How We Learn

How We Learn

Do you ever think about how you learned what you know today?

By Dan Roy

I recently reflected on how I used flash cards to learn my multiplication tables when I was young, and today I see children using calculators instead. I laugh because when I started my freshman year of engineering school, I learned how to use a slide ruler to perform multiplication, exponents, logarithms, and square roots. Back then, Texas Instruments had just marketed a handheld scientific calculator, but my college would not allow us to use them for exams because everybody could not afford one. Thankfully, that changed as I progressed through the program. I was able to get a state-of-the-art Texas Instruments SR-51 calculator and thought I had struck gold. When you look back at the functions of the SR-51 versus the functions of today’s calculators and personal computers, it is amazing to see how far technology has advanced the tools to help us learn.

Technology has also advanced our ability to learn new skill applications at work and home. After graduating college with my engineering degree, I was able to learn the operation of a nuclear plant by using a full-scale simulator to obtain my Senior Reactor Operator (SRO) license. I thought, “What a great way to get hands-on application experience without using the actual controls of a real power plant.” For attempting home projects, I remember talking to the home-repair experts at the local hardware store to determine how to accomplish a DIY project. So many of those projects would then turn into a trial-by-error debacle followed by my wife asking, “Why didn’t you just hire a professional?” Today, my three grown sons use Google and YouTube to do home projects with no real quality issues. They can see very detailed step-by-step videos, ask questions related to problems they encounter, and then usually complete the job successfully. I am sure the trades professionals wish that were not the case.

As a career training professional, I learned a lot about the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) and the five steps of ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation) to develop training programs. I also gained an understanding of the three domains of learning: affective, cognitive, and psychomotor. My understanding of foundational training processes enabled me to see how I had been able to obtain an SRO license and work successfully in the control room of a commercial nuclear power plant. I learned the value of that very structured training approach as I took on new job challenges. I also learned to truly appreciate how my technical career was shaped and influenced by so many training professionals who used the right approach and application to help me learn.

As I advanced in my career, modern technology and innovation furthered the training I was receiving and giving as an Operations Training Instructor. New technologies helped us improve the learning environment in all three learning domains. The arrival of personal computers, programs, and applications designed to assist me in completing my instructor assignments had transformed the workplace. Thank you, Microsoft®, for Word® and PowerPoint®. High-quality cameras and sound systems were then installed in the simulator, capturing live crew interactions and performance, so we could provide comprehensive simulator critiques for the operators. Every couple of years, we reevaluated and took innovative steps to improve the training environment. Benchmarking enabled us to see what new techniques could be leveraged to enhance our training programs as a site or fleet.

Recently, Accelerant Solutions added a new staff member, Jessika Hernandez, to support our Innovation and Training areas. Jessika possesses a strong background in education and understands how people learn. Her expertise will help us leverage technologies and processes to support our clients’ needs. Recently, Jessika shared some of her perspectives on the science of how we learn as individuals and within groups with the Accelerant team. Here are some of her thoughts on how we can continue to grow our industry training programs through innovation and with new approaches to learning.

By Jessika Hernandez

I taught high school science and loved it. I wanted to motivate my students to question everything, and I celebrated every failure (with confused looks from my students) because I knew it would inspire innovative thought. I admit my enthusiasm ruffled some feathers because I wanted to do numerous labs, make messes, break instruction for the occasional two-minute dance party, and allow my students to choose ways to demonstrate content knowledge rather than take a traditional test. My track record in standardized state testing was impressive because my students had autonomy and were invested in their education. They learned testing strategies and critical thinking skills in addition to content. It is my goal to share my love of science and coach others to think for themselves.

The events of last year, no matter where you are in the world, forced most industries to reevaluate and innovate, including education and training. Current research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience tells us that we can learn anything. The pandemic forced us to test theories about learning, and we are discovering that the traditional methods of instruction and training have been obstructing potential. It is time to evolve and implement new techniques.

The training instructors at Accelerant Solutions are familiar with different types of learning and the varying levels of retention through the use of our senses. This is critical, but not in the way most people think. When considering the senses as they apply to education and training, most people think of learning methods (visual, verbal, aural, kinesthetic, logical, social, and solitary) and then pick the option they feel is the most effective way for them to learn. That is the myth anyways.

Learning methods are not a prescription for how you should learn. When students and trainees are exercising their senses, they are experiencing learning, rather than having learning happen to them. In fact, a strict adherence to just one or two teaching techniques can prohibit or diminish an individual’s capacity to learn. In addition, research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience also suggests that the three domains of learning — affective, cognitive and psychomotor — should influence curriculum design due to their profound effect on knowledge retention. Instructors need to understand how the brain learns and apply that insight to training implementation.

With this new view on learning, Accelerant Solutions has developed a process, BUILD (Blended Use of Innovative Learning Delivery), to answer the call for new industry teaching and training. We have integrated the SAT process and research in education, based on cognitive psychology and neuroscience, to create a completely customizable and blended solution. Instructors now have a unique opportunity to not only teach, but to also coach their students and trainees through problem solving, critical thinking, and troubleshooting.

If you would like to hear more about our training products and services, please contact us today at hello@discoveraccelerant.com or go to our website at www.discoveraccelerant.com.

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