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“Engage the brain in the way you train”

As the recession starts to lift and business growth starts to blossom, it is more important than ever to make sure that investment in skills development makes a real difference to the bottom line.

Helen Ashton, Head of Learning and Development at Stratford based First Class learning and development, is an ambassador for “Brain Friendly” learning and we wanted to pick her brain about what it really means and the benefits to business.

Scientific studies demonstrate that effective linking of the different systems of the brain during the learning process improves the transfer of knowledge into long term memory. Brain-friendly learning techniques are designed to maximise this advantage.

She says that “the main consideration is to make sure that workshops are designed with the learner as the main focus and to cater for the different ways individuals’ learn; that way you don’t waste time and money training and retraining

We all need to take in information through our senses and for the majority, seeing, hearing and feeling are dominant and opportunities to use these senses should be built into materials, exercises and activities when designing any learning event”.

She suggests stimulating the senses by having displays on the walls, using music and encouraging regular movement during training sessions. She also advocates use of colourful scented pens, fresh flowers and brain friendly snacks and meals.

To fuel our brains, we need good glucose in the bloodstream at all times so encourage people to eat high quality, slow release foods and fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, cheese or vegan vegetarian alternatives, nuts, pulses, grains, beans, etc in moderation. The body is approx 70% water, which transports nutrients to the brain so plentiful supplies of water are essential for concentration.

Getting the meeting environment right is a great start to promote concentration, alertness and productivity. Make sure there is plenty of natural daylight, fresh air and space for participants to move around the room. If possible build in opportunities to go outside during workshops.

Get people motivated and thinking about what they will be learning before the training by sending out an invitation, information and questionnaire about what they would like to achieve from the workshop. This is a great way to warm up the brain to search for the relevant information on the day. Have a clear agenda and lots of different parts to the event too as the brain works better around structure. Memory is assisted by lots of beginnings, endings and time for reflection on what has been learnt. Using different parts of the room for different activities encourages group interaction and improves individuals’ memories, so make sure you have plenty of space.

Taking people out of work to take part in training is expensive so you have to ensure that the training your people receive is designed to be the most effective and efficient – so they come back to work having learned what they need and more importantly being able to implement it immediately.

The hotel of choice for the Midland’s Brain Friendly Learning Group is the Stratford Manor where quarterly meetings are hosted by First Class learning and development.

Membership is free, just sign up at http://www.brainfriendlylearninggroup.com/welcome-to-the-bflg-midlands/ to receive details about quarterly sessions or join the Brain friendly Group on Linked In. There will also be a 3 day programme  “How to be a Brain Friendly Trainer” running in Stratford upon Avon 22-24 April.

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