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How we learn…explained by neuroscience

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Learn how you can use Neuroscience to improve your employees performance

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“Neuroscience is the scientific study of the brain and nervous system. In the last 20 years there have been significant advances in the field because of technological developments, especially MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). This enables cognitive & behavioural scientists to accurately show how brain activity relates to individual behaviour and learning. “

For many years I have been using multisensory learning – both as a science teacher and a trainer/facilitator. This developed from a qualification in NLP which really opened my eyes to the fact that people learn in different ways.  The key is to include the five aspects of accessing information in everything that you communicate – see, hear, feel, smell, touch.  This was easy in a science lab – how many of you can still remember the smell of hydrogen sulphide (rotten eggs gas), watching a piece of sodium hit water in bowl or how it felt to touch a piece of liver or tripe?  Sadly such activities seem to be not as common in schools and the students will be worse off for missing such experiences. 

I try to create my courses with multisensory opportunities in small short burst of activities, lots of surprising props and challenges to make my delegates think outside of the box to create innovative solutions and methods of learning.  10 years ago I read a book called “The Right Brain Manager” by Harry Adler, which tied in well with my hypnotherapy training to relax the left brain and let the right brain out to play!

I was reminded of this approach I have imbedded in my training/coaching/facilitation, when I read a recent CIPD research report – Neuroscience in action: Applying insight to L&D practice’. In this excellent research they reviewed how insight from neuroscience is being used by organisations to inform learning & development practice. 

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the brain and nervous system. In the last 20 years there have been significant advances in the field because of technological developments, especially MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). This enables cognitive & behavioural scientists to accurately show how brain activity relates to individual behaviour and learning. We now have proof of what many of us have known for years….. that it is better to learn in small chunks i.e have regular short breaks or change activities regularly (every 10 minutes), that collaboration produces more innovation, and that movement and exercise enables learning. A few years ago I asked three groups to create and perform a rap to help embed the six risk factors for stress in the workplace – they were brilliant!!!

Years ago I set a homework for my academically challenged class to create a rap for the periodic table – it caused a stir in the playground as they were practising it before coming to my class – many of my colleagues could not believe they could say the elements let alone remember the correct order – oh ye of little faith!

It takes a lot of courage to introduce this approach in the workplace but when it is combined with reflective comment and encouraged practice, it helps to engage learners and help them appreciate what they have learned and how they may have changed their attitude, behaviour or thinking style.

Using this insight from neuroscience may help to achieve the outcomes many organisations want but trying to rush delegates in two hour sessions, as we are regularly asked to do, may not achieve the required or desired outcome.

If you enjoy this article by Ann McCracken, make sure to check her mental health and wellbeing training courses.

References:
Adler H 1999 How To Use The Power Of Your Mind To Achieve Personal And Professional Success
Published Piatkus
CIPD (2014)  Neuroscience – Applying insight to L&D practice

About Ann McCracken

Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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