How do I learn

Challenge cycles

Important neuroscience theories about human learning corroborate important recent work in learning theory.

In this site, we apply these theories to the way you are taught about neuroscience. Because there are many of these theories, and several have to work together to produce rich, enjoyable learning, we’ve create d a model called the challenge cycle which is the structure for each lesson. Here is a basic representation of the challenge cycle:


Part 1: The challenge

Every good story starts with a hook – something the protagonist has to overcome.

In the case of the challenge cycle, you are the protagonist, and framing your thinking in a story, in some challenge you have to overcome, will help you understand the real-world implications of your learning. The connections between the abstract principles you will encounter are in these challenges, and the real-life enrichment that you can achieve will strengthen your learning is here too!

Keep in mind: Starting with a challenge may make you a little more confused at first – it may help you understand where you are ignorant. This is good, and need not be public. It can be uncomfortable – persevere! This temporary discomfort will lead to better learning.

Part 2: Initial thoughts

Stating your understanding before learning makes learning more memorable and useful.

You may think, now that you’ve been challenged, you can just jump straight into research. However, strong in-depth research by learning scientists has uncovered a curious fact – you’ll learn better (and change misconceptions) if you state your own thoughts before you start researching! In this part of the cycle, you aren’t expected to have cogent or expert thoughts – you can even put forward hypotheses, what you think you might find! Just the practice of putting an idea out there will provide better, stronger learning.

Part 3: Perspectives and resources

This is where most people think learning happens – people telling you things through video, audio, or readings. However, keep in mind that these are strengthened by their relationships to the challenge and to your initial thoughts.

We’ve carefully selected several resources so that in the briefest possible time, you can get the best and most information, carefully selected just for you!

Part 4: Reflect and revise

Now it’s your turn again – time to think back on what you learned, to revise your initial thoughts. Think about how you can apply your learning.

In each challenge cycle we will prompt you to privately reflect on what you’ve learned throughout the cycle. Taking just a few minutes to put your thoughts down will strengthen your thinking, and make the best use of the time you spent reviewing resources.

Part 5: Report out

Neuroscientists and learning scientists agree: Learning is a social activity.

What you teach, you learn. It’s important to share out what you learned for your own learning, and as an added bonus, others get to benefit from your learning as well! At the end of each cycle, we’ll prompt you to share your learning with us and with others.

Better yet, sharing out, and especially discussing with family, friends, co-workers and community can be initial thoughts for a whole new cycle of learning!