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Martin Couzins

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Holistic approach to learning is key, says Prof Robert Winston


Professor Robert Winston told delegates at Learning Live that environment, emotion and personality are key for effective learning.  

Prof Winston, who is professor of science and society at Imperial College London, summarised the process of learning for humans into the following areas:

  1. The human brain matures from infancy. The greatest plasticity of learning is at the start of life, Winston said. As we get older we are less able to adapt. If you don't use it you tend to lose it, which is a key part of the learning process, he added.
  2. Experience is the food of learning. The environment of learning is key to its success. Winston said, for example, that if you are hungry you wont learn as well.
  3. All the senses contribute to learning.
  4. Our memory works best when reinforced. Repetition is key for learning.
  5. Practice is a key mode of learning.
  6. Play, fun and exploration are all key to how we learn.
  7. Socialisation and humour is important. Social context is also key to how we learn.

Prof Winston also told delegates that personality is another important factor in how we learn. He used the OCEAN approach to outline how different personality facets impact on learning:

  • Openness - this is important because people are more willing to explore new ideas.
  • Conscientiousness - how well we plan and exhibit self control.
  • Extraversion - our desire for social contact or stimulation.
  • Agreeableness - how well we get on with others.
  • Neuroticism - how we deal with emotions and stress. 

In the coming years, neuroscience will provide more insightsinto how humans learn, he added.

Watch the TrainingZone interview with Professor Robert Winston.

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