Sticky brain stuff

Professional writer, Matthew  Stibbe has a mine of useful information on his blog – including some helpful tips for learning new material.  Study skills is something that I focus on when teaching the Diploma and Advanced Certificate and concur with all Matthew’s advice.

In particular, drawing on all your senses is vital to maximising the opportunity for successful recall.  As well as the use of scent on revision cards as Matthew recommends, we’ve found that aromatherapy oils can be useful for relaxation in exam situations or when working on an assignment.

I also use music a lot in my sessions.   is one of my favourites and I never fail to play his Music for Accelerated Learning when a new class is arriving.  This helps to create a calm environment that seems to relax everyone who is nervous when starting to study.  I have also put iTunes on my new laptop, which gives me such easy access to hundreds of pieces of music – so I can select something appropriate as background music for activities, returning after breaks and so on.

 I rarely teach in “stand and deliver” mode and avoid “death by powerpoint” sessions.  We learn much more by doing than listening or reading, so I tend to draw on a variety of class exercises drawing on as many different techniques and multi-sensory experiences. 

From the feedback cards, and results, I know these techniques work – but I do recognise there are different learning styles.  Some candidates request lecture style – and although I don’t find this an effective approach, I do include a certain amount of explanation of core principles. 

The ultimate challenge though is not for me, but for the student – since learning is a cognitive process that involves, literally, changing your mind. 


  1. james higham says:

    Aromatherapy oils are a very good idea and though I don’t do that, I try to keep the atmosphere ‘ambient’ by various measures. And didactic work is right out, even in lectures.

  2. And as well as a cognitive process, it transpires that learning is also an affective set of processes, too. Meaning that unless we’re engaged emotionally in the task / content, then the neural connections aren’t thick enough to retain the learning effectively. Nice article, Heather! x

  3. That makes sense – of course, there is also a behavioural or kinesthetic aspect of learning, which is why “doing” is more important than just hearing.

    1. Definitely. Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard has identified at least 8 intelligences, or modalities of learning, of which Kino is one.

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