Stella Collins, Neuroscience for Learning and Development


This book provides a good overview of brain functioning and of how the physical structures and its biochemistry is related to the psychological and behavioral elements in learning.

While there is currently a strong interest in neuroscience and lots that is published about it, Collins warns about being critical about what we read that starts with “what neuroscience says…”. As for everything that comes from scientific literature, we should be critical of whether what we are told is in fact scientifically sound or not. (Key questions to ask: Who did the research? What’s on their agenda? Where was it first published? When was it published and when else? How was the science done? What is the result saying?)

One of the key things Collins tells us about is that to learn we must first be curious. The positive feelings that come from satisfying curiosity are generated by the same mechanisms as other pleasurable experiences, such as eating a delicious piece of chocolate if you are a chocolate lover. Dopamine is released and it’s quite addictive!

Second, there has to be a way for learning “to stick” or to be remembered. This means that we have to create the right level of attention and motivation for learning to be persistent about learning. Sometimes, it means providing options to practice and repeat, in order to create new neural pathways. It is also helpful to make the learning multisensory (for all learners!). And focus is better than multitasking, of which you can remind learners that try to learn while keeping in touch with the day-to-day of their work. Other tools to help learners remember and anchor learning: linking learning to emotions, novelty, stories, smell or context. And foster creativity by helping learners to be playful and to experiment with new ideas and behaviors.

If you are a learning and development professional, chances are you use techniques and tricks that you have learned on the job, rules of thumbs acquired from others, and your “good old common sense” based on your own experience. This book looks at why some things work and some things don’t. And you might be surprised at the things that we do that are not as effective as we might think. Understanding why will make us far more effective.

Thanks to Kogan Page and NetGalley for access to a review copy of this book.


Collins, Stella. Neuroscience for Learning and Development: How to Apply Neuroscience and Psychology for Improved Learning and Training. Kogan Page, London, 2016.

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