• Edwin Lemke

8 most effective brain-based learning tips


Training by Understanding: 8 most effective brain-based learning tips
Research enforces your training style

There is not a single piece of scientific research that ‘proves’ that brain-friendly principles are the best way to share information. But there is plenty of research that can be made to fit into your preferred theory, and there may be little things you do because they work.

So here is a collection of several studies and single observations which may nicely fit to your training style and to your personal intentions – feel invited to use some of them.


Create Curiosity

A part of the brain associated with anticipated reward seems to be activated by curiosity.

So, if people feel rewarded when they are curious and remember things better it seems a good idea to increase curiosity levels. This means that you can use surprising information or unlikely metaphors to draw attention to a topic.

Or create a sense of mystery with a story but keep the key information and reveal it at the end.

Experiment with starting an exercise or activity without explaining why you are doing it – it may well enhance people’s memory for the learning.


Give Positive Instructions

Getting negative instructions as “don´t use this method” seems to enhance the interest to use the method – so you even get the opposite of what you intend to get.

When giving instructions tell people what you want them to do rather than what you’re trying to avoid. You may send unconscious messages to people before they come to your meetings, lessons or workshops, or when they leave, which are in direct opposition to what you want them to learn.

Use priming constructively to deliver positive key messages.


Build Social Groups

Social conditions influence our brain in multiple ways. In fact, poor social conditions, isolation or social “defeat” are correlated with fewer brain cells. So, think about to allow random social groupings for only 10-20% of the day, and besides that use targeted and planned, diverse social groupings with mentoring, teams and buddy systems.


Reduce Stress

Chronic stress loads are becoming increasingly common and have serious health, learning and behavior risks. This issue affects attendance, memory, social skills and cognition. Some stress is good, chronic or acute stress is very bad for behavior and learning.

Teach students better coping skills, strengthen physical activity and mentoring. These activities increase sense of control over one’s life, which lowers stress. And this can reduce the impact of stressors.


Share only 4 Chunks

Research says our capacity for working memory only contains two to four chunks of information – our brain is quickly overloaded.

So, teach in small chunks, process the learning, and then rest the brain. Too much content taught in too small of a time span means the brain cannot process it, so we simply don’t learn it. Consider breaks, recess and downtime.


Review the Content

Memories are not fixed but temporarily easily re- organized.

Every time students review, they might change their memory. Without review they are less likely to recall their learning.

This means that trainers should use several strategies to continually strengthen memory over time instead of assuming that once learned, the memory is preserved. Use quizzes and install learning peer groups.


Be aware of the Illusion of Knowing

Learners quite often have the ‘illusion of knowing’. It’s not uncommon for learners to not know what they don’t know. Being aware of what one still needs to learn, or what skill needs developing is known as metacognition, and it’s part of overcoming the illusion of knowing.

The trainer´s task here is to deliver constructive and precise feedback. And to ask repetitive questions – even easy ones to reveal the illusion.

 But only if “knowing” is really crucial. Some adults, of course, do not have to or do not want to know – they are fine with getting an overview. In this case the training is perhaps more presentation-like…


Repeat mindfully

It is quite ineffective to simply repeat the same content again and again. Research shows that extensive practice is not as effective as to mix things up and vary them, so you break mindless repetition, and simulate retrieval in a way that’s similar to the random and varied nature of real-life challenges.

  • Practice your retrieval sessions with a meaningful time-gap between sessions.

  • Alternate topics or variate tasks to enhance the ability to compare similarities and differences across various scenarios and different solutions.

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