Learning is a process that involves your learners’ cognitive reasoning and emotional processing. But much of this is going on subconsciously, so how can you design for it and increase learner engagement? Here are five science-based hacks to amplify engagement, informed by our recent conversations with educational neuroscientist Paul Howard-Jones.
Hack 3: Give learners agency
We’ve said it before, but learning styles are an unhelpful neuromyth.
If you want to increase learner engagement, it’s far better to give people choice and agency. Agency is key to motivation, and this is a quick and easy hack to lift your programme, promote autonomy, and improve transfer.
What meaningful choices might people value? Here are some ideas:
- Choosing how to navigate the course.
- Choosing different methods of seeing the same information to vary representations and strengthen memory.
- Choosing how to tackle a challenge in a simulation or scenario.
- Self-diagnosing skills gaps and choosing topics according to personal needs and wants.
- Choosing to set aside dedicated time to use their skills through pledge-making.
Hack 5: Once upon a time…
“Reading is often seen as a passive act: we lie back and let writers pipe joy into our brains. But this is wrong. When we experience as story, our minds are churning, working hard.”
This quote from Jonathan Gottschall taken from The Storytelling Animal, describes how actively we pay attention when bewitched by a good story.
To capture people’s attention using story within learning, consider:
- Interviewing and sharing authentic colleague experiences.
- Creating videos that illuminate nuanced workplace situations, like inclusion or ethics.
- Using imagination techniques in learning production to conjure fresh ideas, like automatic writing or re-expression.
- Building interactive stories that give agency to learners with conflicts to overcome.
- Inviting user-generated stories or perspectives from a cohort.
Film developed for Weir Group using silent stories to support diversity.
See how we used stories to empower a diverse workforce at Weir Group.
Take-aways for learning leaders
Engagement is the gateway to learning. Achieving it is not about offering shiny distractions, but rather drawing people towards relevant, empowering, and connective opportunities to make meaning.
These hacks will keep your people engaged, and are especially potent for transformational learning where real change is needed:
- Include praise, points, and recognition to activate the brain’s reward centre.
- Use information hierarchy to draw attention to salient information.
- Give people agency and choice so their experience is personal and meaningful.
- Leverage social groups for idea sharing and building new representations.
- Embrace stories to captivate and encourage transfer to new contexts.