Learning science: great in theory, often difficult for us to apply to daily L&D activities…
From neuroscience’s role in learning design to how we prepare our brains for effective application of information.
Plus, Carl gave us the tools to independently translate future research into day-to-day action.
0:00 Who is Carl Learns?
4:51 Exercises to improve focus and attention.
10:23 What L&D can learn from Duolingo.
13:41 Auditing how you learn and lessons for L&D.
24:06 Mastering the art of focus.
31:49 Why we need to learn how to learn.
37:46 The role of sleep in learning.
47:28 The role of diet in learning.
50:30 The role of exercise in learning.
In this great article from Andrew Huberman, he speaks about ideas like increasing alertness through breathing exercises (deep breaths followed by holding your breath) or how staring at a spot for 30 seconds can prime the brain to focus.
So, we asked Carl if including these could be a quick win for L&D:
“L&D has an obligation as part of the development process to give employees the best possible chance of success… One important factor when you’re using something like this is to give the learner choice. We shouldn’t make an exercise like this a prerequisite of doing something else that’s part of the learning.”
Some people might say, why on earth are we doing this? So it might be a case of pitching why this gives you the best chance of learning effectively and communicating the value in doing it.
“One of the best ways you can experience repetitions is through Duolingo. I think it has set the benchmark when it comes to designing learning experiences. They incorporate the science of learning… they’ve got a whole team of learning scientists.”
Carl called out three key Duolingo techniques and gave us examples of how they might be used in practice:
Retrieval practice: Carl gave a great example of how he encouraged a friend to go through resources and write questions, come back a day later, and try to answer them. The idea is that you’re trying to recall what you looked at the previous day.
Spaced repetitions: Rather than three to four hour learning sessions, this is about chunking up learning into smaller batches over a number of days.
Interleaving: Instead of working on one single resource for a period of time, bring in other relevant pieces.
Gary explained to Carl how he uses the Pomodoro technique to focus for 30-40 minute periods and take breaks – which definitely should not be spent on his phone because this prevents you from mentally recharging and can reduce cognitive function.
And Carl introduced the concept of Binaural Beats which got a lot of love in the chat:
“The mechanism behind Binaural Beats is that at 40HZ, it plays a frequency in one ear and another frequency in the other. So it’s a bit like an illusion, and the brain averages out this noise. This then primes the brain for learning because it gets you really focused.”
Carl suggested using the Brain Waves app, something he does for five minutes as the warm up for longer periods of focus or learning.
“I think it’s the first step you should take when stepping into the world of learning science, and I think it’s really important for anyone who works in L&D – they should have a good understanding of how to learn.”
It’ll help you understand why some evidence-based approaches don’t work in your context. It’ll give you empathy and help understand the strategies and challenges of learning – which is incredibly useful for designing learning experiences.
“It’s like your mobile phone. Rather than keep trying to learn the apps, why not learn the operating system.”
Carl’s own journey kicked off with Barbara Oakley’s course on Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects.
“Sleep is the single most important thing when it comes to learning. When we sleep, that memory consolidation happens and your brain consolidates and strengthens memories, making it easier to recall what you’ve learned.
“And it promotes brain plasticity, which is the ability for the brain to change and adapt to new information.”
Now, L&D teams have a tricky balance to strike – yes, we want to give this advice to help people learn, but we don’t want to overstep the mark.
Carl suggested teaming up with internal wellbeing teams and initiatives because it’s coming from a part of the business where that language might be more frequently spoken.