parts of the brain. They also offer insights for trainers and educators into better strategies to help provide information and reinforce assimilation in the brain.
The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited. —Plutarch
Greek biographer and essayist
PUTTING YOUR BRAIN TO WORK: ACTIVITY
What are some things you have heard about how brain functioning impacts training? How have you applied, or seen, brain-based concepts applied in training programs? _
In the instances in which you have seen or experienced brain-based concepts, what were the results?
Throughout this book you will read about the brain and its functioning, as well as its impact on learning. The following models summarizes and expands many concepts about the brain. It was written by Mark Conyers of Brainsmart in Winter Park, Florida. He studies and educates on the brain and how learning occurs.
Seeing is believing and learning. Ninety percent of learning is visual. Our eyes register 36,000 visual impressions per hour. Eighty-five percent of the brain is wired for visual processing. The retina accounts for 40% of all nerves connected to the brain. Color and movement boost learning.
Unconscious learning is 99% of the process. At any one time, we focus on seven to nine bits of information consciously. Only 1% of brain cells do conscious processing. Nonverbal cues and positive suggestion are critical to success. Eighty-two percent of classroom communication is nonverbal.
Preferred learning styles include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modes. There are at least eight intelligences: verbal linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, mathematical-logical, musical-rhythmic, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, and naturalist. The new question is not how smart I am, but how am I smart?
Emotional states bind learning. Peak learning happens in peak states when the brain is in high challenge and low stress. During stress/threat, blood can move away from frontal lobes, thereby reducing the ability to think clearly or recall information.
Rhythm. Music allows us to encode information effortlessly. The brain naturally works in 90-minute cycles. Brain Gym can balance the brain. Listening to Mozart may boost memory and thinking. Music at 60 beats per minute may maximize retention.
Brain sex. The male brain is great at hunting (video games, throwing things at other things), and tight focus. The female brain is great for seeing, listening, memorizing, reading, nonverbal cues, and articulating emotion. Build on strengths. Viva la difference!
Recall. The brain is able to retain the equivalent of 500 Encyclopedia Britannica. Recall is best achieved when it is accessed in the state that it was stored; when multiple search engines are used, when knowledge is organized as a pattern, SUPERBRAIN; and when it is embedded in context. Also, information must be meaningful, and meaning is in the mind of the learner. The first, last, and most outstanding items are remembered most often.
Novelty, curiosity, and relevance to immediate survival boost attention. Notice how talk shows and news headlines exploit these techniques. Use movement and stand in different locations to boost attention in the classroom. Add relevant spin to your material to hook and keep attention. Leave plenty of time for reflection and integration of new material.
Imagination is more important than intelligence, as Albert Einstein suggested. Visualizing success, as well as writing down goals, are critical steps. The 3% of Yale students who had clear written goals had, 20 years later, 97% of the wealth. Optimism is primarily a left-brain activity. Depression is primarily a right-brain activity.
Nutrition is crucial to effective learning. The brain's super fuel is oxygen. Its next most important need is water; dehydration lowers learner performance. Protein helps boost memory and attention. Carbohydrates tend to promote release of the relaxant serotonin (hence drowsiness after lunch). Fruit is an excellent source of energy that requires minimal digestion. The brain needs high-quality omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids.
Reprinted With Permission. Conyers, M., http//www.brainsmart.com/superbr.html
Focusing on the Brain
Because of the coordinated activity within different regions of the brain, learning can be enhanced through a multilevel approach to training. To do this ensure that programs, support materials, and environments offer adequate stimulation. Incorporate a variety of auditory and visual aids (e.g., handouts with colored covers, graphics and bullet points, background music at 60 beats per minute played during certain activities, and inspirational quotes or posters tied to program content in a variety of colors posted on walls). Also, allow learners many opportunities to discuss and process information individually and in small groups.
• HOW LEARNING OCCURS
The term learning is often misused when related to the training of adults and the education of children. True adult learning environments focus on the participant and not the facilitator. After all, it is the learner whose behavior, knowledge, skills, or attitude is expected to change. This is often a major difference in the approach used by teachers and trainers in helping participants to learn. Educators often function as change agents who present information to students in an attempt to create a basis for future learning, as children have limited experience or knowledge and have not developed systems to learn. On the other hand, adults have many experiences from which they can draw ideas, information, and knowledge that builds on whatever they are currently experiencing in a learning environment. Assuming that someone has no learning disorder or disability, learning, and the speed at which someone learns, is impacted primarily by four important factors: an individual's age, prior experience, motivation to learn, and intelligence.
Neuroscientists who study anatomy, chemistry, physiology, and molecular biology of the nervous system continue to make amazing discoveries about the brain and how it learns. For example, they have found that proper development of a child's brain depends on continuous interaction with elements of the external environment. Similarly, adult attention, learning, knowledge, skill development, and memory are impacted significantly by the learning environment. This is why so much attention is necessary when you create your learning environments. All aspects must be considered, including such things as the amount of light in a room, wall color, temperature, furniture arrangement, appearance, your appearance and posture, smells, nutrition, sounds, and activities that will be used (see Chapter 7).
There are many ways in which humans receive information and other stimuli, and ultimately how they learn from what is encountered. Each person's needs and approach to learning are unique. For that reason, you need to recognize the importance of varying the techniques and strategies you use in providing information and concepts. Also, you should be aware of the findings of Malcolm S. Knowles. Author of The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species and several other books on the topic; Knowles did much research into how adult and children learn and process information differently and developed a series of adult learning principles. Like others, Knowles used the term andragogy (adult learning), derived from a variation of the term that is believed to have originally appeared in Germany in 1833 (andragogik), to differentiate it from the concept of pedagogy (youth learning) that is prevalent in school systems in the United States. Table 1-4 shows some of the ways in which the two approaches differ.
For centuries, educators and trainers have used a model of teaching that puts information into a neatly packaged format. A step-by-step, outline approach is common in many school systems and training programs following this format. Unfortunately, research continues to find that the human brain does not naturally process information that way. In fact, studies show that learners (especially adults) need to understand the big picture to recognize the value of each piece of information they encounter. Learners also need time to make connections between information received and knowledge already possessed personally. From time to time, they may even need to have you help them make these connections by pointing out key elements and relationships and discussing how application of content can be useful. In addition, learners should not be pressured during learning or simply prepared to regurgitate information on timed tests without fully comprehending the material.
The ultimate goal of any learning experience should be mastery of material and concepts to a level at which behavior change can be affected and performance improved, and the learner can constructively recall and effectively apply what he or she learned in appropriate situations.
Although learning is a complex process, and one not completely understood by scientists, we do know what happens when people learn. Learners basically extract some type of meaning from all stimuli that they encounter. It is important to understand this because what you or other trainers do, or fail to do, will definitely impact learner success. Simply put, stimuli are anything with which the brain comes into contact through the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell). The input might be information, a smell, a feeling, an emotional exchange, or an image that causes the brain to "turn on" to process what was experienced. If the stimulus is something related to an earlier learning experience (e.g., a review of concepts covered in a training session on the previous day), the brain accepts the input into its neural pathways via nerve cells called neurons. It then compares the new material to memorized concepts and reinforces the image imprinted there. If a stimulus is encountered for the first time, electrical energy is produced that converts the input to nerve impulses. These signals travel to various areas of the brain where they are sorted, processed, and/or stored for later recall. When the brain encounters input a number of times, it begins to process it more efficiently because the "roadmap" is already in the neural system. This is why it is so important for you to build in regular interim reviews (quick activities designed to reinforce key concepts) throughout a training session. At least every 10-15 minutes, try to inject a quick, fun rehash of material, or give your learners time to process what was gained.
Table 1-4. Youth Learning vs. Adult Learning
Label of "students" is common. Participants are directed to attend. Based on grade achievement. Dependent style of learning. Learning skills often low.
Motivation to learn is often low.
Expect to be told what to do. Participants expect all answers to be given.
Participants provide little feedback.
Displays of immaturity are common (e.g., shooting rubber bands).
Accept delayed application (someday they will use the information presented).
Past experiences are limited.
Long-term student goals usually lacking.
Learning is authority based (teacher to student format).
Learning is content-centered.
Activities are in "I talk/you listen."
Senses of sight and hearing are primary target to channel learning.
Correlation or application of theory usually not discussed with students.
Traditional classroom of rows of desks are used.
Objectives or goals usually are not outlined to students.
Evaluation is done by the instructor.
Label of "participants" is standard.
Participants attend voluntarily.
"Competency or mastery-based."
Independent (self-directed) learning style.
Learning ability relatively high but may decline with age.
Various motivations exist (e.g., knowledge, money, job enhancement, self-development).
Expect a voice in the learning process.
Expect to answer questions partially from experience.
Participant feedback is vital to the success of training.
Maturity level is normally high.
Want to see immediate benefit of learning (e.g. understand the big picture).
Past experiences are common, varied, and impact learning.
Specific long-term participant goals set.
Interactive-based (exchange between facilitator and learner).
Learning is problem-centered. Activities are of experiential format. Multiple senses are often targeted.
Applications of theory are discussed with participants and action plans used.
Various configurations are used based on scheduled activities.
Objectives or goals are given to participants at the beginning of a program.
Evaluation is shared by facilitator and participants.
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