Tip #986: What Real Learning Requires- Part One

There are six key requirements for real learning to occur. The first four are identified by David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and the author of Your Brain at Work. I have added two more.

In this Tip, we’ll consider the first two essential requirements: Attention and Generation. In Part Two, Tip #987, we’ll look at Emotion and Spacing. In Part Three, Tip #988, we’ll look at the last two requirements: Interest and Meaning.

We will begin with what Mr. Rock has to say about them and then discuss any supporting research or principles.

  1. Attention

“First, attention has to be very high; multitasking dramatically reduces recall. The chemical processes to encode memories only activate when we’re very focused.”

A research study by Stanford University found that the brain is unable to process more than one string of information at a time.

Heavy multitaskers apparently cannot filter out irrelevant information, organize their memories, or keep tasks separate in their minds. As a result, their recall is impaired.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal” -Anthony Wagner, an associate professor of psychology.

If we don’t focus our attention on something, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to remember it.

  1. Generation

“Second, people need to generate their own mental maps around new ideas. They can’t just watch or listen; effort is central.”

Cognitive load research supports this statement. We use our working memory to think, problem-solve and learn. This is why simply watching or listening are ineffective ways to learn. The learner needs to be actively engaged in thinking and problem solving.

However, working memory can hold only a small amount of information for a brief period of time. If we want to retain the information, we need to place it into a type of “file folder.” So we create mental maps, often referred to as mental models or schemas, to organize and interpret the information. And these mental maps or schemas are “filed” and stored in our long-term memory, which has infinite capacity.

If our working memory is not engaged, we will not create any mental maps and any new ideas or information will be lost.

Question: Do you think it is possible to learn and retain that learning if we don’t pay focused attention and generate mental maps?

May your learning be sweet.


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