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51 ways of transforming your training – review


Title: 51 ways of transforming your training: bringing Brain-Friendly Learning to Life
Authors: Kimberley Hare and Larry Reynolds
Publisher: Gower Publishing

Hardback format ISBN:0566084554 £67.50
Buy this book from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.

Looseleaf format ISBN:0566084104 £195.00
Buy this book from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.

Written by the MD of and a facilitator of Kaizen Training Ltd, this 240 page publication is "aimed squarely at people who organize learning events in a business context." Throughout, the terms ‘facilitator’ and ‘learning events’ are used to encompass the plethora of terms and titles which surround training and development and those who organize it. In the opening "What’s it all about?" section we are told that the manual:

- Is about “brain-friendly learning” (BFL) i.e. learning designed to be in harmony with the way in which the human brain works
- Is designed to enable the reader to learn how to design and deliver brain-friendly learning
Is designed to be used not just read.

There are three parts:
Part 1 - Principles of Brain-Friendly Learning
Part 2 - Brain-Friendly Design
Part 3 - 51 Tools for Brain-Friendly Learning

The layout (of the hardback which I’m working from) is quite good – lots of white space, useful conventions which include chunks of text and diagrams; ‘brain-boxes’ – these explain how/why a particular concept or tool makes sense in terms of the brain; two kinds of activity – some designed to help you understand a concept, the others designed to apply a concept/idea, in practice, to learning events. My only reservation is the clip art style logos used. The Kitchener-type pointing finger used to indicate activities thoroughly irritated me. Nonetheless, the material is visually easy and the style clear, if at times a little over-enthusiastic. The diagrams and illustrations used are clear and often imaginative, for example, Part Two starts with three representations of an overview of the BFL design process – a mind map, a linear flow chart and a conversation.

Throughout Parts One and Two there is a range of examples, stories, extracts from plays, tables, lists etc. The wide variety certainly keeps interest going.

Part One introduces and explains ‘Brain-Friendly Learning’. It starts by setting out to prove that nineteenth-century models of education and training may not be totally appropriate now, and then goes on to give a brief introduction to the human brain, its component parts and ways of working. This information is then used to link issues about learning to the identified brain parts. The authors end this section by stating that they have "blended the best of theory and what works in practice and created five key principles of BFL". These are:

- keep it real
- facilitate creation not consumption
- honour uniqueness
- make it rich and multi-sensory
- state is everything (well ... almost).

The remainder of Part One explores each of these points, with lots of activities, tips and suggestions for practical application. I particularly liked the new model of intelligence which I hadn’t come across before.

Part Two offers a model of the BFL design process and goes on to explore the five principles of BFL introduced in Part One to the learning design process. This is further supported by cross-references to the tools presented in Part Three. This section of the manual is a useful read in that it summarizes a lot of known and part-known material/ideas, re-presents them and challenges certain mindsets. Its strength is the total focus it has on the learner rather than the person designing or ‘delivering’.

Stage Three is sub-divided by the five principles of BFL and offers a wide range of tools, techniques, approaches and material. Some well-known and used, others less so. I liked tools 20 and 21 “Brian-Friendly beliefs about learning”, a questionnaire designed to identify one’s current beliefs about what learning is and about the role of the trainers (sic) and “Trapping your beliefs” which extends the work of No. 20.

In fact, I enjoyed making my way through Section Three and found a lot of useful ideas, some of which I can immediately use to improve what I do in designing learning opportunities.

Overall this is an interesting, readable and thought-provoking publication which has value for new and experienced trainers, facilitators and learning designers. Perhaps, though, the relentlessly upbeat style would be more acceptable if the manual were read/used over a longer period of time than I had to work on it. That caveat aside, the manual is bursting with ideas and intriguing perceptions – Try it.

Diane Bailey


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