Blog Header.jpg




reflections of the team

Spaced learning: not just a sci-fi term for learning in space

Not that I am interested in Science Fiction, but something that sounds like "Brain based learning" could make you think otherwise. At least, "Neuroscience for Learning & Development" makes me think of something very futuristic. And that was exactly the subject of a conference I attended this summer:

"Summerclass - How to Apply Neuroscience and Psychology for Improved Learning and Training, with Stella Collins" organized by VOV lerend netwerk and Stimulearning.

Learning, to infinity and beyond!

So what is this all about?

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system in its broadest understanding. It is a multidisciplinary branch of biology: it combines physiology, anatomy, biology, psychology and other disciplines to understand the fundamental and emergent properties of neurons and neural circuits. It tackles different perspectives: molecular and cellular studies of individual neurons, as well as imaging of sensory and motor tasks in the brain.

Understanding the biological basis of learning is quite a challenge, certainly for non-neuroscientists! For a long time in history, it was the belief that intelligence, and more general the brain, is fixed at a specific age.

Neuroplasticity, however, says otherwise. Neuroplawhat?

Or a somewhat funnier approach:

So you see, lifelong learning is certainly not a myth!

How to apply neuroscience for learning?

Spaced Learning - not just a sci-fi term for learning in space

Spaced repetition has proven to improve long term retention of learning. Meaning?

It is important to leave gaps between one piece of learning and later recall.

Douglas R. Fields' research helps explain this phenomena: constant stimulation of braincells did not make the brain cells switch on. Fields showed that cells remember information better when stimulated with pauses. It was not the duration of the stimulation; but the pause between stimulation (about 10 minutes), that turned out to be vital.

Applying neuroscience in scenarios

Stella Collins provided us the following possible scenario for a (classical) training:

  • Information input: 10/15 minutes

  • Brain break: 10 minutes

  • Repeat content

  • Brain break: 10 minutes

  • Apply: learners apply their newfound knowledge

Microlearning and spaced repetition go hand in hand. But be vigilant: not every subject should be moulded in a short training.

Spaced e-Learning?

Think of following practices:

  • After 10/15 minutes of content, show a pop-up to remind the learner to take a break.

  • Have a hard-stop in your e-Learning and let the learner play a little game for 10 minutes before giving the possibility to continue.

  • Incorporate exercises to recall knowledge in the training itself, not only at the end.

  • And don't forget the neuroplasticity: you can strengthen existing connections by referring to pre-existing knowledge.

Learning when you are in the right state of mind

"Learning happens more quickly or even better when your learners are in the right state of mind." Stella Collins said.

When composing a good learning intervention, you appeal to several hormones:

dopamine, oxytocin, glutamate, norephidrine,…

WHAT's most important for you as an instructional designer:

You need to evoke:

  • Curiosity - Ask questions upfront and during your (e-)Learning. Give rewards and let the learner know there are more to come if they continue. Give them realistic goals to work towards.

  • Empathy - Try role play, even in e-Learning. Create persona's the learner can affiliate to. Introduce social learning so people can learn from their role models.

  • Attention - Draw people's attention in class room. You can do this by making a statement and asking for opinions. Think of visual cues like changing your characters position, changing backgrounds etc.

  • High alert - Time pressure! Give the learner some sense of urgency, be it a real life thing or something virtual.

  • Reflection - Present dilemma's to your learners. Hand out notebooks to promote them writing down their reflections. In a classroom training, yoga could do the trick as well!

  • Stress - Address your learners directly, use their names. Give them real-life worst case scenario's: what would happen if they do not perform in the way a certain procedure prescribes. Take a quiz.

  • Vigilant - Surprise your learner once in a while.

  • Body tone - Your brain needs oxygen, so move a little. Easy to incorporate in your classroom training, might be a challenge for e-Learning!

  • Happy and relaxed - Humor can be applied in every training session.

  • Calm and Euphoria - Give your audience challenges they are capable off.

Do you wish to know more:

  • Stella Collins: "Neuroscience for Learning and Development"

    • @stellacollins

    • #BFLG (Brain Friendly Learning Group)

  • Neuroplasticity:

    • Hebbs Law: "Brains that fire together, wire together."

    • Paul and George Bach y Rita

Other authors

  • Britt Andreatta: "Wired to Grow / Connect / Resist"

  • David Rock: "Your brain at work"

Other e-Learning tips about spaced learning:

Want to know more about the organisers of the event:

Beam me up, Scotty!