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Stimulating the senses when designing learning journeys: 5 useful tips

5 minute read

Have you ever been on a training course and after a very short space of time glazed over, become disengaged and realised that it has absolutely no relevance or cross over to your real life?

Training and development requires stimulation of the senses and must be relevant to the person or team’s real life. In other words – it must resonate and then achieve something real.

There is nothing worse than off the shelf tick box training!

There is a lot of research out there (go on Google it – you know you want to) that shows that stimulating all the senses has a profound effect on learning. If our senses are engaged to create a whole mind/body experience, we form long lasting memories and our learning is embedded into our minds at a much deeper level so that we recall and use what we’ve learnt much quicker and access it from our minds with much more ease.

As trainers/facilitators, we should use actions/activities, visual stimulus, textures, sounds, tastes and smells to create real impact with our learning journeys.

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Five things to consider when creating learning journeys:

1.      By stimulating different senses you can influence the mood in the room and create a particular state among learners. To start with this should be a relaxed and calm state that reduces any potential anxiety about the up and coming training and encourages creativity.  When the learners are aware that the environment is safe you can then start to create some energy.  When creating energy in the group – usually through some kind of energiser activity it is important to gauge the group first and as with all activities during training energisers should be relevant and in line with the core themes of the day/course/programme and not just random ‘fun’ activities (that’s not to say that they can’t be fun of course).

2.      Don’t expect all learners to be fully concentrating on you at all time during a session – generally speaking humans don’t have a great attention span. To help with this use sensory stimulation to increase learners’ concentration and ensure that they are present and fully tuned in to the learning that is taking place. Improve memory and recall by using more areas of the brain simultaneously. 

3.      Anchor the learning. Activities and tools should have relevance to the learner’s real world and they should be transferable to their own working environment. A tool that works in a comfortable room during training won’t necessarily work back in the learner’s world. Perhaps get the learners to adapt activities and discussions – they make them real. This creates very powerful learning points and gives them more control and ownership of the learning.  You don’t necessarily need to use role play to recreate or simulate real situations so that learners can connect the learning to real experiences, just make it relevant.

4.  “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, let me do it and I will understand”. So true! Aid learners’ understanding by using sensory activities to illustrate or explore a theory or topic. Don’t just talk about it – immerse them in it. Discuss a point and then show how this works in real life. Pushing people slightly out of their comfort zones helps here – activities like high ropes, problem solving and team tasks are all good for cementing key theory points but only when used as part of the learning and not just a stand-alone bit of fun.

5.      Follow up all training and development post event. Keep engaging with the learners and challenge them if they are not applying the learning to their world. If it's not working then change it.

Stimulating the senses in training shouldn’t just be a gimmick just to make training more interesting or fun but it should be an integral part of the learning that reinforces key points and have crossover to the real world of the learners.

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About the author

Dave Dayman

Dave Dayman

I'm passionate about leadership. I believe that thinking is not only the most powerful tool that we own but is also the one thing we have total control over. Sometimes we just need a little help to change the way we in which we choose to think!