I decided to try a little experiment with the group, and divided them into 3 groups. Each group was asked to list as many facts about oranges as they could think of...
A couple of hours later, at the end of the workshop, I gave the groups 5 minutes to recall as many of the orange facts that they had generated earlier. The groups which didn't have the multi-sensory orange experience recalled 17 facts each, but the group who had had all their senses stimulated recalled 33 facts in the time available. In fact they were remembering the facts so quickly that all members of the group had to write them down in order to keep up!
Now I'm not a scientist and this may not be the most scientific experiment ever, but I like to think that it clearly illustrated the point that when all the senses are engaged, people are able to generate ideas and information more quickly, locate memories and experiences more easily, and remember and recall information more effectively, all of which create better learning.
As well as experimenting, we explored the different ways in which we can use the senses to improve learning. We did this using Human PowerPoint, where volunteers mime the information rather than having Powerpoint slides (see details on the "5 Ways to Have More Fun at Work - and still get the job done! resource on our free resources page).
As trainers we can use visuals, textures, sounds, tastes and smells to:
- Influence the mood or create a particular state among learners (for example relaxed and calm, or creative and energised)
- Increase learners’ concentration and heighten or maintain their alertness
- Increase learners’ awareness of the surroundings and their experiences
- Anchor learning (by associating different smells, sights, tastes, sounds, touch sensations or movements with different facts or learning points)
- Improve memory and recall by using more areas of the brain simultaneously
- Recreate or simulate real situations so that learners can connect the learning to real experiences
With this in mind, we went on to generate lots of ideas for different ways to engage all the senses when delivering training. Huge thanks to the Brain Friendly Learning Group for making me so welcome and for coming up with so many ideas. I've used these, plus a whole load of ideas and tips of my own to create a new free resource: 72 Ways to Make Learning Multi-Sensory. You can download this from our Free Resources pages (in the Learning and Training Resources section), so do help yourself, try out some of the ideas, share them with your fellow trainers, and let us know how it went. Please share your own ideas and suggestions with us too - we'd love to hear them and try them out.
Stella Collins (who runs the Brain Friendly Learning Group) has also blogged about the workshop - read her perspective on it here.