Michael Noetel

Senior Lecturer @ UQ // Chair and Director @ EA Australia
Working (6-15 years of experience)


I create effective, scalable educational programs. I want them to help people make better decisions, become more empathic, and more effective in their work (esp. their research). I'm an awarded educator, receiving national awards, international senior fellowships, and the highest honour from my university. I also have a strong academic research background: I'm Chief Investigator on $3.7m of competitive, industry-partnered research grants; have published in the Scimago #1 journals for psychology, applied psychology, ageing, paediatrics, education (three times, see #1, #2, #3), and sport science (twice, see #1 & #2); and my work is cited almost 4x the world average (according to InCites; all data as of June 2021). 

How others can help me

I am looking to expand a team of researchers looking at how to most effectively train people to make clear and ethical decisions. This might include:

  • Improving the quality of education and communication for EA community building
  • Training policymakers and organisational leaders in clear/ethical thinking (improving institutional decision-making)
  • Training young people in clear thinking about their careers

To that end, I'd appreciate introductions to:

  • Potential PhD / honours students who might want to work on the questions above
  • Early-career researchers who might want to do research fellowships together
  • Like-minded researchers looking to collaborate on similar projects

How I can help others

I have strong methodological expertise in a few areas that might be valuable:

  • Figuring out what works best to solve a problem by designing and running systematic reviews / meta-analyses
  • Effectively and faithfully scaling up behaviour change with online educational intervention
  • Designing and running projects, like randomised trials of interventions
  • Accumulating academic career capital


I popped this script in via email a few weeks ago but didn't get confirmation of receipt. I know it's been a crazy few weeks so no need to review. Still, do you mind confirming whether it's 'in' or whether the contest is closed?

Thank you for sharing this project. It looks great. A few minor comments and ideas. Wordpress is very flexible but requires lots of plugins to interface with each other for many functions to work. Consider chatting to Aqeel or JJ Hepburn from Sangro/AI Safety Support who recently used wordpress for a learning management system to see how they found it. Consider also using an existing platform with more pre-built features (e.g., Thinkific) where cross-compatibility might be less painful (see our uni EA fellowship site). At least at the start, these help projects like this get off the ground more easily. Most projects add their bells and whistles later.

My PhD student is doing a thesis very close to this project. She’s trying to accelerate knowledge translation in developing countries. Our hypothesis, like yours, is that online learning will rapidly and cost-effectively close the research-practice gap.

The first study in her thesis is a systematic review of randomised trials using online learning in healthcare. We want to know how well online learning teaches professionals, and how well the training helps people translate it into practice. She’s aiming to find what features help the interventions work better. If you’re interested in the review, she’s looking for team members. Being a team member means you learn the results much more quickly and become an author on the paper, which can be good for credibility. If you want to find out more, email me at noetel [at] gmail.com or send me a message on the forum.

Her second study is a cost-effectiveness analysis of an online nursing intervention. Her third study is a series of interviews in LMICs to see how professionals from those countries feel about online learning. It sounds pretty well aligned with the kind of scoping your team is doing. If you’d be interested in the findings of a study like that, and possibly have some contacts from healthcare in LMICs, then again we’d be interested in collaborating (email me). She could run the interviews but you might find the results valuable.

I really like this framing Gideon. It seems aligned with CEA's Core EA principles. I'd love EA to be better at helping people learn skills.  One of our working drafts for an EA MOOC focuses more on the those core principles and skills. Is something like this work-in-progress closer to what you had in mind?

Could Nonlinear Library or Perrin Walker do audio versions of these articles? 🙏

So in education 'agency' is often defined as 'agentic engagement'—basically taking ownership over your own learning. I couldn't find any good systematic reviews on interventions that increase agentic engagement. This is pretty weak evidence and might have a healthy dose of motivated reasoning (my end, and theirs), but people who have thought about agency for longer than I have seem to think...

In conclusion, the answer as to how teachers can support students’ agentic engagement is to adopt a significantly more autonomy-supportive classroom motivating style.

... so I don't have any better ideas than those described above.

Thanks for taking the time to add these really useful observation, Seb.

One downside to this approach is that it might lead to Goodharting and leading the teacher to go in "exploitation" mode.  E.g., I worry that I might become too attached to a specific outcome on behalf of the students and tacitly start to persuade (similar to some concerns expressed by Theo Hawkins) and/or neglect other important opportunities that might emerge during the program. How do you think of that risk?

 It's been a while since I read Theo's post so I might be missing the mark here. I agree both explore and exploit are important, especially for young people. I haven't thought deeply about this but my intuition says "if it's also important to x, be explicit that you have multiple goals." For example, to use 'create personal theory of change' via Future Academy is the goal, you might also want people to 'create tentative career plans for 5 distinct careers', or 'develop connections so you have 3 people you could call to ask for career advice'. Sure the latter isn't a 'learning objective' and it might be better un-said. Still, I think a generally good way of goodharting might be using multiple goals or criteria for success.

2. Can you say anything about what forms summative assessments are particularly useful? For Future Academy, we're contemplating pitching project ideas or presentation and discussion of career plans

The word that comes to mind is to make it 'authentic.' Basically, make it as close as possible to the real world skill you want people to do. This is rare. Universities expect critical thinking, creativity, and communication, but use recall-based multiple-choice questions. I've seen essays and reflections to assess interpersonal skills, instead of videos or presentations. Pitching project ideas and presenting career plans sounds well above average. If I had to nit-pick, I've never 'presented my career plans', so to make it slightly closer to something people might do anyway would be 'write a grant application.'

I think there's a typo under 3a. (“Formative assessments” —> formative activities)?

Both are things. I should have clarified it. Formative assessments are formative activities that count toward a grade or completion status. As mentioned by another commenter, low-stakes quizzes are helpful for providing feedback and accountability to learners, but better fit university courses than fellowships etc.

I worry about this being true for on average for average university students and might not generalize to the subpopulation that some portion of community-building efforts is targetted towards (e.g., people who are in the 90th percentile on various domains, including openness to experience, conscientiousness, need-for-cognition, etc.). How worried are you about this? 

This is an important question. I don't think I know yet how big a problem this is (as I said, people should reach out if they want to work on it). One of the benefits of having worked in sport and performance psychology is that it mostly focuses on people in the top 1–5% of their field. As far as I can tell, the core principles underlying most of the above (psychological needs; deliberate practice; cognitive load limits) still apply to those people. You do need to calibrate the challenge to the person. People in the top 5% are going to be bored if you spend 10 hours explaining a t-test. So,  I'm sure some things don't generalise perfectly, but I think that's more likely to be the specific techniques (e.g., 'use quizzes') than the mechanisms (e.g., 'provide feedback').

... being generally good people (or virtuous) in addition to the unique virtues you mentioned appears important as we have some research showing that this might be off-putting. Finally, same-race role-models appear to be particularly important.

Yeah I didn't go into this much so it's a good pickup. Both are useful to remember.

This is a useful list of interventions, some of which are mentioned in the post (e.g., quizzes; we've summarised the meta-analyses for these here). I think steps 1, 2 and 3 from the summary of the above post are the 'teacher focused' versions of how to promote deliberate practice (have a focus, get feedback, fix problems). Deliberate practice literature often tells learners how they should structure their own practice (e.g., how musicians should train).  Teaching to others is a useful way to frame collaboration in a way that makes it safe to not know all the answers. Thanks for the nudges.

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