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Brain Science in Learning: The Better Approach

In our field of training and development, imparting knowledge to our learners is not the only thing we have to tackle. What’s critical is how learners use and apply this information. I’ve had similar experiences from when I was in the marketing world. Marketers use brain science techniques to ignite consumer action. Every time you present a topic to people, you stimulate new sensory and memory pathways in their brains. The challenge that follows lies their ability to retain this information and ‘get it out’ when they need it. Now, this responsibility lies on the learner but we must do our best to make memory recall as easy as possible. Using the brain science approach in learning helps us do that.

The following techniques are tried and tested brain science approaches that promote knowledge retention and overall better learning experiences:

1. Create sensory-friendly content

Your learning content can be descriptive without being overwhelming. Give your learners as many details as they need to create vivid images in their minds. Marketers do an excellent job of this. Create your content to stir up emotions and create meaning with your learners. The most memorable stories always paint a vivid picture and take us on emotional journeys.

Learning activities that stimulate multiple senses are encouraged. Being able to link a piece of information to a smell or even music makes recall that much easier. Add visuals to the audio as well as elements like taste, touch or smell, when possible to tackle all the senses. This approach is more comprehensive to the majority of people and gives their brains added information to construct memory pathways. Using these brain science techniques in learning will guarantee better retention

2. Always bet on images and illustrations

We remember what we see better than what we hear or read. The brain has always had a special preference for visual information. Almost 90 percent of the brain processes visual data and these are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Using this important brain science technique in learning will guarantee variety and greater success in learning retention.

When a piece of information is easily summed up in a visual, use it. Varying our learning material with visuals promote better recall. Images also aid our learners in creating an emotional connection with our material. This, in turn, produces stronger memories than a plain piece of information normally would.

Charts, graphs, diagrams, and maps are examples of graphic organizers that can be used to depict logical flows in information. They provide an easy means to show relationship and contrast in data and are very effective in helping learners connect the dots.

3. Play around with colors

One of the essential elements of our visual experience is color. The color theory works because it satisfies the brain’s visual preference and enhances attention to certain parts of learning materials. The more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more likely it is for the stimuli to be transferred to long-term memory storage.

Some colors quite simply, stand out and some get lost in a sea of text. Different colors also incite certain emotions. Red is an exciting, passionate color that catches the eye easily. A very light yellow tends to get lost in the text. Bright colors generally excite the brain and hold your attention for longer. Look at big-brand marketing materials for inspiration and notice how there is intentional use of colors to create the desired mood and brand expression.

4. Dramatization can be handy

People naturally pay attention to things that surprise them. Infusing our learning content with something unexpected, exaggerated or outlandish stimulates the brain into paying attention and retaining the knowledge easily. By putting the drama on the learning point, the learners will remember the key concepts.

This also plays into creating an emotional connection with your learning material. Surprise is our play here and our learners are captivated and kept on the edge of their seats. Caricatures, attention-grabbing animations, exaggerated visuals and outcomes or even the animated gestures of a speaker spice up otherwise dull learning content.  Over-the-top content make for a memorable learning experience for your audience.

5. Put microlearning into play

Microlearning exists to present your training content in bits of information that are easily digestible and not overwhelming. It takes advantage of brain science to provide better learning. The concept is geared towards taking it easy on the brain and therefore, promoting better memory retention and recall.

Present your training content as ‘bite-sized’ pieces of core messages and show how one chunk of information relates to the next. This helps your learners’ brains build interconnected sensory pathways based on the connections and facilitate easy recall.

6. Try situated learning

We learn best when we can apply the knowledge in a practical situation. In situated learning, we apply the kinesthetic approach to help us retain lessons for longer. A chef will always learn best in the kitchen instead of a book. A marketer will always flourish better in the field rather than buried in endless courses.

Applied or immersive learning is the final step in sealing information into the brain. L&D professionals can create opportunities for this in the form of gamification, simulations, and other opportunities to practice a skill or decision-making in context. These will give employees a tactile and reflective learning experience without the risk of failure on the job.

7. Utilize retrieval practice

The decay theory stipulates that memory fades with the mere passage of time if the neurochemical trace responsible for said memory is not stimulated over time. Repeated reviews work to counteract this decline in knowledge retention and recall. Practicing retrieval enhances long-term recall and meaningful learning.

Retrieval learning trains the brain to find and retrieve stored information. Think of quizzes, mind maps and discussion points punctuating your learning material. These promote repetition and repetition promotes knowledge retention. High-stakes summative tests are counter-intuitive in these situations as they cause anxiety and forgetfulness.

These techniques take advantage of brain science in learning to improve knowledge retention, memory recall, and practical skills application. Putting them to work in our instructional design will be instrumental in helping our learners along their learning paths.

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