We’ve been developing new courses and webinar content over the past year. To create powerful learning experiences, I’ve spent some time learning about how our brain works and I found these three points really interesting and have tried to apply them.

The Unconscious Mind Rules The Conscious Mind 

An experiment shows what happens when the conscious and unconscious battle it out. Seated in a chair, extend your dominant leg and make small clockwise circles with the foot. While continuing to perform this motion, with your dominant hand, draw the number six in the air with your index finger.

What happened? For most people, either their foot freezes, or it reverses direction while the hand completes the task. Why the confusion? Drawing the number six is a learned behaviour that you can do automatically.  Making foot circles requires conscious thought and energy. This explains why it’s often difficult to pick up a new habit or learn a new behaviour. Until the behaviour becomes automatic, it requires more mental energy. And making a behaviour automatic requires practice and repetition.

In our new e-learning hub we have designed multiple questions that test around the same concepts. This satisfies the duelling desire of the brain to stay with the familiar while also seeking out the new.

Confusion Is Good For Learning

When possible, the brain will operate on autopilot. Although the brain weighs only about three pounds, it uses 20 percent of the body’s energy. It would be exhausting to apply conscious thought to all the activity we engage in during a day.

To truly learn something, you need to consciously think about it. The feeling of confusion propels us to learn. When the brain becomes confused, it receives a hit of dopamine, resulting in a sense of bewilderment that forces the brain to pay close attention.

In our courses we work through case studies, our own responses, group work breeds conversation and confusion initially, but ultimately results in increased engagement and retention of the concept. 

Feelings Drive Behaviour

The feeling brain is the driver of our actions while the thinking brain is the backseat observer. Research finds that feelings and emotions are essential for meaningful learning to occur in the brain, which is why we use stories, metaphors, and engaging illustrations to illuminate concepts and theory.

Photo credit: Diego PH