Leveraging neuroscience in learning: 7 ways to enhance the L&D experience

Christopher Pappas 15 Jun 2023 4 mins
The world of business is becoming more competitive with each passing day. New skills keep emerging, and employees are finding themselves in a constant effort to learn the next best thing in the industry. But how easy is that when the human brain has a finite learning capacity? Gaining a deeper understanding of the neuroscience of learning is the secret to developing effective and impactful learner experiences. By leveraging its valuable insights, we can create Learning and Development opportunities that help employees add value to their professional paths. In this article, we discuss why neuroscience must be a part of your training course development process, as well as how you can elevate training using active learning.

Importance of using neuroscience in learning

Neuroscience is the synergy of multiple disciplines, such as physiology, anatomy, biology, and more, that explore and explain the functions of the nervous system. When we apply these principles to learning, we get the neuroscience of learning, which studies how people acquire knowledge and the best ways to achieve long-term retention. Specifically, by leveraging theories and findings from multiple studies, the science of learning can determine the factors that affect the way we process, retain, and recall information. This way, we can make research-based decisions that help us boost talent management, employee performance, Instructional Design, etc.
One of the most important findings about the science of learning can be found in the A.G.E.S. model, which outlines four essential components for learning that lasts: attention, generation, emotion, and spacing. Namely, for a learning experience to be successful, it needs to attract attention, motivate active learning, create an emotional connection, and happen over time. In the next section, we will focus on active learning and, specifically, explore 7 best practices for incorporating it in your training courses.

7 active learning best practices for impactful learning

1. Language matters
It’s an obvious point, but one that’s also easy to overlook, is that language matters enormously when it comes to learning for international, multilingual audiences. Even when there is a common language, cultural norms and influences can have a significant effect on the learning experience. So attention needs to be paid to the linguistic and cultural context of the learning audience, as what’s right for one learner in one location is unlikely to work for another somewhere else A one-size fits all approach to translating learning content is unlikely to deliver an optimum outcome, nor will a process that treats localization as an afterthought. Learners can be quickly demotivated when they need to ‘translate the translation.’ As such, an upfront consideration of the language needed will pay dividends in terms of learner experience, engagement, and impact.
2. Accommodate different learning preferences
Active learning covers a wide range of learning techniques, from quiet reading and self-reflection to full-scale discussions and experiential learning experiences. Therefore, to ensure that your learners are receiving a well-rounded learning experience, you will have to provide them with as many resources as possible. Try to create a balanced combination of various elements, such as discussions, storytelling, technology, individual learning, and more. This way, you will be able to cover the habits of all learners, whether they prefer learning on their own or in a collaborative environment, and develop a training course that not only attracts their attention but also motivates them to participate.
3. establish goals and a purpose
Engaging in aimless learning without understanding the purpose behind each activity or anticipating what follows can result in learners losing interest and gaining minimal or no value from the process. On the other hand, having a clear set of goals that outline the motive behind each action and the expected results will reduce stress and keep learners engaged and connected to their learning journey. In addition to that, they will be able to self-monitor their progress, actively participate in training sessions, as well as create a tangible connection between each new thing they learn and its real-world applications.
4. Prioritize collaborative learning
As mentioned above, one of the main elements of the A.G.E.S. model for long-term learning is incorporating emotion into the learning process. Learning in a group allows participants to not only exchange opinions and ideas but also form new relationships and connect newly acquired information to positive or negative emotions and experiences shared by the group. For these reasons, it is essential that you plan time in your training sessions for learners to discuss, practice active listening, problem-solve, and reach conclusions through teamwork. Following these steps will guarantee more successful comprehension and retention of the training material.
5. Leave room for reflection
As necessary as collaboration and teamwork are, you still need to allow your learners to reflect on what they have learned on their own. Reflective thinking allows learners to put everything they've learned into perspective, correlate it with already existing knowledge, and determine how to use it to solve problems they face in their daily lives. Apart from helping them practice important skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking, reflection prompts learners to take a deep dive into the training material, thus achieving better learning outcomes. Reflection can also work in small groups where learners can compare each other's takeaways.
6. Accept mistakes

Active learning requires learners to think critically, be innovative, and openly express their opinions. For this process to take place smoothly, there must be no fear of judgment or failure. Instead, learners must be encouraged to make mistakes and reformulate their approach so that they become accustomed to solving problems using innovative means and flexible thinking. This will not only come into use when acquiring new skills in the future, but also as they navigate their professional lives. A way to put this into practice is by developing scenarios that allow learners to explore training material in an interactive way, yet in an environment that feels safe and permits mistakes.
7. Connect learning with the real world
Training courses of any kind need to be able to provide learners with skills that they will find useful in their everyday lives. In fact, when learners realize that your training course doesn't benefit their development, they quickly lose interest and might even drop the course altogether. Fortunately, actively learning is a great way to show your employees that they are using their time wisely. From branching scenarios to simulations that take inspiration from everyday occurrences, employees can easily see how each new skill can be applied to improve their performance and help them overcome obstacles.
The neuroscience of learning gives Instructional Designers around the world the tools they need to make data-based decisions and create meaningful learning experiences. Through its valuable insights, we have determined what it takes to create learning that sticks and significantly improves employee engagement and performance.
Christopher Pappas

Christopher Pappas

Founder of eLearning Industry Inc
Christopher Pappas is the Founder of eLearning Industry Inc, which is the leading publishing platform that delivers inspiring, industry-specific content to eLearning professionals. Christopher holds an MBA and an Med (Learning Design) from BGSU.
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