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What 21st Century Science Says About Memorable Learning Experience At Work

The image illustrate the the fusion of scientific knowledge with engaging and memorable educational experiences.

As an L&D Manager, how frequently do you initiate new learning programs for your team? And perhaps more importantly, how often do you conduct review sessions for previous learning & development initiatives? We ask this because there might be more to effective learning than just the sheer number of activities an organization holds. 

If we’ve pre-programmed ourselves to stick to traditional learning methods with several modules and topics, the results may not be optimum or conducive to actual learning.

Modern science, especially in learning & development, has come a long way in the last couple of decades. Learning & behavioural sciences overlap more than we initially thought. In this blog post, we aim to tackle some of the challenges in organizational learning related to information absorption, retention, and applicability in the context of professional learning. 

Let’s first understand how human beings learn and then focus on some strategies that we can use to make professional learning stick. 

Understanding How We Learn

By understanding the principles that govern the way we absorb, process, and retain information, L&D Managers can develop training programs that not only help the learners retain the information but also improve their pattern recognition ability to realize when and where to implement those learnings in their professional lives. 

Learning is a complex process influenced by a variety of cognitive, emotional, and environmental factors. Cognitive science and learning psychology suggest that learning supersedes rote memorization and effective learning is achieved when individuals can interact with the material in ways that help them connect existing knowledge to the new-found information. 

So, how does one put that into practice while developing training modules? Here are a few theories that can help: 

  • Cognitive Load Theory: Also known as the theory of “limited capacity”, cognitive load theory suggests that learners must get rid of unneeded cognitive load to efficiently learn & process new information. Similar to how RAM works in computers, human beings have limited bandwidth to process multiple streams of data simultaneously. Thus, it’s important to pre-frame any training sessions with activities or exercises that can help learners temporarily clear their minds from ongoing or pending tasks, upcoming meetings, etc.

  • Dual Coding Theory: The dual coding theory states that the understanding and memory of information are much better when it is presented verbally and visually. Thus, the use of pictures, diagrams, and other forms of visual aids added to verbal descriptions might enhance classroom learning.

  • Constructivism: This learning theory dictates that learners consume learning materials and process them by connecting them with their existing knowledge or experience. Organizational training that incorporates active participation, free exploration, and continuous reflection can thus assist in the constructive process. 

The image illustrating the process of assembling knowledge and understanding through various educational elements

Another important factor in learning includes attracting and holding the attention of the learners. Information that is new, important, and tied to one’s personal life goals has increased chances of being stored and remembered by the brain. You might ask how this could be used to create better learning programs. 

Well, an uncommon method could be to split learners into groups based on their professional and personal goals and customize their learning journeys based on that. This helps in delivering more relevant learning material while maintaining maximum learner attention. This does not necessarily have to be tailored to individual goals. The same method could be applied by splitting learners into groups based on their degree of knowledge, years of experience, or even tenure within the company. 

Not to mention the usage of multimedia assets can go a long way in enhancing the delivery of the content even further. 

By grounding the design of training in the science of how we learn, L&D Managers can equip themselves to make sure they deliver learning experiences that are both effective and memorable. This approach helps the learners not only to achieve their immediate training objectives but also supports the organization in developing a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Strategies to Enhance Memory and Learning

Now that we’ve understood how learning works, it’s time to dig into how we can use that in strategies that can boost learners’ memories and facilitate deeper understanding.

Repetition & Spaced Practice

One of the most effective ways to enhance memory is through repetition. However, there are different forms of repetition and not all of them are effective. So, which are the ones that work the best?

Spaced repetition, which involves reviewing the material over increasing intervals of time, has been proven to be one of the most powerful methods of learning new things. This method leverages the psychological effect of spacing out learning sessions over some time rather than cramming it all in one session. 

Your training programs can go over key concepts multiple times throughout sessions, but each time, the next mention of the concept is spaced further apart. You can take inspiration from the Fibonacci sequence to plan when and how frequently the topic is covered. For instance, within the framework of sales training programs, the key concept of “probing” can be covered in the first 3 modules of the program, then in the 5th module, followed by the 8th module, and so on. 

Active Learning Techniques 

Active learning means beyond passively delivering or receiving the information. Dedicating additional time within the learning program to problem-solving exercises, discussions, and hands-on activities that require the learner to apply what they’ve just learnt can go a long way in making the information stick. This method also ties back to the constructivist theory of learning we discussed a while back. 

Mnemonics and Visualization Techniques

Four corporate employees depicted with emoji faces expressing different emotions, highlighting the importance of emotional engagement in conducive learning environment

Mnemonics refers to the devices used as memory aids, making the learner remember large bodies of complex information in simplified, coded forms, e.g., acronyms, rhymes, or visual images. Visualization is the act of forming mental images to render the representation of information in abstract form closer to concrete perception. 

Learners can use mnemonics to remember hard-to-recall points, phrases, and often whole sentences. With the help of diagrams or even a virtual reality simulation, learners are asked to try and visually understand the information. All this can prove very helpful to memory encoding and retrieval.

In the current digital age, technologies provide a lot of opportunities to implement those strategies effectively. E-learning platforms support spaced practice through automated scheduling of review sessions, interactive simulations, and virtual reality environments. E-learning content, whenever and wherever possible, should involve digital storytelling and visual aids to aid imagination and enhance memory retention.

By integrating these strategies within your training programs, you’re bound to notice improved knowledge retention among learners and even enhanced ability to apply the knowledge in day-to-day professional settings. 

Learning Experience Highlights

Laptop screen displaying various data repositories, emphasizing the integration of data analytics and creative approaches in e-learning.

In conclusion, the exploration of modern scientific principles in the context of learning and development within the workplace has unveiled significant insights into the optimization of training programs. By understanding the cognitive, emotional, and environmental facets of learning, L&D managers are better equipped to craft memorable learning experiences that transcend traditional methods. 

Through the strategic application of cognitive load management, dual coding, constructivism, spaced repetition, active learning, and mnemonic visualization techniques, training programs can become more effective and engaging. 

These approaches not only facilitate information retention but also encourage the practical application of knowledge. As we move forward, integrating these scientifically-backed strategies will not only enhance individual learning outcomes but also develop a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within organizations. This shift towards evidence-based training methods promises to redefine professional development, making learning a more impactful, enduring, and dynamic process.

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