Friday, July 28

brain-mind learning principles

in exploring the new horizons for learning site, i came across an interesting set of articles by renate nummela caine and geoffrey caine.  in their research on the human brain and learning, they established twelve principles regarding how we learn and what prevents us from learning.  their twelve principles are:
  1. All learning is physiological.
  2. The Brain-Mind is social.
  3. The search for meaning is innate.
  4. The search for meaning occurs through patterning.
  5. Emotions are critical to patterning.
  6. The Brain-Mind processes parts and wholes simultaneously.
  7. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.
  8. Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes.
  9. There are at least two approaches to memory: archiving individual facts or skills or making sense of experience.
  10. Learning is developmental.
  11. Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat associated with helplessness.
  12. Each brain is uniquely organized
quoted from 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action – One Author’s Personal Journey.

i particularly found it interesting that they included #3 (search for meaning in innate) and #5 (the role of emotions).  in my mind, these are two critical aspects of learning that have too often been left out of the mix in workplace learning. 

it's been my experience that there's a believe that employees are lazy and avoid training at all costs because they don't want to learn.  this is an arrogant dismissal of negative feedback.  we've blamed the learners rather than face the fact that we've offered up irrelevant, boring learning experiences.  employees learn every day.  they have to, it's in our nature as human beings.  it's just a matter of what they choose to learn and whether that jives with what the company needs them to learn.

the workplace is generally considred a place where emotions are supposed to be held in check.  even the expression of happiness is often expected to be muted and controlled.  let alone emotions like anger and sadness.  that learning has traditionally ignored the emotions is not surprising.

there are some breakthrough programs which have begun to explore using emotions as a way to stimulate learning.  one such program was regarding for sexual harassment training which began with the learner receiving an email asking them to gather up their files on one of their employees and reporting to their managers' office immediately because of a personnel issue.  imagine how your heart would be racing and your mind would be sorting through all of your interactions with that employee.  your attention would be laser beam as you sat down with your manager.  now granted, poorly conducted, such an approach would be dangerous, so training of the manager in this case would be paramount.  but if done well, the learner would never forget the lesson taught.

all 12 of these principles are thought provoking and have much to say about how the facilitation of learning can and should be approached.  i curious about what the LCB community has to say about them.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post! As a Technology Trainer, I am constatntly battling the idea that people don't want to learn or even the desire by some to "write off" personnel who just "don't get it" when it comes to the variety of computer-based job functions. I think the major contrast comes in to play when I work with techies vs. "normal" employees because of the 12th principle listed - their brains are uniquely organized. It's always cool to provide training that reveals concepts in a meaningful way to the normal folks.

Unknown said...

I have some experience with using emotion in education. I started my career running outdoor teambuilding, and we generally proposed teh emotional high of the day as a positive factor for enhancing retention. Excited people=learning people.

However, some activities involved tricking participants so that they would forget that the teambuild was going on, and lose the sense of seperate space that the training created. We had great educational goals in mind, but often participants would become upset at the ruse. I think this was because the most common strategies for tricking them involved creating real stress. And they didn't like being tricked into real stress.

You mentioned teh casre needed for handling emotion in training, and the avoidance that training traditionally has for emotion. I thin the two are interrelated. My guess is most avoid elliciting emotion in training because it takes a high level of skill to manage it well, and it is a skill set trainers tend not to be trained in.

Dave Lee said...

I agree with you Joe thus my comment that training the managers would be vital. In the case I mentioned regarding sexual harassment, I could imagine a situation in which poor execution by the manager could easily open potential new liability exposure for the company. (potential new exposure is always an inherent risk in compliance training.)

Sallie, nice point. However, I'm not clear on which you mean to imply have the uniquely organized brains - the techies or the normies. (lol - I like picking fights!)

Maggie said...

If you would like to read research about the role of emotions... see this research site:

More brain studies at:

Also, a great book to read on this subject:
Zull, J. (2002). The Art of Changing the Brain. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

See book reviews at:

Anonymous said...


Good post. You may be interested in the post on The Neuroscience of Leadership and Brain Fitness, with a great article (am unbiased) and blog (biased).

You may also enjoy this one on SharpBrains at Cisco


Anonymous said...

Using Emotional Intelligence as an underlying input to teambuilding helps deal with some of the emotional problems that arise. Teaching the concepts to managers is also essential

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