Neuroscience Insights For Instructional Design

Let’s revise The Neuroscience Insights

We have all heard the saying that children are like mushrooms that absorb every new bit of information thrown at them. In fact, the average two-year-old has about twice as many synapses (the points where neurons communicate with each other) as the average adult. However, the ability of adults to learn should not be ruled out. Despite the lack of expression about adult learning, neuroscientific studies have shown that neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and grow, lasts throughout human life.

Of course, the brain’s ability to learn and maintain new things decreases slightly with age, but there are ways to make learning plans that can help remedy this. Neuroscience studies can give us some insight into the best ways to create an effective learning environment for students of all ages.

Neuroscientific insights into the ideal learning environment

Despite what we may say about ourselves in job interviews, we as a species are not good multitaskers. Several studies have shown that when just one extra task is added to what we are currently working on, our accuracy and efficiency suffer for it. This applies to both the world of work and the academic world.

Try to keep a simple and neat learning environment, free of distractions for the students, to keep their attention on the material. This can be difficult in this age of online learning, with students in all sorts of different environments. But things like keeping some sort of visual on screen to keep up with, and getting students involved in activities, can help remedy this kind of setback. When designing lessons, it is important to keep them closely focused on the target material with elements that allow students to concentrate on one task at a time.

The experiential element of learning

A perhaps more commonly overlooked element in the course structure, the learning environment itself can play a significant role in the learning process. Neuroscientific studies have shown that the brain learns best by utilizing both experiential and environmental factors. Even more important than the environment is the experiential element of learning. Giving context to the target material can help students maintain the new information in their minds. Neuroscience research has shown that when a student can find or create meaning in the new material based on their previous knowledge, they are better able to remember the new material.

When creating lessons, find a way to attach new information to things that students already know or have already experienced in their daily lives. Incorporates elements that allow students to manipulate the information or interpret it from different perspectives, and encourage “trial and error” learning. By giving students the opportunity to connect and experiment with the target material, you ensure that they truly understand and retain the information.

Neuroscience insight on learning and emotions

Neuroscience research tells us that one of the most crucial building blocks for successful learning is emotions. Helping the student connect information they already know with the new information is an important first step, but finding a way to help them connect with the material emotionally ensures that they will remember it. This can be done in a number of different ways.

Using humor in teaching has proven to be an effective way to help students connect to the material emotionally. Studies have shown that adding humor, even simply in the form of memes and little jokes, can improve students’ engagement and the overall recall of the material they have learned. Another study found that evoking emotions through the use of vibrant colors, sound effects, and anthropomorphized characters helped students retain and utilize the learning material better than their peers in learning the same information in a neutral environment. Spending a little extra time adding these types of elements to a lesson plan can prove to be very effective in helping students learn the material.


In the age of standardized testing, much of our learning material is true. This type of learning is based on learning the “right” answers to more rigid questions, and is often referred to as “teaching for the test.” But neuroscience research continues to show that this is not the most effective way to teach. Non-verbal learning, such as looking at information from multiple perspectives and using skills such as reflection and interpretation, helps students connect to the material and retain the information over time. When designing courses, we should strive to keep it focused and make it related to our students.


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