Building the Bridge to Performance in the Brain

Isn’t it interesting that neuroscience has become a buzz topic of the L&D space? The brain itself has always been a part of learning and yet there has been a resurgence of research regarding learning, memory and cognitive approaches in neuroscience. There are many neuroscience tools that we can use to assist us in designing better learning and I find that the best come from science, not vendors trying to sell you neuroscience. Read on.

Everlasting performance

Knowledge retention is a huge factor when designing learning. It can become a challenge because we have to come up with ways for successful knowledge transfer. There needs to be techniques that shorten the transfer rate from learning to application. Once employees retain this information, it can be retrieved quickly when they need it to perform. Thanks to science we can rely on some cognitive learning strategies that can be applied to the learning solutions we are creating.

Repeated Retrieval

This is an approach where learners will recall information from memory. The learner does this a few times to help strengthen the connection of the information stored in memory. This allows the curve of forgetting to become more gentle.  An example of this is bite sized pieces of Q&A being sent to learners to reinforce what they learned. This enables them to practice retrieving the information while they are in their jobs rather then taking them out of the contextual environment. This could be an app on their mobile device or even an email to them.

Duolingo is an app that does this very well. It starts out the learning with an assessment and asks questions upfront and based on the answer either moves them to the next question or provides them with remedial training until they are successful. It also requires them to use the language in all modalities, speech, reading and writing for full comprehension.

The Spacing Effect

Also known as spaced practice, this proven method has a learner review the same information or slight increase of information in specific period of time. We all know how cramming is the college method, this is the antithesis of that. I have seen many solutions where the learner is given short bursts of information for as little as 5 minutes a day. Then the next burst will be the same information to help strengthen that connection so it can be stored into long term memory. This also allows the learning to be embedded into their work day, keeping them in context.


The process of reflection allows learners to stop and digest the information they were given to learn. So perhaps after taking that elearning course or session they will be given time to review what they learned but also will create their own understanding of it as it resonates with them. When you can understand something in your own way, there is better encoding of the information. It’s easier to retain your own understanding than someone else’s because you’ve re-wired to your brain.

These are a just a few of the areas that I am working on implementing into my work everyday. I continue to do research on various neuroscience topics in the areas of memory, learning, cognitive load, and theories.