ANCOR News - 08.07.17

How the Brain Learns: Characteristics of Good Development and Training Programs

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Have you ever driven home from work without consciously remembering the drive home? Our brain is wired to be efficient with information already processed while focusing its energy on the new or the different. The brain is wired for heuristics. These “mental short cuts” help us to respond quickly without expending too much mental energy. For example, the familiarity heuristic can drive us to buy the same type of dish soap even when newer or other more effective dish soap may be introduced. Our brain can function on auto-pilot based on established patterns.

While we are learning new tasks, our brain does not have the option to default to auto- pilot. Luckily, the brain recognizes the task of learning as inefficient and gives us a little neural motivation to learn through the release of dopamine. The following 8 tips outline how our brains are wired to learn and how we should adapt training and development programs to capitalize on existing neural mechanisms.


Building multiple connections to information is critical to encoding and long-term memory.15  Connecting learning to already existing knowledge like using analogies to compare new information to existing paradigms cements information into learner’s memory. Through the memory organization strategy of elaboration, information weaved into an existing narrative/schema is more easily stored and recalled.

“Information weaved into an existing narrative/
schema is more easily stored and recalled.”

Let’s look at an example for how this might be applied to training. When first explaining to someone ICD-10 codes and billing, you might connect it to going to the supermarket and not knowing just by looking at the SKU how much the product costs. The product would need to be rung up at the cashier, or you might need to go back into the grocery store aisles to compare product prices, features, and related products. By connecting a known paradigm like shopping at the supermarket to billing codes in healthcare, someone new to the field is better able to remember and relate to the information.

Additionally, presenting information through multiple modes (e.g. visually and kinesthetically) further ensures that new information is embedded into the mind. When planning instruction, a best practice is to match the modality to the concept.

For example, use experiential or “hands on” practice when teaching a physical task.

Learn the next 7 tips here!


About Relias Learning

Relias Learning is an online training solution for professionals devoted to providing care and quality services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Relias is proud to be a Platinum Partner of ANCOR.