As an instructional designer who is seeking to gain insight into how other organizations are utilizing neuroscience to improve training and performance I have found the Maritz Insitute to be leading the way. Giller (2010) states that the Maritz Institute "serves as a bridge between the human sciences and Maritz business solutions, designed to help companies achieve strategic goals. They bring insights – anchored in science – that provide a foundation for understanding, enabling and motivating people in ways that are most meaningful to them” (pg.18).
Far too often in most organizational settings learning and performance improvement training's spend too much time focusing on the content of what people need to know rather than how they will learn. This tends to result in an information transfer that is ineffective and as a result, the learner fails to transfer this knowledge into action (Giller, 2010). In an effort to understand this problem and other areas of neuroscience the Maritz Institute began their study. In one of their recent articles they take an in-depth look into learning and the brain and how that knowledge can be applied to an organizational setting. Through this discovery they uncovered a learning cycle of the brain and how each area of the brains responds. The cycle begins with gathering information followed by reflection, then creation and finally active testing and through this they found each step of the cycle is associated with a different region of the brain—those areas associated with sensory, associative and motor functions (Zull, 2002).
Giller (2010) The Neuroscience of Learning: A New Paradigm for Corporate Education
Through each of these cycles (Gathering, Reflection, Creation, and Active Testing) Giller unpacks the implications for how learning environments need to be shaped. His vantage point is from a organizational mindset, but his principles for the instructional designer have significance.
Here are Giller's (2010) principles that have shaped the way he has organized learning and development in his company.
- Engage the entire learning cycle. Make time for reflection, creation and active testing.
- Make a connection with the learner’s prior knowledge and experience.
- Create opportunities for social engagement and interaction as part of the learning process.
- Engage both feeling and thinking.
- Actively attend to attention—gaining, holding and focusing the learner’s attention.
- Engage a maximum number of senses—especially visual—when designing learning
Another learning tool that instructional designers need to be aware of is information processing. Having a basic understanding of this learning theory as an instructional designer is essential for building effective online learning courses. In most cases this learning provides the framework and goals for learning. With information processing it is not just learning the content that is essential, but how the content is received. Ertmer and Newby (1993) note that content should be "organized in such a matter that learners are able to connect new information with existing knowledge" (pg.60). When this type of learning is structured all facets of the memory can operate effectively. A great visual aid that illustrates the science of information processing is Susan Prenderville's work. Through her info-graphic she vividly shows how each part of the memory is actively functioning. Understanding how the memory works and the process information goes through will guide the instructional designer to connect new learning instruction with previous knowledge (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).
Ertmer, P.A., & Newby, T.J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.
Giller, R.H. (2010). The Neuroscience of Learning: A New Paradigm for Corporate Education. Retrieved from http://www.themaritzinstitute.com/~/media/Files/MaritzInstitute/White-Papers/The Neuroscience-of-Learning-The-Maritz-Institute.ashx
Prenderville, S. (2014). Brainy Training: An Infographic. Retrieved from
Zull, J. (2002). The art of changing the brain. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.