Keynote: Paul McGinniss Shares Insight on Neuroscience of Learning

October 2013

The brain is a complicated organ. At a weight of three pounds, it is made up of about 75% water and consists of approximately 100 billion neurons and uses 20% of the total oxygen in your body.1

But to offer the best possible learning experiences, one must understand fundamental brain functions and limitations in relation to how they impact learning. Paul McGinniss, Director, Training and Delivery - North America for the NeuroLeadership Group, spoke about these subjects and more during his presentation entitled, “The Neuroscience of Learning: New Insights for Delivering High Impact Learning” at the 2013 National Registry Summit in Houston, TX.

According to McGinniss, there are two types of mindsets that affect learning: fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. People with fixed mindsets believe they were born smart and that we can’t change much in terms of what we learn through the years. On the opposite spectrum, those with growth mindsets are born to learn, see feedback as helpful and find the success of others as an opportunity to learn.

“A fixed mindset is about innate talent, while a growth mindset focuses on development through hard work,” said McGinniss.

Delving further into high-level brain functions, McGinniss took some time to discuss the prefrontal cortex, or as he referred to it, “the director of the brain.” The prefrontal cortex is responsible for functions that involve decision-making, understanding and recall.

Because the prefrontal cortex has so many important responsibilities, McGinniss said it burns a tremendous amount of energy and has its limitations, especially in terms of multitasking.

“Think of it like a computer that slows down when it’s running too many tasks,” he said.

McGinniss said it’s important to make sure that Sponsors utilize learning methods that help to store information so that it is able to be recalled in the long-term, and to avoid the “massing effect,” a.k.a. “cramming,” which may work in the short term, but is bad for long-term recall.

“Think about how you eat your meals,” McGinniss said. “You eat your meals spread out throughout the day, but how do we often learn? By cramming it all in at once, right? If you space things out, just like our meals, you give the brain time to digest it and hold it, so it can take it and recall it later.”

Kathy Risko, Director of Advertising Production at the Center for Professional Education, Inc., said McGinniss’ presentation was one of the highlights of the Summit.

“I felt that Paul McGinniss’ presentation was very informative and delivered in such an engaging style,” said Risko. “I have really enjoyed the presentations from the last two years on Generational Insights and Paul's Neuroscience of Learning. It is very important to understand concepts such as these to build strong teams in the workplace.”

In his presentation, McGinniss explained NeuroLeadership as the neuroscience of how leaders make decisions and solve problems, regulate emotions, collaborate with others and facilitate change. For more information on NeuroLeadership and much more, visit their website, NeuroLeadership Group.

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