In this current blog series we share research based tips on how to get the most out of virtual learning programs so people engage, memorize and apply new skills. Critical, is the installation of new brain PARTS. Quite literally. Let’s look at the R in PARTS: Repeat new learning.
Use it or lose it
Our brain has been compared to many things: a muscle, a connection machine, a rainforest, meaning our brain is changing and growing all the time via the new connections it makes between neurons. More than 2000 years ago, Aristotle said what neuroscientists have since proven: ‘what is expressed is impressed’. Much more recently, in 1949, Canadian neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb known for his research into associative learning, proclaimed that “Cells that fire together wire together.” This means, the things we focus on and experience cause the neurons involved, to ‘talk to each other’ which in turn creates new wiring in our brains. Similarly, if we stop using specific skills or information (and therefore the associated neural pathways) our ability to recall that information will diminish. What has become known as the Hebbian theory, has shaped best practice learning and performance methods ever since.
What does this mean for how we best learn new skills in this increasingly digital world? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Repetition: Practicing or learning a new skill for 10 mins every day, is more effective than a one hour per week learning session. Frequency (not duration) is key! Truly effective elearning and virtual programing is designed with such bite-sized, user driven learning consumption in mind.
- Variety: Different activities draw on different brain circuitry, so when learning something new, interact with the new skill or topic in a variety of ways. This may include, reading, talking to others, drawing examples and physically practicing the new skill.
- Sleep on it: Studies led by Dr. Jessica Payne show that sleeping after learning new skills increases knowledge retention and recall. Even a short power nap will bring these positive effects.
- Mindset shift: Critical to sustaining repeated practice of new skills is to keep a growth mindset (i.e. focus on your practice and progress) rather than a fixed mindset (a focus on perfection). Acknowledge your efforts and progress made each day to help sustain learning efforts.