In the last decade, research has given us tremendous insight into how people learn, both in the classroom and through technology. These breakthroughs in the science of learning should inform the design of any program. Getting the most out of your training budget means making sure every program is designed from the ground up to maximize impact and effectiveness.
Here are some important breakthroughs in the science of learning to consider:
1. More does not equal better.
Our brains are equipped to tackle a lot of sensory input and information, to a point. The brain does and will become overwhelmed, what scientists call ‘cognitive overwhelm.’ The general acceptance of this truth has lead to a decreased regard for multi-tasking and has had major implications on the learning industry leading to the rise in popularity of concepts such as essentialism and microlearning.
2. It matters how we feel.
It has become increasing clear that our emotional state when learning can have a major impact on how well we retain new information. Situations where learners feel stressed, shamed or uncomfortable will decrease learning outcomes. Turns out that under stress and anxiety, our limbic system has the ability to simply shut off access to learning and memory. This fact has helped shape learning environments to become more welcoming and non-stressful and for educators to tap the power of positive reinforcement and emotions to bolster their efforts.
3. Mistakes are essential.
Part of creating a learning and growth-oriented culture in an organization, a culture that values risk-taking, pushing boundaries and asking questions, is accepting failure as an essential part of said growth. Learners simply perform better when they are not afraid to fail. It takes multiple tries to master new tasks, so the best way to learn is to do it and make mistakes. Focus on the progress, not the error. When organizations and L&D professionals create an environment that gives learners the opportunity to attempt to new things in the absence of shame or fear of failure, they foster the most efficient learning outcomes available.
4. Novelty is necessary.
Boredom is enemy number one of sound learning outcomes. Repetition can be important but novelty is critical. Novelty actually causes the dopamine system to activate in the brain, releasing feel-good chemicals and encouraging feelings of motivation. This breakthrough has lead to major changes in how we think about learning and how we embrace methods that cater to it. Objective number one: keep it fresh and avoid boredom and disengagement at all costs.
5. Learning is social.
Every individual is different of course, but the majority of learners need a social environment to maximize their learning potential. Research tells us that people learn better through social cues, interaction, collaboration and modeling others. Collaboration among learners requires more of the body’s senses than learning in isolation. This creates a greater activation throughout the brain and enhances memory. This breakthrough has created an emphasis on collaboration and group work in learning and development as it’s become widely accepted.
Understanding these breakthroughs in the science of learning is crucial to maintaining the highest standards in your learning and development programs. Greater understanding of our brain’s functioning, abilities and limitations allows you to create learning programs that maximize your ROI by boosting engagement, transfer and retention, the trifecta of outstanding learning outcomes for any organization.
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