May 2014
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TD Magazine

Designing Learning With the Brain in Mind

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The brain is made up of some 100 billion neurons that transmit chemical and electrical signals. These signals fire a chemical across gaps called synapses, and it's in these synapses that much of the brain's activity occurs. And it is where learning takes place that trainers need to focus their efforts.

In the May 2014 Infoline, "Memory and Cognition in Learning," Jonathan Halls presents brain-based principles for training professionals to consider when designing learning activities.


Plan activities and interactions that help create mental models. The more individuals engage with knowledge, the more they remember it. Plan regular exercises that recap what learners have been taught, and give them opportunities to refine it.

Plan for social learning. Design group activities during which learners are learning from one another.

Allow for flexibility in your sessions. This allows you to personalize your delivery method and respond to the individual learners.


Use visual aids to enhance learning. Create posters for walls, for example, that are primarily visual rather than word-based. Encourage participants to doodle and draw visuals that explain their ideas.

Create workbooks that reinforce learning. Workbooks can aid with repetition. Short summaries followed by key bullet points to which learners need to add information allow them to write down what they've learned.

These tips were adapted from the May 2014 Infoline, "Memory and Cognition in Learning." For more information, go to

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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