Brain-Based Learning - New Approaches for Effective Radiation Safety Training

R.H. Johnson (Radiation Safety Academy)

Studies in neurosciences over the past ten years have provided new insights into ways the brain best learns. The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons. Learning results from the formation of pathways and patterns of interconnections among neurons. Stimulation of multiple pathways and patterns increases the potential for learning. The best learning occurs when the brain is provided with cognitive, affective, and psychomotor information at the same time. People learn better through creative acts that include thought, feeling, and physical action. Memory is enhanced when new information is related to relevant mental, emotional, or physical experience. The brain is programmed for survival and under stress it reverts to fight or flight. Thus, our emotions play a key role in what we remember. Our middle brain acts as a switchboard that filters or transmits information to our thinking brain. Information with a positive appeal is transmitted for thinking and processing. Negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or stress, may result in suppression of information, which never gets to the thinking brain. If the anxiety is high enough the thinking brain goes blank. The brain is also not naturally equipped for the typical "stand-and-deliver" approach to training. The standard "institutionalized" training that we have all experienced may actually inhibit or diminish learning. Learning is enhanced by a variety of approaches that stimulates all of the senses as well as thinking and feeling. Learning is also related to the relevance of the information or experience to the individual. Radiation safety training may be made more effective by multiple modes of instruction and reducing stress. One way to reduce stress is to make learning fun. Entertainment is a key factor. This does not always have to involve humor. It can include dramatization, surprise, and challenges to curiosity, perceptions, and understanding. Effective instruction gets the students actively involved in the learning process. This requires not only an appeal to their intellect, but also an appeal to their senses. The most effective mode of instruction is often "show-and-tell."

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