Tip #621: Brain Facts

I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.” Dr. Seuss

This Tip is drawn from Ben Nesvig’s article: “5 Brain Facts That Influence How People Learn” in a May 28, 2014 Social Learning Blog. My comments are provided in the (parentheses).

His article builds nicely on recent Tips.

I’m just going to give you the highlights. It is definitely worth your time to read the entire (short) article at: http://www.dashe.com/blog/learning/five-brain-facts-learn/

According to Nesvig, there are 5 facts about the brain that we need to know if we want to create powerful learning experiences.

  1. The unconscious mind rules the conscious mind. This explains why it is often difficult to learn something new. “When designing learning, it is effective to use repetition to hardwire the answers into the mind of the learner, shifting the conscious act to the unconscious.” (By the way, this is called automaticity.)
  1. The brain is wired to find patterns. If we want to get the learners’ attention, we need to interrupt a pattern. This will cause confusion, which Nesvig says is one of the first steps toward learning. (If we are “consciously incompetent,” we will work to become “consciously competent.”) “The task of instructional designers is to uncover the critical patterns experts use and convert that into training for novices.”
  1. Confusion is good for learning. “When the brain becomes confused, it receives a hit of dopamine and a sense of bewilderment that forces the brain to pay close attention… In order to really learn something, you need to consciously think about it.” (The idea is to challenge learners, but not completely confuse them because that will only frustrate them.)
  1. Mirror neurons allow us to learn from others. “When we read a story or see someone go through an experience, our brain activates in the same region as the person undergoing the act.”Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neurophysiologist, explains that: “Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct stimulation. By feeling, not by thinking.”
  1. Feelings drive behavior. “Feeling trumps logic.” Nesvig explains this statement by quoting Douglas Van Praet’s wonderful example of “how the brain handles dessert.”

So, to sum up, instructional designers should:

  1. Build in repetitive practice so that new behaviors become automatic.
  2. Recognize and challenge learners’ preconceptions.
  3. Determine SMEs’ critical thought patterns and teach them to others.
  4. Provide opportunities for learners to observe new behaviors.
  5. Use stories that engage the learners.
  6. Recognize the importance of feelings and emotions in learning.

How do you feel about this?

May your learning be sweet.


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