The 10 biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Learning

I received an email this morning from someone I have never heard of.  I only opened it because of the vanity in me:  the Subject was my Blog title, Real Learning for a Change!, so I was expecting it to be a comment or something, and wanted to read it.

Hazel Taylor started by complimenting me on my Blog (always goes down well), and then invited me to read hers, which I did.  It blew me away.  In the space of 5 minutes it had me questioning my whole approach to designing training courses, and determined to revisit my professional approach in a big way.  The equivalent of a Food Hygiene Inspector visiting my restaurant and finding mouse droppings in the store cupboard.  I have found myself guilty of falling asleep at my own wheel.  Oh dear oh dear oh dear……..

I’ll send you to the full article in a moment,  but let me summarise the 10 points she makes first:

1.  More information doesn’t mean more learning.  I have always believed in keeping things simple, but I know I get the fire hose out when I’m running out of time and feel they won’t have got what they need to unless we cover those last few items on the agenda.  WRONG.

2.  The brain is a highly dynamic organ.  The wiring can change at any age.  It is not all fixed by the time you are a teenager.  Do I underestimate the capacity of the learner to do this?  PROBABLY.

3.  Emotion influences the ability to learn.  “When under stress or anxiety, the brain blocks access to higher processing and stops forming new connections, making it difficult or impossible to learn.”  How much of the work I do in training room deliberately generates emotion?  Heaps of it.  WRONG.

4.  Mistakes are an essential part of learning.  I probably get away with that one, as I believe you can learn more from a mistake than you can from doing something by the book.  NOT GUILTY.

5.  The brain needs novelty.  Novelty releases dopamine, the feel good chemical, which leads to increased motivation to learn.  I didn’t know that.  I do novelty because I myself get bored otherwise.  Now I can design it with more purpose.  DURRRR.

6.  There are no learning styles.  What?  Apparently there are 71 learning styles models out there, and they make little difference to how well students learn.  What does make a difference is catering to their individual aptitude and ability, which addresses their emotional needs as a person.  I only incur a small penalty on this one, because I tend to ignore learning styles when I design, if I’m honest, mainly because I know that you can’t please all the people all the time, so why bother?  Laziness on my part, leading to escaping the charge.  NOT GUILTY (but not proud either).

7.  Brains operate on the “use it or lose it principle”.  I knew that, but have ignored it when thinking about how to support people after the training course.  I know that unless you apply technical knowledge within days of acquiring it you lose c. 80% of what you learnt.  Do I think enough about this?  No.  GUILTY.

8.  Learning is Social.  Peer collaboration requires the body to use all the senses, and is much more beneficial than people realise.  Including me.  I use it, but not enough.  GUILTY.

9.  Learning is best when innate abilities are capitalised on.  ” Combining these innate abilities with structured practice, repetition, and training can help make new ideas and concepts “stick” and make more sense.”  Do I take that into account?  No.  GUILTY.

10.  Learning can change brain structure.  “Any new information, if used enough, can modify the structure of the brain.”  Apparently if you fire up both perception and action cells when learning, it is is retained more easily.  Clearly I have much to learn here, I know nothing about it.  GUILTY.

So, back to the drawing board for me.  I feel as though I have slapped myself on the head with a wet dishcloth.  I am energised, awake again.  Thanks so much Hazel.

How many of these are you guilty of?

Here’s the link to the full article.

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
This entry was posted in Life Skills, Personal Development and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The 10 biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Learning

  1. Pingback: Social Networking (Informal Learning) & The 10 Biggest Breakthoughs in the Science of Learning | Leader Smiths

  2. christinapd says:

    Thanks Michael for bringing this great article to my attention…. I’ve tweeted it, and am about to tweet your reblog too. Thanks again 🙂


What do you think? Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s