Whole Body Learning
By Michelle LaBrosse,
PMP®, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning, and Kristen
Medina, PMP®, Co-Author
According to speed-reading
experts, we take in 2000 times more information than our conscious
minds are aware. We do this through a multiple use of our senses -
both by themselves and when used together. The better we can use
our body in learning, the better we can learn. This is what we do
when we craft learning experiences at Cheetah Learning – we help
each student to leverage their whole body to learn faster and more
– According to the Visual Teaching Alliance, approximately 65% of
the population are visual learners. This means that they assimilate
information best when ideas, concepts, and data are conveyed using
visual techniques rather than through audio or text.
Think about how you assimilate
information. Do you have an easier time remembering pictures and
charts rather than just text? Do you see information in your mind
when you close your eyes? Do you make a “movie” in your mind as you
read to better associate with the information you are processing?
These are things that help visual learners to learn.
Your eyes also help you make spatial
sense of the world. Working on your peripheral vision can help you
pick up more information in your environment – this is especially
helpful when you are learning new skills. Students in engineering
classes improve their spatial cognition abilities by taking basic
engineering drawing classes their freshman year, which then helps
them in subsequence courses as they have used their eyes to improve
their spatial cognition. Visual aids can improve learning by 400% -
so the next time you are learning a new concept – use your eyes!
– Auditory learners are those who learn best when they can hear the
information. But hearing information is not the only way you can
benefit by using your ears. The right kind of music, such as Baroque
classical music, can help you relax and can boost your mental
performance as you learn.
A study called the “Mozart effect”
found that listening to Mozart’s music could improve performance as
it enhanced the ability to think of abstract solutions to logical
problems. At Cheetah Learning, we also do some fairly fascinating
things with binaural beats. When people listen to binaural beats
through headphones and one ear hears a different beat than the other
ear, the middle of the brain senses the difference between the two
beats and entrains the brain waves to the frequency difference.
This is very helpful for putting you into a more relaxed brain state
that is better for learning new information. Now, that sounds
- Your sense of smell is your strongest sense of instant recall and
state conditioning. When you need to remember vast amounts of
information such as when you take exams, it’s helpful to activate
this sense. In Cheetah Learning’s Accelerated Exam Prep program,
our students eat sugar-free mints throughout their course and then
take them with them into the exam. This way, they are reproducing
their state of relaxed focus that they learned how to achieve in
class and they are thus stimulating instant recall of the key
We also use our noses for breathing.
How you breathe significantly impacts your brain state and how you
can learn. In Cheetah’s courses, we teach our students how to best
breathe to put their brains in a state of peak performance.
- Chewing mint-flavored gum while studying can have an even stronger
impact on the state of conditioning and instant recall; however,
many exam centers do not allow gum chewing.
- Some people learn best by hearing themselves talk about what it is
they are learning. This is a combination of your speaking ability
and your abilities to hear. So making your own binaural beat
tapes of what you need to learn in your own voice can help
significantly when you like to learn this way.
– Everyone has experienced a “gut feeling” before – it happens when
you’re nervous, scared, or excited and your gut is conveying
information that can be useful to the rest of your body, so long as
Scientists often refer to the gut as
the “Second Brain” due to the extensive network of neurons that line
our gut. According to a Scientific American article, “Think
Twice: how the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well Being”,
reveals that the neurotransmitters in the gut do much more than
handle our digestion; they actually play a larger role in our mental
state. Given that 90% of the fibers in the gut carry information
from the gut to the brain, and not the other way around, it’s not
surprising to see how the gut can affect your mental and emotional
state of being.
So what does this mean for you? To be
in a state of mind where you are conducive for learning, you can’t
just focus on the brain in your head, but also your “second brain.”
By eating lots of vegetables, lean proteins, and complex
carbohydrates, you are making it easy for your gut to do its job,
and therefore send positive messages to your brain.
Fingers – One of the most important
mottos at The Center for Accelerated Learning is “Learning is
Creation, not Consumption.” This means that a learner does not
simply absorb knowledge, but actually creates knowledge by building
synapses in the brain and integrates the new knowledge or skill into
their existing structure of self. The best way to do this is by
using your fingers.
By writing down what you are learning
in way that makes sense to you – through drawings or mind maps or
notes – you are creating linkages in your brain in ways you can more
quickly retrieve it. With your hand, draw a mind map summary of
each chapter you read next time you read a book – you will be amazed
at how much more knowledge you created in this effort than if you
had simply read the book. The more you draw the mind maps, the
better you will get at this skill.
Arms & Legs
– Do you think the best way to learn tennis is by watching and
analyzing the Williams sisters for hours on end – or going out and
playing? While learning a skill like tennis can be improved by
pretending you are playing and seeing yourself playing like Williams
sisters, kinesthetic learning happens when the body is moving and
you are learning a task or skill by actually doing it.
If you are this type of learner, you
might use big hand gestures when telling stories – because you learn
and convey messages by moving and expressing. Moving also helps to
dissipate nervous energy that makes it much harder to concentrate
and focus. This is the reason why in every 90 minutes of Cheetah’s
courses, our students do an eight-minute series of yoga stretches
designed to help burn off any excess stress and maintain a state of
Focusing on every part of your body is
the way to improve how you learn and this gets even more important
as you age. Recent studies by the Center for Brain Health through
the University of Dallas show that the more you can engage all
elements of your body, the better you can maintain and even improve
your abilities to learn at any age. So remember – it’s not “all in
your head” – it’s in your whole body.
About the Author:
Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a
penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder
Learning, the author of
Cheetah Success Series,
and a prolific
blogger whose mission
is to bring Project Management to the masses.
Cheetah Learning is a virtual
company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To
date, more than 50,000 people have become “Cheetahs” using Cheetah
Learning’s innovative Project Management and accelerated learning
Recently honored by the
Project Management Institute (PMI®), Cheetah Learning was
named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 PMI®
Global Congress. A dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought
leader, Michelle was previously recognized by PMI as one of the 25
Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world.
Michelle’s articles have
appeared in more than 100 publications and websites around the
world. Her monthly column, the
Know How Network,
is carried by over 400 publications.
She is a graduate of
the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management (OPM)
program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and
the University of Dayton.