Learning Science - Enabling Active Learning Strategies

The science of learning has much to teach us about the way humans – and the human brain – learn best.

It brings together research from neuroscience, education, psychology and other disciplines to provide a more complete picture of how learning really happens.

We are deeply committed to continually growing our knowledge in these fields of study in order to inform the most effective designs possible.

Learning – what the science tells us

Learning occurs when we are motivated to learn, when information builds on what we already know, and when this knowledge is consolidated. We can think of these processes as ‘engage’, ‘build’ and ‘consolidate’.


Engaging learners

The brain’s reward system, the amygdala and the hippocampus, are involved in engagement – how we respond to cues to learn. For example, if we perceive that the training will be boring before we have already started, we create an avoidance response, which inhibits our ability to take on new information.

By contrast, if we leverage novelty, anticipation of rewards and social recognition, this creates an approach response which can help focus attentiveness on our learning.

At Sponge, we use this knowledge to inform our design:

  • We build games which provide anticipation of reward, increasing engagement
  • We create company-wide leaderboards to provide social recognition
  • We tell useful stories to pique curiosity, allowing the brain to focus on novel information


Building knowledge

This learning process takes place in the frontal cortex which is where we do our conscious thinking and mental processing and is linked to so-called working memory.

New concepts build on existing ones and we must devise ways to connect what is known and what needs to be known in order to provide relevant new information. For adults, this is extremely important, as we often already have a cache of prior experience.

Learning new information is effortful, requiring concentration and attention and we have a limited capacity to process information.

We advocate using techniques that promote knowledge building, such as:

  • Working with Subject Experts to distil training messages to reduce cognitive load
  • Minimising distractions or superfluous material that could detract from the message
  • Using quizzes and diagnostics to assess current knowledge and tailor content accordingly



New information is highly susceptible to being forgotten. In essence, if you don’t use it, you lose it. We need our working memory to be free to take on new information. Consolidation is how we move knowledge from the frontal cortex to other areas of the brain to make space.

Here at Sponge, we believe much more attention should be paid to consolidation. Why? Because this is the process that builds permanent knowledge that can be accessed more easily and quickly, less consciously and, eventually, automatically.

Our solutions address and support consolidation. For example:

  • Spacing learning with practice opportunities to force recall and strengthen memory
  • Delivering campaigns that structure refresher learning into their design
  • Creating contextual practice scenarios that require thoughtful application of new knowledge

Effective learning leads to results

Applying evidence based strategies to learning design improves the efficacy of our solutions leading to better ROI and business results. See our work for examples of the science applied and the results we've achieved.

Want to use science for better learning?

Let's talk learning science today

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