Neurons are the basis of all learning. It is the electrical firings and chemical messages (neurotransmitters) that run between neurons, the neural pathways, which produce our thoughts, feelings and interactions with our world.
Hebb's rule: The neurons that fire together wire together
Named after pioneering Canadian neurologist, Donald O. Hebb – one of the founding fathers of neuroscience, Hebb’s rule states that when two neurons fire together regularly or fire once with significant intensity, their connection is strengthened and they are more likely to fire together in future to the detriment of connections with other neurons.
This action forms the basis of learning.
We learn through repetition and recognition. Repetition creates well developed brain patterns (connections between neurons). Learning to drive a car is often used as a way of explaining learning in terms of moving from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. That transition from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence is about the building of new neural pathways and the more you practice the easier driving a car becomes until you don't have to think about it when you're doing it.
Some quick facts about neurons
How many neurons make a human brain? Billions fewer than we thought
Turns out we still don't really know. Interesting that the generally accepted number is 100 billion however this article refutes that. And in the video below, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young states we have 200 billion. I think the most important point for learning and development practitioners, is just to appreciate the enormity and complexity of the neurone numbers involved.
How We Learn – Synapses and Neural Pathways
The best explanation I have found about the physicality of how the brain learns comes from Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London:
When we learn, we are rewiring our brains: creating new neural pathways, reinforcing existing pathways and pruning others.
The brains ability to change in response to our experiences, its ability to learn.
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: Barbara Arrowsmith-Young at TEDxToronto:
How do you want your learners to feel?
Engaged? Enthusiastic? Energised? Confident? Willing to have a go?
When our learners come to our learning and development programs we want them to learn.
This sounds like I’m stating the obvious and I have seen many trainers and facilitators focus on the content too much and assume that the learners are in the right emotional state for learning, they’re ready to go. So they launch head first in to the content via a fairly standard opening eg these are the objectives, this is the agenda, here are the ground rules…now lets get started.
But creating a true learning environment is not as simple as that. People are emotional beings. They lead busy lives and are usually juggling multiple competing priorities.
We want to get to: the learner’s executive brain, their prefrontal cortex
Our emotional brain, the limbic system.
Our emotional brain, the limbic system, is an ancient part of the human brain.
It supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory and olfaction.
Some basics about the Limbic system:
To give learning a chance you need to make sure your learners feel safe.
They need to feel that they can admit to what they don’t know, share what they do know (be valued), be able to have their thinking challenged, feel uncomfortable some of the time (without wanting to run away) and know that they can take the risks they need to be able to learn.
Our Lizard Brain
This is the oldest part of the human brain, our most primal brain.
Controls the body’s vital functions eg heart rate, breathing, body temperatuve and balance.
It includes the main structures found in a reptiles brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum.
Our lizard brain protects us from threat and seeks reward - it helps us to decide what is significant at any point in time.
Take care of your learners lizard brain.
“Weaving stories toward global facilitation frontier”.
In recent years, wave of globalization is rapidly spreading into every corner of societies and business circles creating greater challenges and opportunities. The trend will inevitably shift the focus of facilitators’ activities to global collaboration. We facilitators will be expected to facilitate cross-border collaboration to explore new ideas/solutions by leveraging diverse views and wisdom in the world beyond traditional local paradigm. In this conference, we expect to see colorful threads of diverse cultures and methods will be woven together into stories of novel values. We hope they will be inherited to the next series of conferences to make ready for the future challenges in front.
Ohaio gozaimasu (good morning) Tokyo
Conference welcome party :)
and the conference begins...very exciting :)
English was used as the common/global language which did take me by surprise. Even though I knew there would be people form all different nationalities I had this concept that the conference would be in Japanese with an interpretor or 2..not very practical when I think about it now. I have nothing but total respect for all the participants who showed amazing abilities to discuss and grapple with complex concepts in a language that is not their first (which was most of them).
Met a journalist who was there to cover the conference - she had a particular interest in the use of English as it is one of the few times that a conference has been hosted in Japan where they haven't used Japanese as the primary language.
Ms Kimberley Bain, Chair International Association of Facilitators (IAF)
Mr Atsushi Tagashira, Chair FAJ (Facilitators Association of Japan)
Our faces which we drew of each other - I'm top right in blue :)
Everybody putting up their group drawn faces - creating the story begins with context and the people involved
A great way to start the conference - we understand why we're there, who is there, what is going to happen and a sense of how. We've spent some time starting to get to know who is in the group and already starting to understand the diversities and similarities between 180 people from 13 different countries - all passionate about the power of facilitation.
Time to head to my first workshop -
Finding Facilitators’ “Rank” through Drum Circle/Rhythm Activity, Kaoru Sasaki