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What is learning?

25th August 2017 | Stella Collins

The multiple states that support learning

Neuroscience for Learning and Development (9780749474614)Can you remember a time when you learned something – joyfully, excitedly and effortlessly?   If you can, then what were you doing and what made it feel like that for you?  If you can’t, you may not be alone.  Does learning sometimes feel draining, confusing or like hard work?  How do you think learning feels for other people particularly if they’re learning something mandatory or compliance based?

Your mental, physical and emotional state are vital components of learning whether you’re learning to rollerblade, speak a new language,  programme a computer or comply with your organization’s latest policy.  All these new skills create changes in your brain and behaviours that are fundamentally influenced by chemicals, physiology and electrical messages that  impact when you learn best, how quickly you become skilled and how easily you can apply your skills in different situations.  It’s no good learning a new language if you can’t use it in context.

What is learning?

Learning doesn’t happen in a moment; it’s a complex process that occasionally happens quite quickly but more likely takes time, energy and effort to rewire your brain; to create and change connections..  Whether you support people who learn face to face, on the job, in the classroom, through social or digital channels or through elearning you will make your role, and their task, easier by understanding some short cuts you can take to enhance the process by helping people get to the right state at the right time. 

There isn’t one single state that supports learning because there are many stages.  First people need to have a need to learn (or you may need to help them find one); then they need something to learn (information) which may be physical, cognitive, visual, auditory, emotional (or more likely a combination); they need to make sense of that learning for themselves, practice and test it; to reflect on it; to sleep on it (more later on that), to actively recall and not just recognise the ‘information’.  And finally they need to apply it in some way and turn it into a learned ‘something’ they can repeat or recall whenever they need to.

About the author: Stella Collins is the author of Neuroscience for Learning and Development and is hosting a Masterclass in London on 20th September 2017 based on her book. Register here to explore how to create a great learning state, learn about the role of neuroplasticity in learning and experience spaced learning and its implications for memory and application of learning in the workplace.  They also create a Mexican Brain Wave to find out how to harness brain waves to prevent cognitive overlead and why sleep is vital for learning.

Exclusive offer: Use code BHRNLD20 to save 20% on Neuroscience for Learning and Development. Enter code when prompted at checkout.

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