how does learning work

how does learning work

By Published On: 3. December 2023


Hey guys, are you sometimes curious about what happens in our heads when we learn something new? It's not as if information just materializes in our brains - there's a whole process behind it. Basically, learning is the way we go about expanding our knowledge, improving our skills and deepening our experiences. But what exactly happens there? We look at the basics of how the brain assimilates information, and why some people seem to retain easy images in their heads, while others need to hear or touch something to understand it. Of course, the environment also plays a huge role - from the busy cafeteria to our quiet cozy corner. We also look at what strategies and motivational tricks keep us on our toes so that we don't forget everything after five minutes. And because we are virtually constantly connected to smartphones and the internet, digital learning aids are of course also a must. But hey, don't despair if you get stuck - we also tackle the topic of learning blocks and how we can get to grips with them. So, grab a snack (the right one, of course), get enough sleep and let's find out what makes learning tick for us.

The basics of the learning process

Nowadays, we know that learning is a highly complex subject. Not just cramming books or vocabulary, but a deep understanding and memorization of information and skills characterizes this process. So let's delve deeper and explore what goes on in learning at the most fundamental level.

Definition of learning

What do we actually mean when we talk about "learning"? Learning is more than simply absorbing information. It is an active process through which new skills are acquired, knowledge is expanded or behaviors are changed. It requires the ability of our brain to store experiences and retrieve them when needed. Knowledge about the complex process of learning play a crucial role in developing effective learning methods.

Neurobiological perspective of learning

From a neurobiological perspective, learning is a process in which the structure and function of neurons and their networks change. So-called synaptic plasticity enables our nerve cells to strengthen or weaken through experience and thus to learn. Neurotransmitters play a key role here; they are the chemical messengers that transmit signals between neurons. An exciting aspect of neurobiological foundations of effective learning is how we can use these for our learning processes.

The role of memory and attention

Without memory, there is no learning - that is clear. Our memory can be roughly divided into three types: sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory. Particularly relevant for learning is the transfer of information from short-term to long-term memory, which is often achieved through repetition and practice. Attention is the prerequisite for information to reach the memory in the first place. Without focused attention, new content usually does not manage to settle in our memory in the long term. Tools and resources to increase attention can support learners, but understanding one's own memory and attention processes is crucial for individual learning success.

With these basics in mind, we are well on our way to understanding and optimizing our learning process. In the coming sections, we will look at the different types of learning, such as visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning, and discuss which can be most effective in different situations. We will also look at the importance of the learning environment and look at scientific strategies and techniques we can use to develop our learning skills. After all, learning is a skill that can be constantly improved - it's lifelong learning! Don't miss out as we delve deeper into the topic of 'types of learning' soon to understand how to find and make the most of your personal learning style.

Types of learning

Of course, we've all experienced it at some point: what comes easily to one person is a real chunk of cake for another. That's because we don't all learn in the same way. Some get it into their heads faster when they see it, others have to hear it or do it themselves. But why is that and what exactly are these different ways of learning? Fasten your seatbelts and let's take a closer look!

Visual learning

Imagine you're sitting in a lecture and the prof is full of passion, but without any presentation or picture - and you think to yourself, "Huh?" Well, then you could be a visual learner. Visual learners need pictures, videos or graphics to process information. These types of learners often have good spatial awareness and can remember visual details. It helps to create mind maps or make notes with colored markers. In principle, these learners often need concrete visual objects in order to grasp the material. Clearly, in a world where every second piece of content consists of images, this is a real advantage. If you want to find out more about this, check out the different types of learning styles from.

Auditory learning

Now for the group that needs something to listen to: the auditory learners. You learn best by listening - and it doesn't matter whether it's podcasts, music or group discussions. The important thing is that your ears are involved. These people are good at remembering information when it is read to them or they are in a discussion. A great tool for auditory learners are audio recordings of summaries or important points that they can listen to over and over again. Isn't it great to learn on the fly while listening to your favorite playlist?

Kinesthetic learning

Finally, we come to those who really want to grasp it: The kinaesthetic learners. You learn best by trying things out, moving and touching. Practice and direct experience are your thing, not hours of sitting and listening. Kinesthetic learners remember information better if they can link it to physical activities. A typical example is role-playing games or experiments that help to bring the material to life. Going for a walk while learning can also work wonders, as exercise gets the brain moving and increases retention. This type of learning is great for anyone who is not easily tied to a chair.

Each of us learns differently, and that's a good thing! It just shows how unique we humans are and that there is no one right way. It's more about finding your own personal path and making the most of it. In a world where education is of the utmost importance, we should all learn more about the optimal learning methods for ourselves experience. Whether in the classroom, at work or at home - knowing how you learn best can be a real game changer!

So, grab the information, figure out the best way to get started and then get going and learn for all you're worth. Because at the end of the day, it's our knowledge and our ability to learn that gets us ahead and opens doors. The next thing we're going to look at is how the environment we're learning in can be upsetting or trip us up. Stay tuned, it's going to be exciting!

The importance of the learning environment

Have you ever wondered why you can cram better in the library than in a noisy living room? Or why in some schools the kids learn like pros, while somewhere else it just doesn't work? Of course, our environment plays a hugely important role in how we learn. Whether it's the lighting, the arrangement of the desks, the colors on the wall or just the general mood - it can all contribute to learning success or not.

Influence of the physical environment on learning

You probably know this: Some places simply get the gray cells working at full speed. Studies confirm that a well-designed learning environment - this includes everything from ergonomic furniture to room acoustics - can help us to concentrate better and learn faster. It's not just that a nice room motivates us to spend time there. No, it's much more than that. The fact is that an environment that is tailored to our needs can reduce stress and increase our well-being. And that in turn frees up our minds for new things.

One optimal learning environment supports usIt helps us to focus and can even help to improve cognitive skills. Quiet corners to retreat to are just as important as areas where you can exchange ideas and work together. It's no wonder that many educational institutions and workplaces pay great attention to the design of learning and working areas - it simply pays off!

Social aspects of learning

But hey, it's not just the physical environment that makes a huge difference. The people around us also shape how we learn. Think about the best discussions you've had in class, or the buddy who is always super good at explaining the material. Social interaction is extremely important for gaining new perspectives and delving deeper into the subject matter.

Studying together can be super motivating, especially when everyone is pulling in the same direction. It helps to push each other and repeat the material until it sits. But it gets even better: by learning with others, we develop social skills, learn to compromise and share our victories and defeats. And let's be honest, a high-five after a well-mastered chapter just feels bombastic!

Another point is feedback. Whether from teachers, colleagues or friends - feedback can help us to uncover weaknesses and adapt the learning process. It can be a real game changer when it comes to improving or simply getting a different perspective. If you want to find out more about the influence of the social component on the learning process, take a look at the The importance of lifelong learning and how other people can support us.

So, whether you're stacking your books in a cozy library or joining a study group, always remember that the learning environment is more than just a stage: it's a critical player in the drama called learning. Whether you opt for bright red walls or prefer soft lighting: Make your study space a place where you feel comfortable, this not only helps with cramming but can also increase the enjoyment of learning itself.

Now you have gained a small insight into how enormously the learning environment can influence our learning success. In the next part, let's explore further strategies and techniques that we can use to make our learning even more effective. Because let's be honest - nothing can throw one of us resourceful learning foxes off track so quickly!

Learning strategies and techniques

Who hasn't experienced this? You sit over books for hours on end and yet the material just won't get into your head. Or you read a page and seconds later you've already forgotten what it said. But it doesn't have to be like that, people! With the right strategies and techniques, learning can become a real success. There are tricks to really get your gray matter going and store information like on a hard drive. So, let's dive into the world of learning strategies and find out how you can pimp your everyday learning!

Repetition and practice

Let's be honest: repetition is the classic learning strategy. Through constant repetition, we really memorize content. It's almost as if our brain anchors the material more and more firmly in the nerve cells. Think of it like a muscle that you train - the more often you use it, the stronger it gets. And it's the same with memory. The trick here is to repeat regularly instead of putting off a huge study session before an exam. You may know this as 'spaced repetition', which, according to scientists, can boost memorization. And whether you use flashcards or read through summaries again and again, the important thing is that you stick with it and don't let what you've learned disappear into oblivion.


Now it's time to get creative, because mnemonics are memory-supporting methods that help you to remember things better and, above all, for longer. Keyword mnemonics! Whether you come up with mnemonic sentences or link information with pictures - these tricks make memorizing so much easier. Loci methods are particularly cool, where you move through a room on an imaginary journey and place a piece of information on each object. Sounds weird? It is a bit, but ultra effective! If you want to delve deeper into the world of memorization techniques, there are plenty of Guide for relaxed and effective studyingwhich will certainly help you.

Time management for learning

Nothing works without a plan, people! Good time management is the be-all and end-all of learning. It's about creating a structure so that you don't sink into chaos. Set yourself realistic goals and make a plan of when you want to achieve what. You should also take short breaks, because without breaks you will lose effectiveness and your brain will stumble. Incidentally, the Pomodoro technique - i.e. 25 minutes of full concentration followed by a 5-minute break - is a popular method for preventing overload. And if you would like to know more about meaningful study sessions, take a look, How many hours a day learning makes sense. Remember, the goal is to learn smart and not necessarily hard.

Armed with these techniques, you are well on your way to making learning a real success and increasing your own efficiency by a lot. Remember, in the end it's not the amount of time you spend with your head over your books that counts, but how effectively you use that time. So grab your pens, make a plan and say goodbye to hours of boring study sessions. With the right strategies and a little discipline, studying will become child's play and you can focus on the really important things in life - like the next series marathon, perhaps? Stay tuned for more learning inspiration!

The role of motivation in learning

Hey, lifelong learners and those hungry for knowledge, today it's all about the turbo in the learning gears: motivation! We all know that without it, learning can sometimes be a real slog - but with the right boost of motivation, it suddenly becomes an exciting adventure. Whether you're studying for your next exam, cracking a new language or throwing yourself into an unfamiliar subject area, your motivation often determines whether, how and what you learn. So let's find out together how motivation influences learning and how we can make the most of it!

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation

The duel of the giants when it comes to motivation - what really drives us? Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It is your inner firework that burns from genuine interest or pure joy in something. If you stick your nose into a book because the subject fascinates you and you can't stop because it grabs you, then you are intrinsically motivated.

On the other hand, we have extrinsic motivation, which comes from outside. Think of rewards, grades or the pride of your parents - these are the treats that entice you. Sure, these incentives can be super motivating, especially when it comes to achieving certain goals. But it's important to find a balance, because too much external incentive can also put too much pressure on you, which in turn can have a counterproductive effect on learning.

If you now think that your motivation could use a little boost, then you've come to the right place by reading Why is motivation important? the best advice. There you will find tips that will really fire up the learning fire under your butt.

Goal setting and self-regulation

But what do you do when your motivation leaves something to be desired? Well, it's all about goal setting and self-regulation. Goals give you direction and if they are realistic and achievable, they can give you a huge motivational boost. Don't imagine climbing Mt. Everest if you haven't even conquered a small hill yet. Small, achievable goals, people, that's the key!

Self-regulation, on the other hand, is like your inner coach. It helps you to stay focused and to observe and adapt your habits. Even if you are studying on your own, you need to be able to control yourself - no distractions, no lazy excuses. Yes, it sounds like hard work, but it's worth it. You'll achieve more and feel good about it too. Because when you outsmart yourself and understand how you learn best, you can adapt your methods accordingly and take a few elegant hurdle jumps before the hurdles of the learning marathon.

If you are now curious and wondering how you can best get to grips with your learning goals and the necessary self-regulation, then you should definitely take a look at the Motivation theories and empirical approaches to find out more. There you will find exciting insights and practical tips that could revolutionize the way you learn.

So we have seen that motivation can be a real game changer. It can make the difference between "I'm not in the mood" and "I'm rocking this!" Always remember: your motivation not only determines how much and how well you learn, but also how you stick with it and what successes you can celebrate. So don't underestimate it, give it care and attention and you'll see that learning can take a completely different turn. And now get to the books, or the laptop, or whatever your tool of knowledge is, and let the motivation roll!

Digital tools and online learning

Well, we live in the digital age, and that means that learning is no longer like it used to be. No longer just poring over books and scribbling notes by hand - no, today we have the internet full of incredible opportunities right at our fingertips. No matter where, no matter when, the world of learning is at our feet. But what online tools and digital helpers are there exactly and how can we make the best use of these treasures for our learning?

E-learning platforms and their effectiveness

It is no longer a secret that e-learning platforms have fundamentally changed the way we study. Whether for school, university or professional development - the providers are as diverse as the topics they cover. On platforms such as Udemy, Coursera or Khan Academy, you can find courses on almost anything your heart desires. From psychology to programming to cooking courses - there's something for everyone.

But are these online courses effective? Definitely! They enable individualized learning, which means you can set your own pace and often have access to an incredible variety of learning materials. Videos, quizzes, discussion forums - for many, this is a huge advantage over traditional face-to-face teaching. You have the freedom to design your own learning process and can organize your time as you wish. In addition, e-learning platforms are often interactive and varied, which can help you retain the material better. If you would like to find out more about the best e-learning platforms, then take a look at the Top e-learning platforms of the past yearto see which one best suits your learning style.

Apps and tools to support the learning process

Aside from platforms, there are also countless apps and tools that can help you learn more efficiently. Take quiz apps, for example, which quiz you in a fun way and ensure that the learning material doesn't evaporate so quickly. Or organizational tools such as Trello or Evernote, which help you to structure your projects and learning tasks and keep track of everything.

Not forgetting the many language learning apps such as Duolingo or Babbel, which take foreign language learning to a new level with customized lessons and daily exercises. Time tracking tools such as Forest help you to stay focused and not be constantly distracted by your cell phone by - incidentally - growing a virtual forest. Sounds crazy, but it's a fun and above all useful method to motivate you to persevere.

Technology makes it possible for us to tailor our learning to our personal needs and make the best use of our resources. For some, this might be vocabulary trainer apps, for others digital mind map tools - the important thing is that you find the tools that work for you. It's worth testing some of them and then concentrating on the ones that really help you. And if you're wondering which apps can help you in particular, take a look at the useful tools for the learning process a closer look.

Learning digitally can be a real asset and help you achieve your learning goals more effectively. But remember, the technology is just a tool - you are the craftsman. It's up to you to make the most of it and make your learning projects a success. So grab your gadgets and get started - the knowledge of the 21st century is waiting for you to discover it!

Digital or analog, learning remains an exciting adventure. With the right strategies at your side and the digital helpers in your pocket, it's an adventure that can take you to the top levels of the knowledge temple. Be curious, experiment with new methods and find the way of learning that is most fun and efficient for you. The world of learning is evolving every day, and so are the many opportunities open to you. Next time, we'll dive into the challenges of learning, because no journey is without obstacles. Only those who face them will triumph in the end. Stay curious and always on the lookout for new ways to tame this wild beast called learning!

Challenges and obstacles to learning

We're all a bit like superheroes, aren't we? With every new piece of knowledge we acquire, we gain new superpowers. But even the coolest heroes face challenges - and so does learning! Yes, learning can sometimes be quite tricky, with a few rocky paths and high mountains to overcome. But don't worry, let's take a look together at the obstacles we face and how you can clear them out of the way with a few clever moves!

Learning blocks and how to overcome them

Who hasn't experienced it? You stare at the book or the screen and nothing wants to go into your head - absolute blockage. Even coffee doesn't help, it's as if someone has put up a wall in your brain. Learning blocks can be really annoying, they zap your energy and desire to learn. But there are tricks you can use to crack them. The key is often to find the cause. Is it a lack of interest, tiredness or perhaps distraction?

If the reason is stress, it can help to simply take a break and treat yourself to a moment of peace. A short walk in the fresh air or a few minutes of meditation can work wonders. And if the material seems too complicated, try breaking it down into smaller chunks. Divide the big task into mini-tasks that are easier to digest. And remember: Nobody runs a marathon without training first. With Tips for improving learning behavior you will find further suggestions on how to break through blockages. Get to work, learning warriors!

Dealing with distractions and procrastination

In a world full of stimuli, it is sometimes hard to concentrate on the essentials. Suddenly all things seem more interesting than the learning material. And before you know it, you've disappeared deep down the rabbit hole of social media and cat videos. Distractions are the arch-enemies of focused learning and can quickly lead to procrastination - the procrastinating evil that stops us from doing what we should be doing.

To escape this trap, it is essential to create a learning environment that minimizes distractions. Silence your cell phone, turn off notifications and maybe even cut off the internet - you should banish everything that prevents you from studying from your immediate reach. It can also help to set clear study times and break them up using techniques such as the Pomodoro method. Another tip: rewards for completed learning tasks can make the fight against the procrastination monster easier.

A look at the Strategies against listlessness and procrastination can offer you additional insights and practical solutions. With the right strategies, you can take control and stand up to the specter of procrastination!

Learning is not just a matter of seat flesh - it is also a mental challenge. An uncluttered mind and a clear plan are your best allies in the fight against the obstacles of learning. But rest assured, with every problem you overcome, you are one step closer to the next level of knowledge and skill. With patience, the right techniques and a pinch of perseverance, you will overcome all these hurdles. Stay strong, stay curious and don't let it get you down - because the triumph of knowledge awaits on the other side!

In our fast-paced world, where technology and knowledge evolve almost daily, it is more important than ever to pay attention to the concept of lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is not just a fashionable buzzword, but a necessity for anyone who does not want to stand still in their professional and personal development. It is about constantly acquiring new knowledge and new skills in order to survive in a constantly changing world. But what exactly does this mean for us and how can we integrate this ideal into our lives?

The need for continuous learning in today's society

The world we live in is a place of constant change, which requires a lifelong commitment to education. It is no longer just about completing an education and then getting a job that will support us until we retire. No, today's professions increasingly demand flexibility, adaptability and continuous learning in order to keep up to date and be competitive. It has been shown that individuals who are willing to continuously learn and upgrade their skills are not only more successful in their careers, but also lead more fulfilling and satisfying lives. The Key role of lifelong learning in the modern working world is therefore indisputable.

Strategies for effective lifelong learning

But how can we meet this demand for continuous education? There are many ways to realize the ideal of lifelong learning. Setting clear learning goals, organizing your own learning, trying out different learning methods and using digital resources are just some of the possibilities. Self-reflection on your own strengths and weaknesses can help you to identify specific areas for further training and develop a personal learning strategy.

In addition, further training, online courses, workshops or even reading specialist books can help you to constantly acquire new knowledge. It is also important to apply what you have learned and integrate it into everyday life in order to consolidate what you have learned. Learners can also find support on platforms that offer further training and provide information on the topic of 'lifelong learning', such as the EducationXpertswhich offer insights and tips on the topic.

With the right strategy, learning can be transformed from a chore into an exciting journey that opens personal and professional doors. Lifelong learning is therefore not an endless marathon, but an exciting journey of discovery that enables us to develop our full potential.

At the end of the day, it's not just about accumulating knowledge, but about constantly rediscovering and developing the world and ourselves. Let's celebrate the importance of lifelong learning together and realize that education is a journey that never ends!

Do you know the feeling of studying after a bad night or on an empty stomach? Exactly, it feels like you're tilting at windmills. But what's the truth behind the saying "You are what you eat" and the advice "Sleep smart"? Numerous studies confirm that nutrition and sleep not only have a significant impact on our bodies, but also on our minds. So let's find out how a healthy diet and restful sleep can support the learning process!

Influence of nutrition on cognitive performance

You've probably heard that certain foods are considered "brain food" and are supposed to boost our brain power. In fact, there is some truth to this! The brain consumes around 20% of our energy, so it makes sense that the quality of our 'fuel' affects our cognitive performance. Complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants are just some of the nutrients that help us think and learn.

A balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrain products and healthy fats can improve our concentration and sharpen our memory. So remember: next time you reach for a snack, think about your gray matter! If you want to find out more about brain food, you can read here about optimal nutrition for the brain and thus help their learning process.

The importance of sleep for memory and learning

Many of us have already experienced it: When we are tired, our brain simply doesn't function properly. However, sleep is not only important for feeling rested, it is also a crucial factor in the learning process. While we sleep, a lot happens in the background: what we have learned is processed and stored in our long-term memory. The REM phase in particular seems to play an important role here.

It is therefore worth paying attention to good sleep hygiene and putting an end to every nightly Netflix marathon. Regular and restful sleep promotes memory and helps you to be receptive and focused the next day. To find out more about the connection between sleep and cognitive abilities, you can read this article by and perhaps change your sleeping habits for the better.

Nutrition and sleep are two pieces of the puzzle on the path to effective learning and good mental health. By paying attention to what we eat and how we sleep, we ensure our well-being and create ideal conditions for learning. Always remember: a healthy body houses a sharp mind. So give yourself the nourishment and rest you deserve to master the many challenges of learning!

Ok, let's be honest - we learn, cram and do our best, and sometimes we all ask ourselves: Is it really helping? How do I measure my progress? Am I better than yesterday or not really that clever after all? Yes, feedback and progress measurement can sometimes be a real headache. But don't panic, let's take a closer look and find out how we can measure and evaluate our learning success without losing the desire to learn. Let's go!

Methods for checking learning progress

Here's the good news - there are a whole range of methods to check whether what you've learned has really stuck. It can be as simple as a short self-test at the end of a learning unit or as sophisticated as using scientific methods. One of the most popular tools is formative assessment. This is not about pounding you with grades, but giving you constructive feedback that will actually help you progress. Formative assessments can take the form of group work, projects or portfolios, with the focus being on the learning process itself.

Another cool tool is, of course, the quiz. Yes, I know what you're thinking - but I'm not talking about the stressful exams from school. Online quizzes that give you direct feedback can be a fun way to measure your learning progress. They're quick, straightforward and give you an immediate sense of where you stand. If you want to find out more about how such feedback methods can help you, take a look at the Feedback method bar and see for yourself how diverse the possibilities are.

Feedback and its influence on learning motivation

Feedback is the bread of the gods for every learner. Not only does it help us to see where we stand, but it can also be a huge motivational boost. Imagine working hard on a project and then - boom - positive feedback from your professor or tutor. This not only feels great, but also gives you the incentive to keep going. But constructive criticism is also important. It can show you where you still need to improve and help you to improve your learning strategies.

Of course, it is important that the feedback is not demotivating. It should always be fair, factual and helpful. Sometimes it can also be useful to evaluate yourself. Yes, that's right - self-reflection is a powerful tool on the road to learning success. And if you're wondering where you can find practical tips for useful feedback, then take a look at the Feedback methods and get the inspiration you need.

In short, measuring and assessing learning success is super important to not only see your progress, but also to achieve your learning goals. Whether it's through tests, quizzes or creative feedback, there are always ways to give you confidence and show you're on the right track. So get on with the self-assessments, give feedback and don't get discouraged. You are great and every step forward is worth a round of applause!

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About the Author: Sven Emmrich

Sven Emmrich avatar
Sven is a business graduate, DEKRA-certified coach and passionate entrepreneur. As CEO of Karrierehelden, he has been writing for many years on all career topics such as job applications and job changes, money and salary negotiations, leadership skills and management issues, psychology and personality development, communication and conflict management, self-confidence and entrepreneurship, and the line between work and private life with work-life balance... or much more work-life integration. Sven has coached over 1,000 academics, professionals and executives with his team and is happy to help you too.
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