The Factors Damping Your Learning Potential and How to Control Them.
November, 15 2022
How many factors do you think impact learning? Have you ever felt like you learn better under certain conditions? Well, you do. So does everyone else. Here's how and why.
There is so much that goes into learning than just the content. Yet learning necessities can often be overlooked at something simply out of your control. While some are, it is vital to do everything you can to maximize your learning environment. Your training is an investment that varies depending on numerous factors that you should consider before you begin attempting to train.
What’s out of your control
These factors are key in the effectiveness of learning, and while you might not be able to control them, you can certainly encourage or plan around them.
Sleep is a requirement for most (if not all) brain functions and learning is no different. It is estimated that, without sleeping, the ability to learn new things can drop up to 40%. Not only does it affect the next day, but sleep is crucial for the digestion of thing learnt the previous day as well.
While you can’t force learners to go to sleep, you can always encourage it. Maybe before you set someone up for training ask them how much sleep they got last night and, if it is not enough, then push them off to the next day.
Exercise not only help your body, but it also has a plethora of benefits for your brain too. The reasoning is this: the more you exercise the more oxygen your cells are getting—including brain cells. Therefore, your body (and brain) are getting flooded with fresh energy while toxins are being removed.
Like sleep, you can’t force learners to exercise, but you can always teach them the benefits of it. You could sprinkle in breaks throughout training to encourage movement even if it is just walking around.
Given that what we eat directly effects how we are going to function, learning is also affected by it too. For the best results, learners should be eating foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, fiber, and water, lots of water.
Again, no way to influence what your learners do with themselves at home, but this one is easier to encourage by having those different types of food and water during the training. Ditch the cheap dozen donuts, no matter how good they are.
Motivation is a slippery thing to harness in your organization and it’ll impact how effective your training is. The best way to manage this is making sure all the above are met (after all, think about how sleep affects your motivation), while offering incentives that go beyond just completely it.
What you can control
Now we’ll focus on the influencing aspects of learning that one can control either in-person or online.
Cultivating a learning environment involves things like cutting down on distractions, having a specific space for it, and having resources available. If you’re training in person, this is a relatively easy requirement to fulfill; however, it gets much more difficult if you train remotely.
The most obvious answer is to first teach your learners about what environments are conducive to effective learning, but you cannot be sure that they will act on that information. So, what can you do? Virtual environments are still environments, as such, you should try to only have relevant content within the course itself. Doing so will limit how many opportunities your learner can be distracted. To have a specific space online means that they do not have direct access to other non-learning related functions. The degree of separation can be judged by the number of clicks (or steps) your learner would have to go through to leave, the higher the amount, the better. As for access to materials, make sure that learners can easily take notes, flash cards, or other common learning practices.
The relationship that a learner has with their instructor will influence how the engage with the learning content (while also affecting motivation). Do they like their instructor or maybe they’re cautious around them? Establish a relationship built on respect and encouragement to experiment. Take the time to introduce yourself and encourage your learners to do the same. If your learners are online, schedule some in-person or virtual group sessions.
An organization’s culture has a major impact on the how willing the people are willing to treat learning. If the senior members of your team don’t care for learning or shun it, then new members are likely to develop those same behaviors. All of this leads to deep-rooted motivation issues and, in its worst form, can lead to complete dismissals.
I’ve written before about how to develop a learning culture, so I won’t go too in-depth here, but (some of) the major points are: encourage failure, make learning accessible whenever, and promoting discussions among members. Just remember that building a learning culture is going to take much longer than every other aspect on this list.
Of course, you can control the content that your learners consume. It may be easy to find many different reasons why training isn’t going as well as it could, but the content itself is the foundation of those problems. Track metrics and take surveys, as both will allow you to gleam valuable insights to how engaging your content is.
The Complexity of Learning
Learning may not seem like a complex thing, it’s akin to breathing, for a lot of people it just happens; however, like every other innate function, there’s so much hidden complexity. Having just one-piece missing can drastically impact effectiveness, so it is imperative to mitigate losing those pieces as much as possible.
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