Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dr. Faulkner: If I Only Had a Brain- Part Two

An article in Training Magazine titled “Brain Power” (November / December, 2014)   explores how we should use all the new information about brain function to inform our teaching.  Although targeted at corporate trainers, the ideas are very relevant to formal education.  One of the side boxes of the article featured 10 tips for applying what we know about the brain to training / teaching.  The side box is reproduced below.

By Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO, Herrmann International

It’s often reported that our knowledge of the brain doubles every 10 years; the recent explosion of research and methods means we may be learning much more, much faster.
In some ways, this has been a mixed blessing for training professionals. While learning is a mental activity, and understanding how people think and process information is essential to engaging them and getting long-term results, I’ve heard more than one leader say, “It’s all very interesting, but what do I do with it?”

Scientific theories are helpful, but what really matters is application. Here are 10 key points for applying the research to engage your learners’ brains and increase your own efficiency:
  1. Every learner’s brain is unique, specialized, and situational. We all have preferred modes of learning and thinking. Plan for a full diversity of styles, and be aware of how your own preferences affect you as the designer or trainer. The more important the learning points, the more important it is to bring in a “tapestry” of approaches that appeal to all the thinkers in your group.
  2. Mindsets frame how we see the world and can interfere with learning. To overcome the brain’s resistance to change, use a “Whole Brain” approach: Provide context, engage emotions, introduce novelty, create meaty challenges, and provide time for processing and practice.
  3. The brain looks for patterns, and those patterns form the way we think. The brain will “fill in the blanks” based on prior experiences, so you can use this to your advantage to accelerate learning, but be careful of the mindset trap.
  4. The greater the mental stretch, the more energy it takes to learn. To make sure learners are mentally prepared for the challenge, prepare the brain by providing context and aligning design with the learner’s needs.
  5. Learners need stretch, NOT stress. Stress alters neuron growth. As you challenge learners, watch for too much stress, which will shut learning down.
  6. Learners don’t pay attention to boring things. Particularly now, when there is almost an addiction to the constant stimulus of e-mails and other interruptions, if the brain doesn’t have an array of different activities to engage in, it becomes bored.
  7. The brain isn’t multi-tasking, it’s task switching, and a wealth of research shows that it just isn’t good at it. But face it: Your learners are multi-tasking, so plan for it. Provide e-mail breaks and other options to keep them focused during the training.
  8. Memories strengthen during periods of rest, even when we’re awake. Staggered training and breaks will help learners retain information they just learned.
  9. What isn’t rehearsed doesn’t stick in long-term memory. For critical content that must be processed and moved to long-term memory, make sure there is adequate learning, practice, and reinforcement time.
  10. The brain is wired to be social. Take advantage of online collaboration tools, and don’t forget the “old-fashioned” methods such as mentoring and group work challenges.

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