Six learning essentials

These six elements, when combined, provide successful learning in classrooms and training

Teacher's desk
Doug McPhee
DOUG MCPHEE Coast to Coast Consultare

The best way to design effective learning is by using a model that is inclusive and research based. There are six elements, that when combined, provide successful learning in classrooms and training. The model is flexible. It can be used for a single presentation, a unit of study or multi-day training. The six elements can also be utilized to plan for a longer-lasting study. The elements are based on research about how the brain learns and retains new information. Here are the six elements.

Learning Environment

There are two parts to room environment, the physical and the emotional or more simply put, the room and the relationships. By attending to both, instructors/presenters amplify learning and retention. People come into learning situations with “baggage” from past learning situations and events in their lives. If not addressed, learners have too much distraction to be engaged. Addressing these realities includes greeting each person, planning activities to release tension and promote engagement.

“Everything speaks” in a training room or classroom. This important advice comes from Quantum Learning’s SuperCamp. The physical set up and décor makes a significant difference to results of instruction. Messy rooms are a distraction. Walls and furniture that are placed carefully with purpose can enhance learning.

Expectancy Preparation

This sets the stage for learning. Learners are affirmed in the possibilities of learning and accept that they already know something of what is to come. They are acknowledged as successful learners. They begin to anticipate the activities to come. The brain is engaged when it knows what to expect. Identifying what the learning is about and how it relates to each learner aids in engaging and future learning. Research tells us that when new learning is somehow related to what someone already knows they walk away with higher degrees of retention.

Global Overview

By previewing upcoming events, the often-confusing puzzle of learning is eliminated. We become engaged more quickly, the meaning of the topic and its significance in our everyday world are evident immediately. The brain seeks a glimpse of a larger picture. We ask ourselves how this new information fits into my current work. Learning becomes an inclusive expectation; all personal experiences are valued if they are perceived in the context of the topic.

Dynamic Engagement

This is the time of learning when students are actively engaged with the new material, content, ideas, thoughts, concepts, applications, processes, other students and the instructor. Content presented carefully, using a chunking method to provide more beginnings and ending, helps to cement learning. Connecting new material to what is similar or known facilitates more neural connections, hence memory. The brain is engaged when content delivery is carefully planned.

Congruent Activities

This is the interaction with content. Content becomes more and more important. The reality is that 8 to 80 year olds learn best when time is planned for discussion, interaction, songs, skits, games, creative representation of new content, and other activities which directly relate them to new ideas and material. Social interaction is a key to memory, application, and integration of new material.

Consolidation -Integration

The learner has to make sense of the material in their world and find the context in which it has meaning. The careful orchestration of review is imperative for true learning. When participants determine scenarios when the material might be used is an enormous step to actual application. To store and apply new information content must both have meaning and make sense.


Too many learning models are just checklists. These described learning essentials offer a more dynamic and flexible design. Envision six transparent globes moving through each other and connecting to create the most effective learning scenarios for every learner. Compare it to neurons in the brain making multiple new connections as one hears, sees and experiences new content. It’s not enough to check off each item and consider it completed. It’s more important to consider the fluidity of design and how it contributes continually to the expected and anticipated learning.

Doug McPhee, M.Ed., is founder and CEO of Coast to Coast Consultare, Inc. This Washington state-based multi-faceted training and development firm provides training and instructional design in accelerated learning for businesses. McPhee is the author of “Limitless Learning: Making Powerful Learning an Everyday Event,” published by Zephyr Press and “The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching,” published by Delmar Thompson, now Cengage. He can be reached at 760-612-3297 or by email at

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