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Tanya Boyd

Insights Learning and Development

Learning Architect

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The power of passion: Five strategies to unlock the potential of learning

How can we leverage the power of the brain to make learning and development more effective?
creating_powerful_learning_experiences

When the dishwasher breaks and water is flooding the kitchen, we may not be thrilled as we pull up YouTube to try to learn how to quickly fix it and stem the flow. But when we look up how to make a fancy new cocktail for our upcoming party, the feeling is often different. 

It’s all learning, but how motivated we are, and even how effective it is, changes with the situation. Our brains approach learning differently when we are passionate about something versus when we are simply complying with an external requirement. 

While we can’t make everything as exciting as those cocktail classes, bringing awareness to how we learn can positively impact learning outcomes. 

Understanding motivation: Internal vs external

Motivation plays a vital role in learning, influencing our engagement and ability to retain information. 

Internal motivation stems from our personal interests, passions, and desires, driving us to invest effort in acquiring knowledge. On the other hand, external motivation originates from external sources, such as rewards, punishments, or social pressure.

Internal motivation is often considered more potent in learning. When we are genuinely passionate about a subject, we are more likely to dedicate ourselves to the learning process, resulting in higher levels of comprehension and retention. 

However, external motivation can also be valuable, particularly when it comes to learning tasks that may not align with our internal interests.

Our brains approach learning differently when we are passionate about something versus when we are simply complying with an external requirement

The Affective Context Model of learning

Nick Shackleton-Jones’ Affective Context Model of learning holds that when people care about something, they will learn it; and when they do not care about it, they will not learn it. 

For topics that people care about, the task of L&D is to provide easily accessible learning opportunities and resources to facilitate their learning. 

For areas that people do not care as much about, the task is to provide experiences that spark caring, that demonstrate the value and importance of the topic. 

When an organisation’s purpose is clear and visible for leaders, employees and customers to connect to, this can also ignite caring, which can lead to learning.

The brain's learning process: Left brain vs right brain

Today's learning landscape emphasises making connections between ideas, building neural pathways and consolidating information in long-term memory. 

The brain, being highly plastic, continuously adapts and changes based on our experiences.

To comprehend the intricacies of the learning process, it is helpful to consider the structure and functions of the brain. 

The brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left and the right, connected by the corpus callosum. Each hemisphere approaches learning and processes information differently.

When an organisation’s purpose is clear and visible for leaders, employees and customers to connect to, this can also ignite caring, which can lead to learning

Learning left from right

The left hemisphere is primarily responsible for focused attention, analytical thinking, logical reasoning, language processing and mathematical calculations. 

It excels at breaking down information into smaller parts, categorising them and analysing them in a linear, sequential manner. 

The right hemisphere is associated with holistic, intuitive thinking, broad contextual awareness, creativity, spatial reasoning, and nonverbal communication. 

It perceives things in their entirety and recognises their relationships to one another.

Encompassing both sides

Traditional approaches to learning tend to be directed more towards the left brain. Yet, today’s world increasingly requires increased capacity for right brain engagement. 

Creativity and innovation are now sought and valued right alongside structure and processing; and so, learning needs to encompass both sides of the brain. 

Incorporating activities that stimulate right-brain thinking, such as art, music, movement and storytelling, into more traditional corporate training programmes is one way to address this need.

At Insights we use ‘colour energies’ as a language to describe people’s preferences for approaching work and relationships, and even learning. This kind of analogy engages the right brain and offers people a way to understand themselves and adapt to those around them.

Creativity and innovation are now sought and valued right alongside structure and processing; and so, learning needs to encompass both sides of the brain

Five strategies for leveraging brain science and igniting passion for learning

Corporate learning and development often involves mandatory training programs, such as compliance or safety training, which employees may not be internally motivated to engage with. 

By drawing from our understanding of motivation and brain science, we can enhance the effectiveness of these initiatives. Here are some practical strategies to consider:

1. Emphasise context and relevance

To engage both hemispheres of the brain, provide learners with a clear understanding of the big picture and how the information fits into it. 

By highlighting the context and relevance of the subject matter, the right hemisphere can grasp the holistic perspective, while the left hemisphere appreciates the logical structure and organisation of the information. 

When learners can see the value and application of what they are being asked to learn, they are more likely to engage with it.

Allowing learners to choose the format of learning they prefer is a good way to support motivation for skills that learners may not be intrinsically motivated to learn

2. Utilise a variety of teaching methods

While lectures may cater to the left hemisphere's preference for logical reasoning and language processing; visual aids, interactive activities, and hands-on experiences can stimulate the right hemisphere's creativity and spatial reasoning. 

Allowing learners to choose the format of learning they prefer is a good way to support motivation for skills that learners may not be intrinsically motivated to learn.

3. Encourage active learning

This involves engaging learners in meaningful activities that require them to apply their knowledge and skills. 

This is even more effective if some of the applications are slightly unexpected, which will catch the attention of the right hemisphere as it scans for new information. 

Even seemingly mundane topics can be made more engaging with this approach, which promotes deeper understanding, enhances critical thinking and facilitates the consolidation of information into long-term memory. 

4. Foster creativity

Creativity is a vital aspect of the learning process, enabling learners to think outside the box, generate innovative solutions and make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts. 

By incorporating creative exercises, brainstorming sessions and problem-solving activities into training programmes, trainers can tap into the right hemisphere's intuitive thinking and often spark some surprise internal motivation in learners.

Even seemingly mundane topics can be made more engaging with this approach, which promotes deeper understanding, enhances critical thinking and facilitates the consolidation of information into long-term memory

5. Provide feedback

Constructive feedback reinforces learning, corrects misconceptions, and motivates learners to continue their growth, even in areas they may not be intrinsically motivated to learn. 

Prompt and specific feedback, coupled with recognition of progress, encourages learners to persist in their pursuit of knowledge and skills. 

By intentionally using internal and external motivation, and integrating activities that engage both hemispheres of the brain, we can create powerful learning experiences even for those areas that learners may initially resist.

If you enjoyed this, read: A neuroscientist’s top 10 ways to excel at work

 

Author Profile Picture
Tanya Boyd

Learning Architect

Read more from Tanya Boyd
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