Whole Brain Learning

Learn Head Meaning Education Learning Studying Training And Research

A colleague of mine was telling me about a charity she’s involved with and how she’s beginning to fundraise for it.

I said, “What strategies are you using for the fundraising?” She said “Well I’m just starting. We’ve got a website, a donate button and now I’m starting to blog.” Me: “What do you blog about?” Her: “Well I’m basically just asking for donations.” Me: “Tell me why you are doing this.” Her: “During the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, parts of a nursing school were completely wiped out. 200 nursing students lost their lives. We’ve helped rebuild the nursing school and replenish the skills labs. Now we are focusing on neonatal education and training for doctors and nurses.” Me: “Wow! I suggest you share that story on your blog and then ask for a donation.” I don’t know about you but that story hit me hard.  

200 nursing students lost their lives studying to learn how to help others.

That makes me incredibly sad. And that’s what makes the story so powerful.   It invokes emotion.  

Stories that invoke emotion are part of Whole Brain Learning.

Huh? It is how the brain processes memories. Content (or stories) tied to emotion are more likely to be retained. People may not exactly remember the story but they remember how the story made them feel. And . . .   That’s what you want when it comes to learning, change and taking action (in my colleagues case, the story will propel some people to donate to the charity!) (For those of you wanting to know specifics of Whole Brain Learning, I’m not a neurobiologist but I do know it’s tied to the amygdala and the hippocampus.) To engage your audience in Whole Brain Learning, I’m offering you 3 simple strategies:  

1. Invoke Emotion

  • Share an emotional (and relevant) story i.e. Patient care story – if you’ve ever been to a conference and heard a patient recount their story, you know first-hand how powerful that is (remember to omit the name)
  • Pose a question that addresses concerns i.e. How will this electronic health record impact your day-to-day patient care?
  • Pose a question tied to an emotional response i.e. What are the consequences of not completing the required training for the new electronic health record?

2. Use Colour

  • The use of colour (on flipcharts and slides) increases retention by 5X (one old study says 50% increase in retention!!)
  • When writing on a flipchart, alternate colours i.e. first point in blue, next point in green, repeat
  • 2 colours minimum, 4 colours maximum

3. Move Body

  • People’s body’s need to move to create new neural pathways (just think back to the last time you sat at a conference for hours on end, went for dinner and couldn’t remember anything from the day – or is that just me?)
  • Get people up and doing things relevant to the content to be learned
  • Remember . . . “If your body doesn’t move, your mind doesn’t groove!”

Recently I was at a conference and someone said to me, “I still remember that story you told about Arlene Dickenson”

I told that story 2 years ago!

On the other hand … I’ve never had anyone approach me and say “I still remember the 14th bullet point you made in that presentation!”  

Whole Brain Learning works!

To Your Success!



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  • Our workshop participants found Barb’s approach to teaching at the Centre for Professional Development to be dynamic and engaging.  Barb not only taught effective communication and presentation skills, but also role modelled techniques throughout the day. Participants were excited to be able to apply learning’s directly into their day to day roles

    Leasa Knechtel

    Associate Director at the Centre for Professional Development, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.

  • Your plenary session was a real asset and a great contribution to the success of our National IPAC Conference. From beginning to end participants were energized and actively engaged.


    Gwyneth Meyers BSc, MSc, PhD

    Scientific Committee Chair

  • “The workshop was wonderful!! Barb walked the talk by continuously demonstrating the tips and skills she was teaching! It was amazing to see it all come together. I would recommend the workshop to anyone who has to present.”

    Bev Waite, Education Lead-Nursing,

    Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

  • I told one of the nurse educators that it was the best 3 hours I have spent in a training session as the content was clear, relevant, exactly enough to be able to incorporate into presentations, and you demonstrated each point which was great. It was watching an expert at work.

    Aideen Carroll, Advanced Practice Nurse Educator

    Toronto General Hospital

  • Your workshop was also a big hit. It was interesting to hear people talk about it as not good, but great.

    Debbie Ross

    CMP Manager of Governance and Events CNA

  • After working with Barb, our team returned to work energized, enthused and inspired to utilize tools that increase our communication, clarity and relationship with not only each other, but also with the residents and families that we serve. I would highly recommend Barb if you want to bring out the best in your team.

    Dale Clements, Administrator

    Columbus Residence

  • Barb Langlois led a wonderful one day workshop for 45 Clinical Nurse Educators in Saskatoon Health Region. She worked with us in advance to really understand our learning needs, Six months later, I see CNEs using Barb’s techniques to engage learners and I use them myself in my own presentations. I strongly recommend Barb – she is a very skilled facilitator who connects with learners in a very meaningful and effective way.

    Margot Hawke RN, BSN, MCEd, Nursing Professional Practice Lead

    Saskatoon Health Region


Seriously? Me, too! covers 10 Power Strategies that seriously work. It takes everyday situations that you can relate to, sprinkles in a bit of humour (you can’t be serious all the time) and demonstrates how you can achieve personal success — one simple step at a time. Learn More »


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