I was fascinated by Guy Wallace’s article “A Real Ratio To Pay Attention To: 70:30” where he discusses learning and development implications of Richard Clark’s work (referenced in the post) that concludes, “70% – 90% of knowledge is procedural, automated and non conscious.”(1) Basically subject matter experts (SMEs) don’t know all they know, or can’t readily recall over 70% of their knowledge as being important.

But Clark’s research isn’t limited to so-called experts. We all operate on a non conscious level in many ways. Maybe some of it is a component of wisdom–applying knowledge intelligently without thinking about it. I certainly think a substantial part of it is knowledge sitting just below our conscious level, waiting to be stimulated back into consciousness. This is partly the fuel of synthesis, where we learn something new and creatively think how we could adapt or integrate it into our situations.

Collaboration and Social Learning Tap the 70%

The collaborative and social activities in my classes seem to evidence this. When people contribute to group work, the product is always greater than the sum of the parts. Preliminary ideas morph into better concepts as participants recall what they know, stimulated by contributions from others. Ideas and concepts aren’t nearly as free-flowing and self-generating when people work individually. Often it takes only one person to get things started, and someone blurts out, “Yes!” They remembered something they forgot they knew, or something in their subconscious tells them that’s the right direction to go. They also just bought into the group project and eagerly contribute as they bring knowledge they’d long forgotten or thought wasn’t relevant. This has to be coming from the previously non conscious 70%.

This happens to me all the time in my own learning through social media, specifically in Twitter chats. Here interested parties gather virtually to discuss a topic by responding to a series of questions. Each question stimulates individual responses from all, but when I see one that’s particulary interesting–one that makes me remember something I’d forgotten–I blurt out “Yes!” in the form of a re-tweet. Occasionally I even add, “YES!>.” I didn’t think of it at first, but I recall now, and I then have more to contribute. This too must be coming from the 70%.

Is Lurking Part of Social Learning?

I can’t get to this point without at least acknowledging the debate about whether lurking, the practice of watching the interaction of others engaging in social learning activity but not participating, is a part of social learning.

I won’t argue that someone monitoring a Twitter chat without engaging might actually learn something. I do argue they’re not learning socially. Observing social learning of others is not the same as participating in the activity-you can’t get feedback on your ideas or stimulate interaction and engagement from others by lurking. You might as well be reading the transcript or watching a video.

Lurkers actually rob those participating of potentially important ideas. That idea not shared might have been the one to cause people to blurt out, “Yes!” and change the direction of the discussion. But lurkers also rob themselves. Seeing ideas or concepts develop might stimulate some recall from the 70% non conscious knowledge, but without participating, synthesizing, and sharing what it means personally, the retention of that is likely very low. It will withdraw back into the 70%.

Thanks for reading! @tomspiglanin

  1. Clark, R.E., Feldon, D., & Yates, K. (2011, April) Using Cognitive Task Analysis to capture expert knowledge and skills for research and instructional design. Workshop presented at the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.


Learning Socially Taps Into More Knowledge — 2 Comments

  1. It’s not that “(SMEs) don’t know all they know, or can’t readily recall over 70% of their knowledge as being important” – “important” is what I will quibble with here – as they “couldn’t tell you” if you had Bob Mager’s figurative gun pointed to their heads. The Knowledge has gone from their consciousness – and they are unable (even if very willing) to recall it – is his point. Working with SME’s takes a very deliberate “process” – according to the research – to get closer to 100% – from the 30% that any one SME can give you.

    If you’ve got the time and inclination, Dr. Clark has several very interesting videos where he discusses the research his Research Institute at USC’s CCT does – for other Research Institutes and groups like the US Army: http://eppic.biz/2012/05/11/69-minute-video-an-interview-with-dr-richard-e-clark-by-aect/ – and – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YF0jjbwnNU&feature=player_embedded – and – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aHvvxXhm2Y&feature=player_embedded

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