Brain friendly learning – Method in the seeming madness!

Things were always seen to be a bit “different” in my workshops; like a group planting seeds on an away day, planning for the future.  Then I came across brain friendly learning – the answer to why my different methods got results.  Up until then it had been intuitive and now I could put a name to it.  I had a process that explained the “method in the seeming madness” which delivered results.

 Brain friendly learning is a set of principles for the design and delivery of learning, supported by science and research.  It links neuroscience and our naturally, creative nature with a process for accelerating learning.  Learning is designed to be  more natural and you help people remember it more easily.  If they remember the learning they can use it work.  We, and colleagues in the Brain Friendly Learning Group (, see the fruits of this all the time.

 There are a number of accelerated learning models but we use Colin Rose’s MASTER model.  His book Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century outlines the detail of the 6 stages of the MASTER process.  These are- Motivate, Absorb, Search for meaning, Trigger memory, Exhibit, Review and reflect.  Our experience of having a design and delivery model means my clients and I know every part of a session is working to meet the outcomes.  That there is “method in the seeming madness”.

 In reality it means learners are ready to learn when they start and stay motivated.  Sessions are full of opportunities for each person to create learning for themselves rather than being spoon-fed.  I liken this to my Mum sending me to a dictionary with the first few letters when I couldn’t spell a word; actively looking for the answer helps it stick.  We meet different preferences for learning because sessions are multi-sensory and have activities that include a range of the multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner – Intelligence Reframed).  As a result, topics are relevant and valuable to people.  We use it for health and safety training, minute taking, management skills, attendance management, team updates, procedure reviews and more.

 “Helen how do you get them to put things into practise?”.  The “R” in MASTER is for “review and reflect”; the often neglected part of ‘training’ because everyone’s in a hurry.  The neuroscience says that permanent, long term memories come from revisiting the learning and research suggests you need to do this up to 7 times.  We do it – 10 minutes after the learning and at the end of a session.  We then send quick reminders the next day, 1 week later, 1 month, 3 months and 6 months later.  It only needs to be 3 – 5 minutes each time to create “hard wired” and faster to reach memories.  The quicker and easier the learning is recalled the more it will be used, until it becomes a natural way of working. 

 Everyone wants value for money from training, but I think value is more about what you get for your money than the cost.  Learning and development is about so much more than the quality of the lunch.  True value for money for my clients means people doing things differently back at work – interviewing with more confidence, doing return-to-work interviews and improving attendance, being able to create and use excel spreadsheets, delivering great presentations, doing health and safety risk assessments with a smile and more. 

Using the brain friendly learning principles for designing and delivering training gives reassurance to clients and helps people make that difference in their organisation.

Join us on Friday 17 October at the Midlands Brain Friendly Learning Group when I will be leading a session on the “R” Review and reflect, of the MASTER model.  Look forward to seeing you.

(First published in Coventry and Warwickshire CIPD July 2014 Newsletter)