Can the color of a marker really make a difference in how we learn?
Yes, according to research.
But it’s not necessarily the color. Instead, it’s choosing the color.
“Research shows that giving learners choices – even seemingly trivial ones – can improve performance,” said Stephen Meyer, president and CEO of Rapid Learning Institute. “Bottom line: Embed choices into the learning process, even if they don’t seem meaningful. It’s easy to assume these choices don’t matter, but they engage learners and cost nothing.”
He recently released an e-book, “10 Truths about Workplace Training…that just ain’t so,” which debunks myths surrounding workplace training. Such training, Meyer says, correlates with the ways in which humans learn and the ways in which our brains are wired.
Back to markers (read: choice). Meyer lists four training recommendations regarding choice: Even small choices, like choosing time and location of a training session, will produce results; allow learners to personalize their approach to training; have fun – let trainees choose the kind of candy they get as a reward; and be careful – providing too much choice will backfire.
My other favorite “myth:” Not everything you’ve learned is forever etched in your brain. Case in point: I struggle to help my eighth grader with geometry!
Meyer points to research by neuroscientists about “encoding,” in which the brain decides what’s important enough to retain. And so, when it comes to training, your pupils’ brains will decide what sticks and what doesn’t. According to researchers there are four important cues: social context, activity, connection to existing knowledge and repetition. As such, trainers should integrate these strategies into their methods and curricula.
What does this mean?
Social – Human beings are social creatures, so by creating social situations – rather than just giving lectures and presentations – people are more apt to retain information. So…try role-playing.
Active learning – Rather than expecting your participants to simply memorize and recite lists, put them through a sample exercise.
Existing knowledge – Tie new ideas into familiar concepts and language.
Repetition – While no one wants to beat a dead horse, repetition is important. So, after you teach a lesson, incorporate key messages into following lessons.
- Assessments aren’t just for scoring; they motivate people to learn.
- Complex concepts can be taught in small bites.
- Learners who struggle remember more.
- Sometimes people remember and learn more by watching trainers do things incorrectly.
- You can train people to perform – and learn – under pressure.
- People will change their minds if you get them to see the truth. Visuals, such as charts and graphs, work well.
- Mental rehearsal works just as well as physical performance.
- Reinforce concepts. Don’t let learners forget.
“When it comes to learning, there are a lot of misconceptions,” Meyer said. “People have different learning styles. Not exactly. Learners are either ‘right brain’ or ‘left brain.’ Nope. We sometimes forget stuff because we only use 10 percent of our brains, right? Wrong. A mix of myth and antiquated science leads us to believe a whole lot about learning that just isn’t accurate.”
At Event Garde, we educate ourselves on how people learn so we can effectively teach. If you’ve got other research to share, please email Kristen at Kristen@eventgarde.com.