problem
  3. The operations that comprise the tasks
  4. The actions that comprise the operation

Key Takeaway: Showing students a specific demonstration of an entire task in the context of the real world, in an increasingly difficult progression of the problem, will help learners remember and apply information.

Read More ($): Merrill, M.D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research & Development, 50, 43-59.

Lisa-Angelique Lim is a finishing doctoral candidate with Education Futures and the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning, C3L at the University of South Australia. Lisa’s research focuses on how artificial cognition can be used to augment dialogic feedback processes to improve self-regulated learning. Lisa’s dissertation examines the impact of feedback based on learning analytics, by measuring the nuanced effects on students’ self-regulated learning, and by understanding students’ sense-making of feedback delivered through socio-technical systems. You can find her on Twitter @LisaAngeLim.

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Learning Science Weekly is edited by Julia Huprich, Ph.D. Our head of growth and community is Julieta Cygiel.

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