How do we acquire new knowledge and skills?
We know from cognitive psychology that learning and skills development shape our personality to a large extent. This begins as early as childhood, when we absorb a lot of information in the shortest possible time, and continues throughout our entire life. Learning here means medium and long-term changes in a person’s thinking, feeling and acting that go hand in hand with various processes of memory formation (Roth & Ryba, 2018). In the narrower sense, it is a matter of neuronal change processes, whereby new memory contents are created with the help of various neurocognitive mechanisms such as attention or associations.
Declarative and procedural memory models
Squire (1987) developed an influential memory model that differentiates between declarative and procedural memory. While the declarative memory contains episodic and factual / semantic knowledge, skills such as cognitive and motor skills or habits are stored in the procedural memory. Both forms of memory are based on different neuronal structures: For declarative memory, these are the medial temporal cortex and the hippocampus, which as the “organiser” is responsible for storing and retrieving content. The hippocampus is in close interaction with the limbic system, which is our internal reward system and is significantly involved in processing emotions and motivation.
The basal ganglia and adjoining cortical structures play a crucial role in procedural memory. How we learn is therefore largely influenced by our motivation and positive emotions as a result of unconscious rewards. Certain neural structures, especially the nucleus accumbens, ensure that content that appears useful and pleasurable is most likely to be saved (Roth & Ryba, 2018). Rewarding substances are released when you call up and apply what you have learned, so that we increasingly use this new knowledge. As with other areas of life, it is also true for our brain that learning and the associated changes are exhausting and time-consuming, and are therefore usually only carried out if a corresponding reward is promised.
For a suitable implementation of learning methods, this means to build up learning so effectively, individually and above all joyfully in order to achieve the desired effect. One possibility is to design learning as a total sensory experience , whereby emotions, subjective requirements and various sensory impressions are included in the learning process. Emotions serve as anchor points, which arouse genuine interest in the learner, which has a highly beneficial effect on motivation. A positive attitude towards the learning content leads to a quick and long-term consolidation of the acquired knowledge. The subjective requirements are further possibilities of the learner and to develop the most individualised and optimally tailored content and methods. By addressing various sensory stimuli (e.g. visual, auditory, audiovisual), learning is recorded as a holistic process and promotes the acquisition of knowledge by linking options to existing knowledge.
FUN while learning
According to Schäfer (2017), the most important aspects of effective learning in adulthood can be recorded with the acronym ‘SPASS’: self-directed, productive, activating, situational and social. The individual components mean:
S – self-directed: learning processes can be designed and used individually
P – productive: learning is result-oriented and effective
A – activating: learning processes are stimulating
S – situational: learning can be adapted to the given situation
S – social: communication and exchange options support learning processes
These aspects should be a fundamental part of successful personnel development in the future. A personalised learning means employees decide the topics on which they want to work, motivating a self-directed learning. At the same time, the workplace offers a good learning environment to enable learning in an exchange – be it to work on topics with other employees, to apply knowledge directly or to support one another (transfer effect). Measures like these also have a positive impact on the culture of the company. Learning is conceptualised through company-relevant content , so that knowledge transfer is result-oriented. But how can you conceptually and methodically design learning so that further training is a profitable, continuous and sustainable part of working life?
What will future learning formats for personnel development look like?
An essential prerequisite for modern personnel development is the establishment of an open and exchange-oriented learning culture in the company, in which employees are involved and understood. The Working Out Loud concept offers a suitable method for this (WOL) and means the opportunity to let other people participate in their own work, to share results and to promote a generous use of knowledge. In addition, so-called WOL circles can be initiated, whereby ‘knowledge sharing’ is deliberately exploited and used for mutual further training. Building on such a corporate culture, personnel development should be an integral part of enabling employees to gain qualifications while working. In order to meet the changed requirements for managers and employees as well as to implement suitable learning method concepts in a targeted manner, digital learning formats are also available. Learning management systems are mainly used to manage various digital learning content and methods. On the other hand, personalised learning clouds (PLC) can be used to tailor topics and methods to the individual needs of the learner. Employees decide which skills they want to improve and adapt their learning pace and methods to their own preferences. Another advantage of learning clouds is the ability to track learning progress. Learning goals are achieved transparently and comprehensibly via processed modules or received certificates.
Regardless of the establishment of personalised learning clouds, digital learning formats offer decisive advantages over conventional personnel development measures: They are flexible in terms of time and space . Information can be called up at any time and from any place. Learning can therefore take place from anywhere – be it directly at work or at home – and be easily integrated into everyday life. In addition, content can be situation-specific and adjusted to smaller or larger learning units. Instead of a seminar lasting several days, the content can be divided into manageable units. In addition, digital formats offer a high degree of interactivity, participation and collaboration potential and thus enable knowledge to be anchored, reflected and new perspectives gained. Communication options should therefore also be given priority in digital formats. Personnel development has a wide range of digital learning formats available that take into account the company-specific context, the current development of knowledge or skills, and the individual development needs of an employee. A selection of them is briefly presented here:
Web-based training and webinars enable participation in online courses, some of which are created and hosted by well-known universities ( e.g. Harvard, Stanford, Yale). These include freely accessible Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) , which contain a combined knowledge transfer consisting of videos and reading materials on a wide variety of topics.
Learning Experience Platforms are online platforms that focus on the exchange of knowledge and exercises via messenger, Skype, and much more. put. The exercises vary depending on the learning content in their methodology (e.g. single vs. multiple choice questions, open questions, fill in the blanks, linking tasks, etc.). Online courses on various topics are also offered. Experience platforms are of great importance for personnel development measures that are based on mutual exchange such as coaching, collegial case advice, or mentoring because they offer a wide range of communication options.
Micro learnings focus on conveying and using small chunks of knowledge that can be quickly learned and implemented in everyday life. This includes podcasts, videos, blog articles, or practical exercises for everyday life.
Habit Changing Apps definitely help to change personal habits and gain a different way of dealing with them, which can have a positive effect on personal development as well as your own time management.
Virtual Realities (VR) above all offer opportunities for further technical training in technical areas and to gain “real” experience in virtual worlds, with different learning aspects being addressed simultaneously. One advantage shows up in the fun, tension and play factor, so that VRs are often perceived less than classic learning. Learners are specifically, experience-based and emotionally involved in the learning process and playfully train new strategies.
Augmented Realities (AR) combine virtual and real environments to an augmented reality perception, whereby interactions with the real reality take place in real time. In the future, AR will become more important and create previously unimaginable creative spaces.
In order for employees to be able to meet new knowledge and skills requirements in the future, suitable personnel development is required that can cope with digital change. An open corporate culture, ‘learning on the job’ and digital learning formats are essential to enable flexible and efficient learning.
Would you like to know how CoachHub can support you in times of digital transformation? Feel free to contact us .
Roth, G. & Ryba, A. (2018). Coaching, advice and brain. Neurobiological basis of effective
behavior changes. 3rd edition Stuttgart: Velcro cotta.
Schäfer, E. (2017). Lifelong learning. Findings and myths about learning in adulthood. Berlin,
Squire, LR (1987). Memory and brain. New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Author: Dr. Stefanie Regel