I would like to introduce myself as a new Field Editor for ASTD
Links, focusing on the theory and application of brain-based
learning concepts. Currently, I am president of Creative Presentation
Resources, an Internet-based company that markets more than
1,000 creative learning products, as well as managing partner in
Global Performance Strategies, a human resource performance
consulting firm. Some of my books include The Creative Training
Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective
Learning, The Creative Learner: Activities and Games That REALLY
Engage People, The Big Book of Flip Charts, People Strategies for
Trainers, and Training Skills for Supervisors.
For more than three-and-a-half decades, I have been training
adults, and I've been researching and writing about the topic of
brain-based and accelerated learning for many years. I have used
these concepts in hundreds of creative workshops and trainer
development workshops, and in presentations at conferences, such as
the ASTD International Conference and Exposition. I recently
completed work on an edition of ASTD's InfoLine focused on
brain-based learning, which scheduled for release in Fall 2008.
What is brain-based learning?
Brain-based or brain-compatible (active) learning theory focuses on
creating an opportunity in which attainment, retention, recall, and
use of information is maximized. This concept incorporates the
latest research on the brain and encourages application of findings
to training and educational learning environments.
A key to the successful application of brain-based learning theory
precepts is for everyone involved in the learning process (program
designers, managers, trainers/educators, and learners) to first
understand how the brain functions. They must then identify
personal strengths and areas for improvement related to the theory
concepts and modify their approach to learning accordingly. They
must also consciously focus on learner needs and learning styles to
ensure that format and program delivery are effective.
According to the brain-based theory, learning is an active process
in which challenges, ambiguity, novelty, and creativity are used
and encouraged through accelerated learning strategies (actively
engaging participants in their own learning). Participants are
prompted to think outside the box related to examining information
and issues. Problem-solving, questioning, ongoing interaction, and
feedback are important elements in the absorption process and are
used freely. Learners are also provided with many opportunities to
make associations with knowledge and skills they already possess
while forming new patterns and making additional connections. These
connections are strengthened by the use of analogies, simulations,
metaphors, jokes, stories, examples, and various interactive
In brain-based learning environments, material and instruction must
be learner-centered and delivered in a manner that is fun,
meaningful, and personally enriching. It must also provide
opportunities and time for participants to process what they
experience so they can make mental connections and master content.
In doing so, learners can increase personal comprehension and
better grasp meaning and potential opportunities for application.
One way to ensure you are adequately addressing true learner needs
when creating program content is to take the time to do an advanced
assessment of what participants already know related to your
intended session topics. You can accomplish this by mailing a
questionnaire to participants and their supervisors a few weeks
before scheduled training. You can also conduct face-to-face or
telephone interviews, hold focus groups involving those who will be
attending and/or their supervisors, or make visits to worksites to
observe participants' on-the-job behavior. Take the information
gained into account as you design program content.
If advance assessment is not possible, post flipchart paper on the
training room wall with closed-ended questions related to program
content - such as, How much experience do you have in _____? Or,
How many times have you ____?). Have participants respond to the
questions as they enter the room, then tabulate and incorporate
their responses into your session content, if possible. You can
also pass out small notecards or blank paper and have participants
respond to questions that are either collected or discussed in
small groups and then offered to the entire class.
Brain-based learning offers many opportunities for enhanced
learning and retention of information and skills if used properly.
I look forward to presenting additional ideas based on these
learning concepts, and welcome your questions or suggestions. You
can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.