4 Learning Brain Insights

Interview Snips from University of Wisconsin Madison

How does the learning process map to learning design? Should we be using more video in our training programs? What’s the secret of learning engagement?


These were a few of the questions posed to me during an interview at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. And now you can check out four of the learning brain insights I shared to inspire your designs.



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2 thoughts on “4 Learning Brain Insights

  1. Fantastic insights, Tracy. Thanks so much. I really relate to the scaffolding metaphor. When I teach I usually require my “students” (adult learners) to go through each module in order. They literally can’t attend the next week’s live webinar unless they have completed the previous week’s quiz. Am I being too hard-ass? I just find that it holds the class back, and sort of disrepects the learning process, if people are asking questions that show they didn’t study the previous week’s material. What do you think? It’s hard to know the right mix, but the goal is exactly what you say — scaffolding! Thanks again for all you do. ~Lance

    • Hey Lance – thanks for your comments! I love your question because it teases out a very important tension in learning design: Where do we allow learner autonomy and where do we impose structure? I think of those components not as on/off switches, but volume knobs you can dial up and down. We need some of both. We make the best choices for how much of each when we understand our learners. Are they novice, intermediate, or expert on this topic? Our novice learners will require the most structure and sequencing as they are scaffolding brand new concepts. Allowing opportunities to try and apply along the way offers discovery, choice, and confidence that adult learners crave. Intermediate learners have some sheet rock up, but learning structures that contrasts what they know with what they will need to know to complete their understanding are helpful for picking up where they left off and gaining momentum. Allowing safe choices to experiment with what they do know and solving problems just out of reach are engaging and sticky. Experts need orientation, but a lot less structure. They want to quickly identify what’s new compared to their already well developed critical understanding of the subject so they can enhance their knowledge and practice. Our experts require the most autonomy. Another critical factor is the complexity of the content. What are the risks with the content if we jump out of sequence? What skills can be mastered concurrently and which must be mastered sequentially – because they naturally build upon one another? Clearly, you’ve sparked the learning design geek in me with your question. But I think being a hard-ass may be appropriate if you’re designing for novice learners acquiring technical content. And in the end, they’ll likely thank you for it! 🙂