Tip #1 for Making Learning Stick: Take care of basic needs

Brain science tells us that we learn better when we feel safe and when our basic needs are attended to. That’s because feeling safe and comfortable allows us to operate from the pre-frontal cortex (our control center where information is synthesized) rather than an overwhelmed or “popped” limbic system  (our flight, fright, or freeze switch). In other words, a relaxed brain is a learning brain.

How does this translate to adult education settings? Here are examples of what goes on in learners’ heads, followed by lessons I’ve learned (mostly the hard way!):

  1. “I’m freezing/I’m steaming!” If you’re training in-person, set the temperature in the room at a comfortable level and monitor it. As time passes, you will probably feel warmer than anyone else, so beware of freezing people to their seats.
  2. “I’ve gotta now! Cover logistics at the start, including locations of the nearest restrooms and drinking fountain if you are on site. Allow for respites at regular intervals. If you’re okay with people stepping away when nature calls, say so up front.
  3. “What’s coming next?!” You know that part at the beginning where the trainer reviews the agenda and the list of “by the end of this session…” learning goals? That’s not just there to give you a chance to test the audio or relax your nerves. It also informs your attendees how gauge their energy, and establishes a connection between them and the content.


So you’ve got this, right? Temperature control, respites, agenda. Now, relax.

What’s next?

  • Leave a comment below to agree, disagree, make a suggestion, ask a question…
  • For more on brain science and education, see The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education
  • Next up in the series on Making Learning Stick: Appealing to a variety of styles.

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