Does your class or training program encourage open-minded approaches to exploring new experiences, help create a positive learning environment, and make it easy for the learner to make sense of key learning points? If not, perhaps some of these lessons may offer useful tips to make it more learner-friendly.
What We Know About How We Learn
The field of neuroscience education, or neuroeducation, combines neuroscience, psychology, and other related disciplines to explore the interactions between biological processes and education. It offers fascinating insights into how people learn, and how our approaches to education might be improved. And there's a lot that we can learn from neuroeducation about how to design effective online learning and professional training programs.
What we know about the mind-bogglingly complex human brain may still be little, but science has already uncovered fascinating insights into how the brain works, offering clues that inform our approaches to informing and educating ourselves better.
In the field of neuroeducation, there have been many discoveries that help us better understand how people learn, pay attention (or not), interact with learning materials, process and retain new information, all of which provide helpful guidance for educators, instructional designers, and training program providers.
Some of the lessons we can learn from neuroscience and recent brain discoveries, in the context of effective learning, may be “no-brainers”. We all know creativity is important in learning, right? While (some of) the ideas may not be entirely new, it’s still helpful to explore what neuroeducation can tell us about how we learn, and find ideas and opportunities to help make learning more engaging and effective.
Creativity Helps Us Learn
"Neuroscience of creativity" informs us about creative cognition and its implication for learning. Being able to embrace our creativity as part of our learning experience, it seems, offers great benefits because we are more open to exploring different ideas and concepts, and thus we are more actively engaged.
As explained in this video interview, the part of the brain that computes key creativity domains such as curiosity, imagination, and perception is activated when we are exposed to new and exciting experiences.
Learning Is Emotional
Everything that we recognize, process, and remember has some emotion attached to it. Since that’s how the brain works, everything that we do when we learn, it may be said, it emotional.
It's important to acknowledge the connection between how we feel and how we learn (they are literally connected, as in the brain emotion and cognition are connected – see #20 here), because positive emotions positively affect learning, and of course, negative emotions have the opposite effects.
We Selectively Pay Attention
We all know from experience that, especially in the digital learning/reading/socializing context, we naturally pay attention to what stands out, whether it be eye-catching color or smart headlines. And, as this piece illustrates, the internet loves lists, because lists help our instinctive tendency to try to make sense of information.
When faced with an enormous amount of information available for consumption, like we all are nowadays, it’s natural that our minds select easier and simpler options.
This article offers a detailed list of what we know about the brain and learning: InformED, November 25, 2013 – “Neuroeducation: 25 Findings Over 25 Years“.
If you're interested in diving much deeper into the world of neuroeducation, particularly in the areas related to primary education, this publication would also be of interest: Dana Foundation, 2009 – “Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain".