When I started my consulting business more than a decade ago, I was energized by the research papers I was reading from the new discipline of neuroscience and stunned to learn that most teachers and trainers had never even heard the word, let alone started to incorporate these findings into their practice. Today, much has changed, as neuroscience has increasingly captured the headlines and fueled our imaginations with the possibilities of our own brains.
Unfortunately, not all of this attention has been positive. Like any other new thing, educational neuroscience has had its own ride on the Hype Cycle, generating a flood of questionable practices designed to cash in on all the excitement. But along with the hype there is much to celebrate.
Storytelling has always been important to the learning professional, going all the way back to the ancient Greeks. However, a renewed interest in the power of story has grown from our emerging understanding of how the brain responds to stories, experiencing events as though they actually happen. Learning leaders Park Howell and Eve Alexander have appeared on our podcast with many practical ideas for the use of story in learning.
Change Management practices have been dramatically enriched through the understanding of the brain’s reaction to change. When you realize that your brain sees any significant change as a potentially life-threatening event, it is much easier to understand how resistant we are to even positive changes, like new jobs or improved procedures in the workplace.
Carol Dweck’s pioneering work on the Growth Mindset has influenced an entire generation of teachers and parents to think carefully about the subliminal messages that may be rewiring their kids’ brains when they tell them what they are “good at.”
Leadership development programs are starting to leverage neuroscience to design learning simulations to build “real-world” experience in the brains of emerging leaders.
Reflection has been recognized as a critical piece of the learning puzzle. While this is nothing new, information from the science of learning has helped confirm the need to step back and think about new information, so that you can integrate into what you already know.
Informal Learning, pioneered by the late Jay Cross, has risen in visibility, based in part on its compatibility with the new social learning models we see on YouTube and Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) sites.
Until recently, many corporations tried to ignore the role of emotions in learning, trying to focus only on cognitive function. Our evolving understanding of the brain tells us that all learning is emotional, so we may as well get used to it.
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) has been paying attention to neuroscience and other disciplines in many ways, including the Science of Learning blog and my Essentials of Brain-Based Learning workshops.
Brain Awareness Week – Celebrating the Brain
Yes, we’re paying a lot more attention the brain these days so it’s no surprise that there is now a Brain Awareness Week. Each year, schools and businesses around the world participate in sharing news about the brain. While most activities are focused on students, everyone has a brain, so I encourage you to learn as much about yours as possible. Think about the amazing things that can be done with your brain. Not only does it keep you alive, it constantly rewires itself in response to your changing environment. We don’t need a special day or week – every day it gives us something new to celebrate!