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Are You in the Correct Brain Space to Learn?

Do you know about neuroplasticity?

Previously, it was believed that only the young brain was plastic during certain critical growth periods in childhood. But scientific research proved that wrong.

Your brain can be rewired, changing, and learning new things. Many of us believe that the brain stops developing after a certain age. A myth that has led to generations of older workers being dismissed as inflexible or untrainable. Some trainers have given less than their best efforts toward older workers for the same reason. Why bother? They aren’t capable of learning new things in the same way.

Nope. Anyone is capable of learning. We need to set ourselves up to take advantage of this ability. The article I linked above mentions some of the things we can do, like:

  • Pay deliberate attention
  • Rest and take breaks
  • Make mistakes, and accept mistakes as part of learning
  • Embrace the frustration

As a trainer, I was reading the article thinking not only of how to prepare my brain to learn something new but also to consider how we design training and whether we should also be considering the impact that could have on the ability of our learners to take advantage of neuroplasticity. We can’t control everything, but there are some small things we should consider. How many of us take a break every 90 minutes? How many of us design training to allow our learners to repeat processes and make mistakes during class? How many of us do everything we can to eliminate distractions?

In a virtual world, eliminating distractions could be impossible. There will be distractions when our learners sit at their computers during the workday. We can, however, commit not to add to them. Consider the many ways we do that create distractions. What’s in your background? Does anyone need to be on camera?

As a learner, we should be doing everything we can to give ourselves a better chance to change our brains when trying to learn new skills. Learning about neuroplasticity and the best way to encourage that brain state would be a good place to start and then move on with our lifetime of learning.

Because we all need to be lifelong learners if we’re going to keep up with technological changes and our work.

For additional reading, check out Scott Young’s post – Why Do People (Usually) Learn Less as They Get Older?

Updated to add another link for more – Building a better brain through music, dance and poetry

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