Using Music and Sound for Learning

Using Music and Sound for Learning

Using music and sound for learning is an easy way to contribute to a more stimulating, brain-based learning environment. Make some noise, introduce sound, and wake up your learner’s brains. You cannot share information and ideas effectively if your session participants are distracted or not focused on you or the task at hand.

To ensure that participants in training programs, classrooms, and other meeting situations are ready to gain, retain, recall and use what will be experienced, take some time to plan how you will gain, regain and hold their attention.

Using Music and Sound for Learning by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

The following are some simple techniques that tie to research on brain-based learning regarding brain stimulation and how the brain and attention works. By applying strategies such as these, you will be able to potentially get participants to stop side conversations, reading materials, daydreaming, and other distracting behaviors and focus their attention on the front of the room. Once they do that, you can share instructions or information related to the topic or task at hand.

Use your voice.

Some people are gifted with a loud, commanding voice that carries throughout any room and can be used to gain the attention of distracted learners. Others have less forceful volume and tone and must depend on alternative methods to refocus participants.  A simple “Let’s get started” or “If I can have your attention” might work for some people but there are other more creative ways to accomplish this desired outcome.

using music and sound for learning
Game Show Themes for Trainers

Use music. 

There has been quite a bit of research and numerous books on how music impacts the brain (e.g. This is Your Brain on Music) and the topic of using music in learning environments (e.g. Top Tunes for Teachers and Training with a Beat). There are even music selections designed for training (e.g. Game Show Themes for Trainers) and learning environments. Such resources tap into the fact that music can evoke emotion, set the tone for a learning environment, and connect with a training topic. The key is to select music that has a relationship to your learning objectives and that helps stimulate the brains of your attendees.

Some of the ways that you might employ music would be to have upbeat music playing as people enter the room. When ready to start your session or you want to end a break and regroup participants, simply turn it off. The silence sends an unspoken message that something just changed and participants instinctively turn their attention toward the front for the room.

You can also use music in the background as learners work in small groups and participate in visioning activities. In such instances, use music without lyrics and that matches the intended pace of the activity. Research indicates that selecting a music beat that closely matches the desired energy level of the activity is best. For example, if you want to have people on their feet and excited, use some upbeat theme song. If your goal is serenity and reflection, you might use a baroque selection.

Using music and sound for learning

Use Noisemakers.

Inexpensive noisemakers are an excellent and creative means of gaining or regaining participant attention. Simply by blowing a whistle, using a musical slide flute, ringing a school or classroom bell, striking a gong, squeezing a squawking chicken, or using some similar device, you add a bit of sound, fun, and novelty to your sessions.

Like anything you do in a learning environment, using music and sound in novel ways during your sessions or meetings is a clever means of gaining and regaining learner attention. The key is to avoid doing anything that is distracting or does not relate to your stated learning objectives.

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 or his blog

Three Factors That Might Inhibit Trainer Creativity

Three Factors That Might Inhibit Trainer Creativity

Three Factors That Might Inhibit Trainer Creativity

While there is likely an unlimited number of strategies for encouraging creativity, there are also factors that can block your creativity and that of your learners. By identifying and dealing with such factors in advance, you can potentially reduce or eliminate them in your sessions. Once you have done so, you are on your way to increasing creativity by thinking outside the box and establishing a brain-based learning environment where adult learners can become actively involved and maximize their learning potential.

Here are three factors that potentially inhibit your creativity as a trainer:

1.  Organizational Culture.

The organizational environment in which you work or train can either spark or extinguish your creative lamp and that of your learners. If your supervisor or organization effectively plans and welcomes change and new ideas, you are more likely to experiment with program format and the way you approach learning.

Likewise, participants are more likely to become excited and actively involved in brainstorming ideas and solutions to organizational issues. This is often the result of their belief that there is an opportunity for implementation and reward of such efforts. On the other hand, if there is an atmosphere of strict control where supervisors or others dictate content and delivery style, then creativity is usually limited.

Another potentially inhibiting factor within the organizational culture is the percentage of left and right-brained thinkers. People with right-brained dominance often tend to be more big picture and abstract in their thinking while left-brained dominance often leads to focusing on specifics and minutia. For that reason, organizations that traditionally have a large number of linear thinkers (e.g. accounting, some associations, certain government agencies, legal firms, and some types of technology companies) may be more prone to follow existing guidelines or maintain the status quo.

Three Factors That Might Inhibit Trainer Creativity by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author

While creativity does exist within such organizations, and predominantly left-brain thinkers are capable of creative thinking, their efforts are often directed at activities and processes that satisfy an issue or need that arises rather than an unstructured attempt to spontaneously redesign training or another system. When such attitudes carry over into your training sessions, participants may be hesitant to think outside the box unless given specific directions or promised individual rewards.

Speaking of rewards, while they can encourage creativity (e.g. during brainstorming), they can also limit it. For example, if you provide small incentives for participant responses or to the first person to offer an idea in your sessions, you may encourage participation. However, if such rewards are not fairly and equitably distributed to many people, the impact might be negative and counterproductive.

2.  Participant Attitude.

Another potentially inhibiting creativity factor is the attitude that each participant brings to the training environment. If your participants arrive prepared and excited about their impending learning opportunity, they are more likely to actively become involved. On the other hand, if participants are forced to attend training or have not been adequately briefed on expected outcomes, or how they will benefit from the training, their perspective of the training may be grim.

For participants to embrace training, they have to see the value in terms of personal gain (e.g. how it will help them do their job in a more effective and efficient manner). They must also believe that their supervisor and organization support the training initiative and will allow them to apply what is learned and reward appropriately as a result of improved performance.  These things failing, participant attitude will likely be poor and there will be a creativity disconnect.

3.  Trainer Motivation.

A third creativity inhibiting factor relates to your own motivation and desire to be creative in training others. Whether you consider yourself to be creative and having the desire to be so, can increase or decrease training and participant effectiveness.

Too often, trainers stifle their own creativity and fail to try new ideas or training techniques because they fear failure. Rather than attempt a new activity or approach to training (e.g. a magic trick, telling a joke, wearing a funny prop during their introduction, or otherwise experimenting), many trainers stick to the tried and try strategies that they and others have used for some time.

In their mind, even an average program evaluation is better than running the risk of trying something new and being less successful. Some of the reluctance might result from inexperience, while other aspects might relate to fear of the unknown or criticism, lack of confidence, or simple complacency. Whatever the logic, you are likely doing yourself, your participants, and your organization a grave disservice if you allow similar reasons to impede your own creative initiatives.

For creative strategies and ideas on how you might enhance your learning events and encourage participants to actively think outside the box during training sessions, get a copy of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

Creative Learning Quote – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Creative Learning Quote – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Brain based learning and adult learning environments go hand-in-hand. Both emphasize the need for learner engagement, thinking outside the box, and the inclusion of creative approaches to actively engaging participants.

The ultimate goal of creative training is to have participants maximize their learning potential by sharing knowledge with one another and the facilitator. Through collaborative learning activities and exercises, everyone in the room has the opportunity to contribute to the ultimate objective of the training session – transfer of learning to the real-world.

Creative Learning Quote – Oliver Wendell Holmes by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

The exciting thing about applying concepts related to brain-based research on learning is that the brain is stimulated in ways that help create connections between current knowledge and memories and what participants experience in the session.

Oliver Wendell Holmes summed up the ultimate outcome of creative training in a quote:

Creative Learning Quote - Oliver Wendell Holmes

For ideas and strategies on how to create stimulating creative training events 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, Creative Learning: Activities and Game That Really Engage People and Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results.

What is Creative Training?

What is Creative Training?

Creativity or creative thinking is not an innate ability, rather, it is a skill that can be learned and improved upon through the use of various systems, strategies, and tools. Trainers, facilitators, and educators are often looking for ways to make their learning events more creative. The good ones are applying brain-based learning research on how the brain best gains, retains, recalls, and uses information, ideas, and experiences with which it comes into contact.

What is Creative Thinking

Certainly, there are facets of the brain at work influencing the approach that you and your participants use as you strive to develop answers or solutions to issues in your sessions. However, creativity is not simply a right-brained function, as was once believed. It is a whole-brain process in which creative ideas are the result of many factors and mental processes. Creativity in training and the workplace also requires competency in the areas of divergent (generating a number of diverse ideas) and convergent thinking (selecting the most appropriate idea).

What is Creative Training? Learn the answer from The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Brain-Based Adult Training Author

From a creativity standpoint, the average person exhibits a variety of innovative ideas and talents throughout any given day without sometimes labeling such behavior as creative. For example, whenever you are facilitating a training session in which someone offers a different perspective to a point you or someone else makes, they are creatively looking at an alternative. When participants brainstorm potential issues and solutions to problems, they are being creative. Likewise, when someone begins to daydream and starts doodling on a piece of paper, they are creating.

Interestingly, true creativity can come from a childlike approach to training. Children often are unaware that something cannot be done since they have not previously experienced it. The challenge for many children, who later recall early experiences as they age, is that teachers, parents, and other adults teach them not to be creative. This is done by requiring the children to “color within the lines,” “speak when spoken to,” “shut up and listen,” and in a variety of other ways.

Adults can regress to that childlike naiveté by simply experimenting and thinking freely. Unfortunately, too often creativity is limited by a person’s attitude or motivation level. For example, participants can actually inhibit their own potential creativity by making statements or thinking similar to the following:

  • I’m just not a creative person.
  • I never have any good ideas.
  • I don’t have time to be creative.
  • I don’t know where to get creative ideas.
  • I don’t know how people come up with all their creative ideas. 

Of all those statements, the one that is probably closest to the truth is that they do not know how to come up with creative ideas. Creativity is often more about strategy and technique than ability.

By researching ideas and strategies and applying some of the processes or strategies that many of the thought leaders in the area of creative thinking and creativity you will be able to add a spark to your own creativity and that of your participants. One excellent source I discovered years ago and have adapted for use in developing my own creative learning strategies and in writing a number of my books is Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko.