The Impact of a Brain-Based Environment on Learning

The Impact of a Brain-Based Environment on Learning

Brain-based learning researchers continue to discover the importance that environmental factors such as color, sound, music, light, aromas, images, and fun have on the human brain.

To capitalize on research findings related to adult learning theory (andragogy) and brain-based learning, you can design your learning environments in a manner where participants have maximum access to information. To do this, plan activities in which participants can best use their five senses to receive and process information.

Additionally, your training environment should complement the subject matter as close as possible. To accomplish this, consider the audience, organizational culture, subject matter, and expected outcomes for the training when creating your design. With these factors in mind, set out to create a learning utopia in which all the elements of brain-based learning are addressed to your fullest capability. Even if you have only indirect control over the room (e.g. a hotel or conference room) in which training will take place, you can still incorporate a variety of creative ideas for creating a stimulating learning environment.

The Impact of a Brain-Based Environment on Learning by The Creative Trainer - Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Creative Training AuthorThe Impact of a Brain-Based Environment on Learning by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas

The wonderful thing about being a creative trainer is that through a little innovation, you can procure and use a variety of inexpensive tools to complement your training. You can also reconfigure seating and in some cases, lighting, to better accommodate participants and learning needs.

Often, for a small amount of time and money (less than $50 dollars), you can obtain decorations, materials, and props related to your training topic that will add pizzazz to your classroom. In doing so, you will be helping to better attract and hold attention while relaying your thoughts and ideas to learners.

The key to enhancing and enriching your training vestibule is to add variety and novelty while fully engaging learners. Your goal should be to entice, challenge, raise emotion, and stimulate their brains to a point where the transfer of training to the workplace is a natural outcome.

To make a positive first impression on your trainees, you simply have to do some advance planning and preparation. To start with, locate some related inspirational quotes by well know people that relate to your topic. Either have a graphics company create an assortment of professional looking posters or produce your own visually stimulating flip charts or slides. Use a variety of bright colors, borders, clip art, photos, or other images. Post sayings around the room at eye level to reinforce the program theme.

For additional creative ideas and strategies for creating a stimulating learning environment, get copies of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning and Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing, and Delivering Learning That Gets Results by Robert W. Lucas.

Brain-Based Learning Strategies to Stimulate Adult Learners

Brain-Based Learning Strategies to Stimulate Adult Learners

In the last three decades, millions of dollars and countless hours have been spent on research designed to delve into the human brain and observe ways that it learns best. All this brain-based learning research has provided new insights into ways to potentially improve learning in adults. Coupled with previous research on adult learning (andragogy) these new findings have provided innovative tools that learning and performance professionals and adult educators can use to maximize learning potential.

Brain Based Learning Strategies to Stimulate Adult LearnersThe old approach to classroom training where learners were passive attendees who sat in rows of seats or tables and faced the “presenter” who did the majority of talking as a “talking head” has proven to be ineffective. It is also one of the least effective means of encouraging learning.

Brain-Based Learning Strategies to Stimulate Adult Learners by The Creative Trainer

Effective trainers who have studied the research know that, among other things, the following environmental elements and methods can potentially positively impact learning and provide the stimulus needed by participants to better gain, retain, recall and use what they have learned.

For more ideas on ways to better engage and stimulate learning in the classroom, get a copy of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning, Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results, and Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.

Use Idea Excursions to Make Learning Fun and Effective

Use Idea Excursions to Make Learning Fun and Effective

Use Idea Excursions to Make Learning Fun and Effective

Being a creative trainer and applying brain-based learning research to your training programs can be easy and fun if you just open your mind to the possibilities. Continually look for a variety of ways to introduce elements of color, sound, movement, music, props, toys, novelty, and fun into your session design.

By adding elements of fun and novelty into your learning environment, you increase the potential for engaging participants mentally while grabbing their attention. By coupling such elements with brain-based or active learning strategies enhances the overall learning environment.

Use Idea Excursions to Make Learning Fun and Effective by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Blogger

The following strategy is a simple means of beginning your creative training journey.

Take an Idea Excursion to find as many different toys and incentives as you can for all the programs you conduct. This is best done on a weekday if possible since some store types may not be open on Saturdays.

First, make a list of all the program topics that you normally facilitate.

Next, take a full day to just “window shop” by visiting different types of stores — teacher supply, art/craft, toy, discount/closeout, department, discount book, drug (chain stores), card shops, malls with science and discovery type stores and any other potentially fertile places for ideas in your area.

As you visit, REALLY look at small items such as toys, stickers, books, and incentives. Pick the items up, examine them, turn them over and really scrutinize their color, texture, and function. And, since it is more cost-effective if you can get a variety of benefits from an item and can use it in multiple programs, ask yourself at least the following four questions about each thing that you encounter:

How could I tie this item into my program content?

How have I seen other trainers or educators use similar products in their training sessions?

Can it be used in multiple ways? For example as an incentive, reward, and randomly assign participants to groups.

What audience(s) level(s) would the item appeal to most (e.g. front line, mid-level, upper management)?

Make a list or purchase those items that you feel best to serve your purpose. You’re now on your way to being a creative trainer and developing a brain-based learning environment where learners can have fun and maximize their learning potential.

For more creative strategies that can be used to enhance your learning events, get a copy of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

Using Active Learning to Build Knowledge and Skills

Using Active Learning to Build Knowledge and Skills

Using Active Learning to Build Knowledge and Skills by The Creative Trainer, terms such as active learningadult learning, brain-based learning, and experiential learning have been used for years to describe the type of training in which learners are engaged and become active participants in the process. Such environments provide opportunities where information is not simply passed from a trainer, educator, or presenter to learners, but is facilitated through an active process.

Using Active Learning to Build Knowledge and Skills

By getting learners to move from passive observers to co-facilitators and partners in the learning process, trainers and adult educators can tap the knowledge, experiences, and skills that each person brings to the classroom.

Using Active Learning to Build Knowledge and Skills by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Blogger

Truly creative trainers employ a multitude of strategies to get learners to share what they know and to better assimilate what they experience in the session into their own knowledge and skill reservoir. Through the use of games, team discussions, activities, brainstorming, nominal group process, and other active techniques, participants are challenged, prompted, and pointed down the trail to learning.

For ideas, strategies, games, and activities that can help create an active environment for your learners, get copies of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning; Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners and Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage Learners.

Learn This Blogger – Robert W. Lucas

Robert W. Lucas is an internationally-known author and learning and performance expert. He specializes in workplace performance-based training and consulting services. Furthermore, he has four decades of experience in human resources development, management, and customer service in a variety of organizational environments. Robert Lucas was the 1995 and 2011 President of the Central Florida Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

Robert W. Lucas has lived, traveled, and worked in 28 different countries and geographic areas. During the past 40 years, Bob has shared his knowledge with workplace professionals from hundreds of organizations, such as Webster University, AAA, Orange County Clerk of Courts, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Martin Marietta, all U.S. military branches, and Wachovia Bank. In addition, Bob has provided consulting and training services to numerous major organizations on a variety of workplace learning topics. To contact Bob visit his website at www.robertwlucas.com or his blog www.thecreativetrainer.com.

The Role of Vegetation in Learning Environments

The Role of Vegetation in Learning Environments

Over the past couple of decades, numerous studies have been completed on elements that enhance a learning environment. Specifically, studies showing that the brain is positively impacted by increased oxygen and nutrients. Some research points to the potential for increased brain stimulation due to enhanced blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

The importance of fresh air on brain functioning has been known for years. The brain needs air rich in oxygen and free of contaminants to operate at peak performance levels. Unfortunately, many organizations now occupy closed environment type buildings where the air is recycled and windows cannot be opened. The result is often reduced air quality that in some cases even results in what has been termed “sick building” syndrome. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution is one of the top environmental hazards of our time. It is a leading cause of the rise of asthma. To counter this negative effect, strive to have open windows and/or good air exchange throughout your sessions.

The Role of Vegetation in Learning Environments by The Creative Trainer 

Plants have been found to be another simple, yet effective, way to offset some of the pollutions that exist in offices and training rooms. In research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Dr. B. C. Wolverton conducted studies using plants to remove pollutants in controlled, closed environments. He and others have found that a number of common house plants successfully remove contaminants. The study concluded that placing plants (see figure – Common House Plants) within an individual’s breathing zone (approximately 6-8 cubic feet surrounding the person) improves air quality. It is recommended that 2-8 small or 2 large plants be placed every nine square meters (900 square feet).

The Role of Vegetation in Learning Environments

By including vegetation and applying other brain-based learning strategies in your training environments, you can turn typically boring sessions into active learning sessions that potentially result in improved attention spans and brain functioning. While no one study points to absolutes, when you look at the collective nature of research on the brain and learning, indicators are that there is a potential for improved learning and retention by focusing on the environment.

For more information on key elements that can be used to enhance your learning environments, get a copy of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

Quote on Creativity – Edward de Bono

Quote on Creativity – Edward de Bono

Brain based learning environments include a combination of creative strategies and techniques to gain and hold participant attention. They also engage and provide opportunities for learners to become active participants in their own learning process.

Quote on Creativity – Edward de Bono by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

By using elements such as color, sound, motion, engagement activities, novelty, and other creative components when designing your learning events, you can improve the chances that participants will gain, retain, recall and use what they experience. You are only limited to what you can do to provide a stimulating learning environment by your own degree of creativity.

The following quote by noted creative thinker Edward de Bono sums up a basic approach to becoming more creative in your adult training environments.

Quote on Creativity - Edward de Bono

For creative ideas and strategies on ways to energize learners and design and deliver training that incorporates brain-based learning research, check out: The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning; Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results, and Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.

Learn This Blogger – Robert W. Lucas

Robert W. Lucas is an internationally-known author and learning and performance expert. He specializes in workplace performance-based training and consulting services. Furthermore, he has four decades of experience in human resources development, management, and customer service in a variety of organizational environments. Robert Lucas was the 1995 and 2011 President of the Central Florida Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

Robert W. Lucas has lived, traveled, and worked in 28 different countries and geographic areas. During the past 40 years, Bob has shared his knowledge with workplace professionals from hundreds of organizations, such as Webster University, AAA, Orange County Clerk of Courts, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Martin Marietta, all U.S. military branches, and Wachovia Bank. In addition, Bob has provided consulting and training services to numerous major organizations on a variety of workplace learning topics. To contact Bob visit his website at www.robertwlucas.com or his blog www.thecreativetrainer.com.

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions

Music can assist in setting the tone for a training session and, if used correctly, can actually contribute to the theme. For example, in a class on Time Management, I recorded an hour of oldies songs that had the title or theme of time (e.g. Time Won’t Let Me by the Outsiders, Time Has Come Today by the Chambers Brothers, and Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce). I play the songs as learners arrive and during breaks, then, in my opening remarks comment about how time influences every aspect of our lives including our music.

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Brain-Based Adult Training Author

In another session on motivation, I run in from the back of the room with the theme of the movie Rocky blaring away. Once in front of the class, I cut the music, and in animated fashion welcome everyone with a loud GOOD MORNING! ARE YOU READY TO LEARN SOME TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE YOUR WORKLIFE?

I then get everyone to stand up and then lead them through a fast-paced stretching or other fun activity. That leads to small group brainstorming activity into what gets people pumped up in today’s workplace. We review their ideas and move into the program content.

As a trainer or educator, you can add music to the background to break the awkward silence that sometimes exists as participants enter the room or return from breaks. You can also use such music to signal the end of one event and the beginning of another or as a transition from one activity to another.  This works because the abrupt silence that occurs when the music is turned off attracts attention. Non-verbally, you are signaling that something is about to happen or that it is time to begin.

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions by The Creative Trainer 

For background music, you are probably better off using nature sounds or instrumental selections instead of vocals. Also, select generic music that does not have words (e.g. instrumental, new age, or classical) so that participants do not subconsciously focus on the songs and sing along in their head or out loud.

To benefit most when using music in your sessions, some research suggests that you choose selections that have approximately 40 to 60 beats per minute if you want to slow the pace of training activities for individual work, visualization activities, or relaxation. This is because that pattern of sound will mimic the average person’s heart rate and will be in sync with their natural rhythm. If you want to stimulate creative thinking and assist in problem-solving, increase the tempo to 60 to 70 beats per minute. Finally, if you want to really energize participants and get them moving (e.g. during fast-paced activities, while exercising, or when moving them from one place to another) use music that has 70 to 140 beats per minute.

Read More This Topic!

There are a number of popular books on the subject of using music in learning events that you might find useful. Two titles that I recommend are Top Tunes for Teachers by Eric Jensen and Training with a Beat by Lenn Millbower

Like any other learning aid, if you play musical selections during individual and group activities in your training programs, make sure that the volume level is loud enough to be heard but low enough that it does not distract or interrupt concentration or conversation. Keep in mind that while some learners will enjoy the music and find it helpful, others might find it distracting and irritating. Do an in-class survey periodically to see how learners are doing during activities.

Ask them, what can you do to help them be more effective. Someone will likely tell you to turn the music off. If this occurs, you may survey all learners to see if that is the consensus and act accordingly. If you do leave it on, suggest that researchers have found that many people benefit from such stimulation.  The bottom line is that you have to decide on a case-by-case basis if the music is really needed and helpful.

Like any other material, technique, or strategy that you use when training adults, only use those which contribute to achieving your learning objectives. Do not use music simply because you like it.

Energizer Training Activity – Take a Stand

Energizer Training Activity – Take a Stand

Getting training participants and students actively involved in the learning process ties directly into the tenets of adult learning (andragogy) and what brain-based research has shown can aid learning.

Energizer Training Activity – Take a Stand by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

This activity is a simple way to engage learners and solicit their thoughts and opinions during a learning event. It can be used as indicated or modified to be an icebreaker, review activity, or another tool for engaging learners throughout a session.

PURPOSE:  This light-hearted technique allows a facilitator to quickly assess how participants view an issue. Also, to provide a visual record of their opinions.

OBJECTIVES:   This activity allows participants to:

  • State their opinion or knowledge level in an active manner.
  • Move around the room, thus energizing and stimulating brain neurons with enhanced blood/oxygen flow.

PROCESS:

  • Prepare a tally flip chart with the words Strongly Agree; Agree; Somewhat Agree; Somewhat Disagree; Strongly Disagree in columns.
  • Post flip chart pages around the room at different points with statements that indicate opinion preferences (e.g. Strongly Agree, Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, and Strongly Disagree).
  • Read a statement or question related to a meeting or session topic (e.g. “In order to maximize learning, participants should be actively engaged during training”).
  • Ask participants to go to the area where the flip chart best describes their view on the issue and stand in front of the flip chart page.
  • Do a quick count and write the totals on the tally sheet in appropriate columns.
  • Present the next question or statement and have participants move again.
  • Continue the process until all issues or statements have been read.
  • Thank participants and ask them to have a seat.
  • Debrief the activity by reviewing total scores and discussing implications related to the session topic.

MATERIALS  NEEDED:           

TIME REQUIRED:   Approximately 10 minutes.

Energizer Training Activity -- Take a Stand SOURCE: The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers and Team Facilitators by Robert W. Lucas.

For additional activities and hundreds of creative ideas for designing, developing, using, storing and transporting flip charts get a copy of the book.