Patti Shank headshot

Do you know Patti Shank? You should …

In Profile, Science of Learning by JD Dillon

Do you know Patti Shank? If you’re in the workplace learning field, you probably should. I take that back … you DEFINITELY should!

Here, I’ll help you! Her Twitter handle is @pattishank and her website is

Patti is an evidence-based voice in a noisy, cluttered, often misguided profession. Her writing helps learning professionals better understand scientific research and apply it in very practical ways. Her work also backs up a lot of my own assertions regarding the ways learning practices can better support employees in the modern workplace. Patti has also been simply killing it on Twitter later, sharing great insight into the realities of learning.

So, I scoured Patti’s social feed from the past month and pull together a few pieces that highlight her ongoing contribution to the field.

Microlearning, Macrolearning. What Does Research Tell Us? by Patti Shank

First, let’s read something written by Patti. In this article from eLearning Industry, Patti dives into the mountain of assertions flying around about microlearning. What is it? How long should it be? Should it replace everything else we are doing with training? Patti lists some of the most common assertions, and then supports or debunks them based on solid research. To summarize, microlearning works only when you apply proven cognitive principles in ways that meet the specific needs of your employees. It’s a powerful component of a workplace learning and support strategy. Simply stated, this is one of the best articles written about microlearning to date (besides mine of course).

Modern learners, not modern technologies from The GoodPractice Podcast

Now, let’s listen to Patti talk. She joined the gents at GoodPractice in a recent episode of their podcast. The discussion, which took place immediately following the Learning Technologies UK conference, focused on the relationship between the capability of new tech and the realities of the workplace. Patti has observed what I have also noticedthat every org is in a very different place when it comes to their understanding and comfort with technology, especially as related to learning. Therefore, it is critical to meet people where they are and align technology with a clear purpose and value. Otherwise, tech will simply compound our problems. People are people. Technology should match how we function, not the other way around. Good tech can make us more human.

Teaching the science of learning by Yana Weinstein, Christopher R. Madan and Megan A. Sumeracki

Now let’s do as Patti doesand read some research. Many L&D pros forget that learningat its coreis a science. While there is PLENTY we don’t understand about how the brain functions, there are a core set of evidence-based principles we should be applying because we KNOW they work. This research report digs into those principles, including spaced practice, interleaving and retrieval practice. Yes, this report is written from an academic perspective. However, the principles still apply in a workplace context because…as Patti would say…people are still people. If you want to improve the impact of your training, integrate this research into your work.

When do novices become experts from The Learning Spy

Finally, let’s read what Patti reads. This may be the best-named website in the industry: The Learning Spy. A common theme in Patti’s sharing focuses on progression and how we can best support people as they move from novice to expert status. The reality is that the same person will require different types of help as they move along this continuum. This article does a great job of exploring this theme and can help us develop a more holistic strategy that takes the various stages into account. Concepts like adaptive learning become especially important in modern organizations, as they enable right-fit support that grows with the employee as they progress in their level of mastery.

Of course, I had to tell Patti I was writing a post about her before I published it – professional courtesy and what not! Turns out she was all for it! To quote Patti, “We have the knowledge to improve learning and performance outcomes. I’m so grateful you’re part of this knowledge infusion!”

For even more curated articles and resources, check out my curated Flipboard magazine series. And check out Patti’s latest books Write and Organize for Deeper Learning and Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning.


  • JD Dillon

    JD Dillon is the world’s foremost expert on frontline learning and enablement. He is also one of the most prolific authors and speakers in the workplace learning community. For 20 years, JD has worked in operations and talent development with some of the world’s most dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. He is the founder of LearnGeek, a workplace performance advising and insights group. He is also Chief Learning Architect with Axonify, where he builds technology, content and services that enable frontline employees around the world to do their best work every day.