Is there a single piece of scientific research that ‘proves’ that brain friendly learning is the best way to train? Of course not – it’s a bit like asking is there a single piece of research to prove how many stars are in the sky or why small children like ice-cream.
There is a mass of research backing up the principles, plenty of research that can be made to fit whatever theory you hold dear and, conversely, there may be things you do because they work, but, as yet, there is no reliable evidence to back them up.
So what’s a responsible trainer to do when faced with an overwhelming amount of scientific research, not enough time to assess it and people asking you to ‘prove it’?
Some of the challenges of using research are:
• assessing which pieces relate to what you do and which don’t
• reading some of the academic literature can be very daunting
• what to do with it once you know about it
If you’re going to use brain based research to increase your credibility then I highly recommend you read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science first which helps you to assess what’s good science and what’s not. It is very likely to challenge some of your assumptions or beliefs though so be prepared – he takes no prisoners.
Avoid looking for ‘the one true answer’ – real research evolves, changes and builds on previous research, sometimes overturning it completely. You need to reassess regularly, question what you find out and check against all the data.
Keep an open mind – if the evidence seems to change then you may have to change your practice or your reasons for doing something.
Take a pragmatic approach – if something seems to be effective for your learners keep doing it. Research sometimes just confirms what you’ve always known intuitively.
Research articles straight from academia can be very daunting so make use of resources that have done some of the work for you. Use reliable sources like New Scientist; the British Psychological Society research digest or books that round up much of the research such as Brain Rules, Make your Brain Work, Mapping the Mind and Your Brain at Work.
Sometimes you’ll find out some great information but then you wonder what to do with it practically – how do you, as a trainer, apply what the research says? Work with other people who have a similar approach, network in groups, experiment or go on a practical training course such as www.howtobeabrainfriendlytrainer.com