How we Learn 2: Using More Learning Science To Design Training Solutions.

Using More Learning Science To Design Training Solutions.

In a previous blog called How We Learn, we discussed 3 common learning theories and considered how they may be used to develop a blended programme. This blog looks at another three theories that can be used to create an effective blended learning programme in our organisations.

“More than 99 % of experience is fleeting, here and gone. The brain holds on to only whats relevant, useful, or interesting – or maybe so in the future”.

Benedict Carey


Learning science points to the fact that where we learn really does make a difference to how we learn. Two big lessons stand out:

We test best when we are tested in the same place as we learned. Scuba divers were sent 20 feet underwater to study 36 words. One hour later, half were tested on dry land and the other half were tested back under water. Those divers tested underwater remembered 30% more words than those tested on dry land tests concluding that recall is better if the environment of the original learning is reinstated.

But what if we are not going to be tested in the same place that we learnt in? Professors at Michigan University gave their students 40 words to learn. Some Studied in a cluttered basement room with no windows and also in a neat windowed room overlooking a courtyard. Others studied in one room only. Three hours later they were tested in a third neutral room. The results; the one room group recalled an average of 16 words, where the two room group recalled 24. A simple change in venue improved retrieval strength (memory) by 40%

Spacing Out

In 2008 Widsehart & Pasher at the University of California took 1354 people of all ages. They were given 32 obscure facts to learn e.g. ‘which European nation consumes the most spicy Mexican food? Answer Norway’.

Participants studied on separate occasions over 26 different schedules of intervals and times to test. Intervals ranging from 10 minutes to 6 months. They found the best study intervals differed depending on the time to test:

Time to test Best study interval
1 week 1-2 days
1 month 1 week
3 months 2 weeks
6 months 3 weeks
1 year 1 month


In 2006 Robert Bjork and Nate Kornell tested 72 students using a selection of landscape paintings by 12 artists. Half studied the artist one at a time, seeing one ‘Cross’ painting after another for 3 seconds each with the name of the painter below the image. Then they saw 6 paintings by the next artist. (blocked practise).

The other half saw the same paintings with artists names mixed up rather than grouped. After a distraction, they had students view 48 unstudied landscapes one at a time and then asked them to match each with its artist by clicking one of the 12 names.

The mixed (interleaved) practice group selected the correct artist 65% of the time. The block practice group selected the correct artist 50% of the time.

Understanding these and other insights from learning science enables us to build effective interactions in our training programmes. It is such science that Imanage Performance uses in the design and creation of bespoke blended learning programmes that not only engage but actually changes people for good. Contact us to find out how we could bring a new breed of blended learning solution to your organisation.