How We Learn: Context Changes Perspective

10 Jul
2020

Placing facts in context makes them more important to the learner. It gives the content relevance. Context lets learners connect concepts, and relate them to their own real world experiences, making it “easier to translate to the workplace” according to Nigel Paine, corporate learning expert and author of the The Learning Challenge.

As we have learned previously, the brain tries to fill in the blanks of patterns, and because of that, context should be given up front. Dr Conrad Gotfriedson, learning strategist and author of Innovative Performance Support: Strategies and Practices for Learning in the Workflow says that “Context is a fundamental way that we store and retrieve learning. We need to be intentional in contextual learning. We don’t want to encode information in one context and then ask the learner to retrieve it in a different context. An example of challenging retrieval is to ask someone to “recite the alphabet backwards, every third letter.

Contextual triggers can associate key content points with the learner’s environment that will trigger a connection with the content in the future.

Another context-based learning technique is context switching. According to Dr Karl Kapp, professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University, expert on the convergence of learning, technology, games & game-thinking, and author of Microlearning: Short and Sweet, “you canhelp learners break through perceived constraints and eliminate barriers from consideration to highlight what the user really wants’ by asking questions that are seemingly irrelevant to switch context.Context switching helps learners forget the problem at hand, which has been shown to lead to cognitive breakthroughs . . . “Who’s your favorite artist?” Introducing a new idea or subject and then asking how the two issues relate may also spark a creative idea.”

So if you want it to stick remember, place facts in context makes them more important to the learner.

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What is A Learning Journey? Since 1995 I’ve collected a vast amount of information from learning leaders, educators, scientists, etc. on the topic of learning and development. Consolidating these notes collected from conversations, books, conferences, articles and white papers, and sharing my learning journey as A Learning Journey made sense. Thus the series was born. I hope you find the information valuable.

Craig Dadoly
author

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