If you play cards you know the importance of a trump.
A trump is a card which ranks higher than the played cards. A trump suit outranks all cards of plain suits.
Literally, a trump refers to any sort of action, authority or policy that automatically prevails over others.
The Brain’s Natural Learning Trumps
The fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience study how the brain takes in, stores, retrieves and applies information. Cognitive scientists and educators are learning new ways to apply this information. It’s that application that has lead to these learning trumps.
A learning trump card is one that reigns over more traditional and established education practices. When one strategy trumps another, it means that it is a better and more influential way of learning.
Hat tips go to author and trainer Sharon Bowman as she originally published six trumps of learning. I’ve modified some of Bowman’s trumps and added new ones.
10 Brain-Based Learning Laws That Trump Tradition
How can speakers expect their audience to remember what they say if they don’t know how people learn? These learning laws are powerful strategies that align with how our brains naturally operate and learn.
1. Brain science trumps traditional education.
Knowing how the brain naturally operates is similar to knowing the laws of driving. Could you drive without knowing the rules of the road? Sure you could! Yet, you would probably create a lot of traffic problems. And eventually cause a wreck.
The same applies to presenting to others without knowing how the human brain learns. If you do it, you increase the chance that it won’t work well. Unfortunately, the learner is the one that deals with the disaster.
2. Emotions trump facts.
For years we’ve assumed that dumping data, information and stats on audiences is in their best interest. We believe that we should separate feelings from facts and leave emotions at home.
Wrong! Neuroscience has proven that everything the brain learns is filtered through emotions. There are no exceptions. How we use emotion to aide learning determines learning’s success.
3. Talking trumps listening.
Here’s the law: the person doing the most talking during an education session is the one doing the most learning. So that’s actually the speaker.
We need to create more learning opportunities where the speaker talks for about 10 minutes and then the audience talks to each other. We talk in pairs or small groups so we can understand. We talk so we can remember. We talk so we can process.
No, not Q & A time with the presenter. Then only one person is talking and learning. Peer to peer or small group talking trumps one person asking a question any day!
4. White space trumps information dumps.
Many presenters try to cram as much information and data into their presentation as the time permits. We’ve assumed that content covered means content learned. We’ve also assumed that if we cover more content, the listener learns more.
Wrong! The amount of learning directly aligns to the amount of thinking and reflection. We need to create more white space (time for the learner to think) and less pushing of content. The more the learner is allowed to reflect, the more they learn.
5. Images trump words.
We remember images. We forget words. Why? 50%-80% of our brain’s natural processing power is devoted to processing sight. That’s more than all of our other senses. We actually see with our brains, not our eyes. Likewise, when we hear a word, our brain translates it into an image.
6. Writing trumps reading (and listening).
Most audiences have been conditioned to sit and listen and not do anything else.
We write to remember. We remember because we write. (Now insert type or text for the word write in those sentences.)
When we write or type, we are processing information. We are thinking about it and thinking increases the likelihood or retention.
7. Movement trumps sitting.
The longer an audience sits, the less they learn.
From the beginning of time, our bodies and brains were made to move. It’s in our genes. We think better when we move. For education, this means getting up and moving across the room to a new table. Finding someone you don’t know, introducing yourself and then sharing some new learning.
8. Shorter trumps longer.
Neuroscience has proven that our attention span is 10 minutes. After that, our attention starts to wane. Chunking content into ten minute segments and then allowing learners 10 minutes to digest is the best way to learn. Does this mean the three hour session is dead? Absolutely not. It’s just designed differently with lots of breaks to allow time for discussion, reflection and application.
9. Different trumps same.
We notice things that have changed. We ignore things that stay the same. Difference, novelty, uniqueness, contrast and the unexpected juice our brains. Boring is the nemesis of learning.
Example: mandating a conference branded PowerPoint template for all speakers creates an image of sameness in our audience’s minds from session to session and shuts down learning!
10. Insight trumps knowledge.
Knowing 2+2=4 is one thing. Knowing how to apply that fact is more important.
Our brains learn information by applying new knowledge to past experience. Gaining insight into how to apply a fact or research is more important to our brain than the fact. Our brains crave meaning!
Which of these learning trumps surprise you and why? Which ones could easily be applied in your next education program?