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SHIFT's eLearning Blog


4 Elements to Effective Adult Learning, According
to Neuroscience
Posted by Karla Gutierrez on Tue, Dec 01, 2015 @ 11:37 AM
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Adult Learning or Andragogy highlights that adult learners are


fundamentally different in their methods of learning in comparison
with children. As an L&D professional, you need to understand these
differences and figure out the best methods that can be employed to
meet the adult learning needs.
With adult learners, you will encounter different types of
expectations, demands, and challenges. The key is to accommodate
to these needs and work in a manner that is most effective and
engaging for them. Understanding human psychology and brain
science can help in this regard.
While there are multiple methodologies to make this happen, there is
a model proposed by Lila Davachi, Associate Professor of Psychology
at New York University that is known to be very effective. Known as
AGES (Attention-Generation-Emotion-Spacing), this model highlights
four key elements that are essential for effective adult learning. Let us
go through the four elements in detail now.

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1)Attention
"Learning that happens while multitasking cannot be generalized
and does not result in understanding or the ability to recall when
needed." --The Maritz Institute
The first and foremost step in any learning is to gain the attention of
the learner. While a little distraction is good in some situations, during
learning, it is important that the learner is single-mindedly focused.
This is especially true when a person is trying to learn something new.
Research has revealed that though it is physically possible to
multitask, the efficiency and effectiveness or the time taken to
complete a task gets impacted negatively during multitasking.
In fact, Edward Hallowell, MD, Director of the Hallowell Center for
Cognitive and Emotional Health has reiterated that true multitasking
is only but a myth. Though we are inclined to believe that we are
doing multiple things at the same time, it is nothing but a
misconception. This is because the cerebral cortex in the brain can
focus on only one thing at a time. What happens is that the mind
shifts from one thing to the other very quickly and in the process, the
effectiveness of both is lost.

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The importance of managing the attention of learners effectively


cannot thus, be undermined. Keeping this in mind, you need to design
eLearning courses that capitalize on the way brain science works.

Read:The Science of Attention (And Why eLearning


Professionals Should Care)

2)Generation
"Selfdirected learning is more in tune with our natural processes of
psychological development." ---Malcolm Knowles
Once you have managed to gain the attention of a learner for a
particular task, an idea is generated in the working memory. However,
the important thing now is to decide how to maximize the likelihood
of these memories forming. Research has proved that repetition has a
limited impact on creating learning that lasts, unlike popular
assumption. By repeating something for ten times, you are not
necessarily creating the desired learning impact.
Adult learning is totally different from the way children learn. While
children learn from their surroundings without being choosy, adults
learn in a more selective manner. Adults tend to capitalize on what
they already know and build upon it. They take responsibility of what
they need to and want to learn which is why self- directed learning is a
hit with adults. Self- directed learning allows the learners to control
what they learn and to an extent, how they learn. It provides a
foundation for transformative learning. With this learning method,
they use critical thinking to challenge and question what they have
learned earlier and thereby, form conclusions on what they learn.
Now, why and how is this more effective? The brain depends on
experiences, both individual and social for its growth. Whenever the
human brain is actively involved in the learning, it is more effective
and efficient.

Read:Self-Directed Learning: A Key Component of


Adult Learning Theory

3)Emotion

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3)Emotion
"The role of emotions is critical in adult learning as they are closely
linked with the construction of meaning and knowledge." --- Dirkx,
2001; Shuck et al., 2007
It is a well-known fact that emotion and memory are interlinked.
Research has shown that emotionally active events form a place in
our memory for a longer span of time than the events that are slightly
on the neutral side.
Emotions create memories both negative and positive. Each time
you get an emotional cue, neurons get activated in the brain and
remind you of things associated with that particular emotion.
It is quite obvious by now that there is more to an effective eLearning
course than just looking modern, attractive and functioning well. Your
eLearning courses should spark the right emotions in the learner to
aid the learning process. If we can connect with learners from the
outset establishing the need for a particular eLearning course,
taking them through the course and also, connecting post learning,
and then the desired result can be achieved. Not only will you have
more rates of completion but also would have enabled a good
learning experience.
Read:Improve Learner Engagement by Using Plutchik's Wheel of
Emotions

4)Spacing
"Repeating the information over a longer interval say a few days or
a week later, rather than in rapid succession sends a stronger
signal to the brain that it needs to retain the information." --- Tara
Parker-Pope, NYTimes Article
If you expect the learners to go through 40 slides of content in an
eLearning course or sit through a classroom session for eight long

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hours with just lunch and refreshment breaks, you are definitely not
giving them the scope to learn. The human brain has limited cognitive
power, and overloading information isnt every going to ensure
learning. As eLearning designers, it is important that you realize this
and design courses that keep this in mind.
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, came up with a theory
called the Forgetting Curve. It refers to the period just after learning
has taken place when we start to forget what we have
learned.According to the findings,we tend to forget almost 50-80
percent of all new information we have learned within a few days
after the learning event has occurred.But wetend to recall more and
forget less when the learning is spaced across time and repeated
during the teaching session. According to these same findings,
learning using the spaced repetition method, improves long-term
retention by 200 percent.
Learning designers should hence, design learning programs that
space the reiteration of content delivered to the learners. When you
distribute the learning in spaced stages, it ensures long-term memory,
thus making the learning effective and more impactful.
Read: Comparing Typical (Crammed) Learning vs. Spaced Learning

REFERENCES:

THE NEUROSCIENCE OF LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT PAGEUP PEOPLE


WHITE PAPER
Christina Angelaki, Ilias Mavroidis.Communication and Social
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Presence: The Impact on Adult Learners Emotions in Distance


Learning
The Science Behind The Learning Process, CLOMEDIA (accessed
November01, 2015).

Topics: adult learning, brain-based learning

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