What is a Person Centred Approach to Learning?

02 April 2014 by Eoin Donaghy

Learning Pool’s Content Co-Ordinator, Eoin Donaghy, shares his first in a series of blogs on what he learned at the recent eLearning Network event ‘Truly Effective Learning Design’.

An eLearning Network event in Birmingham earlier this month saw a series of keynote addresses given by various leaders in their field.

Salient points were made and everyone in attendance left the building thinking differently about how they would go about things in the coming months and years in order to achieve a more effective end for those who use their services.

But enough about the Conservative party conference, this blog is all about the eLearning Network’s get together at Fazeley Studios in England’s second city.

Pooling ideas

The eLearning Network is a not-for-profit organisation whose members comprise e-learning professionals from a wide variety of organisations, from Instructional Designers to L & D professionals across both the public and private sectors. They get together every few months as a community to share and pool ideas and best practice in the design and implementation of great e-learning, much as we do here at Learning Pool.

This event was centered around the theme of effective design in e-learning and featured four keynote addresses through the course of the day.

Including emotions in learning

The first was from Bill Miller who delivered a seminar that took a sideways look at engaging and motivating learners based on the educational theory and practice of psychologist Carl Rogers, who emphasised the inclusion of feelings and emotions in learning.

This centered on the removal of negative emotions such as anger or anxiety, something many L & D professionals may come up against when trying to engage staff in learning initiatives at their organisation.

Removing reluctant feelings

Your brain is only ready to learn once these emotions have been removed and positive emotions such as security and confidence have been attained.

This may be achieved through pre-learning sessions or even by the initial experience of e-learning; something light hearted such as a video or flash animation can have the effect of removing any reluctant feelings on the part of the learner and giving them a holistic, ‘big picture’ view of why they are doing the learning.

A good expression of what your course is trying to achieve, and how it will be achieved, can engender confidence and authenticity.

This presents the learning as a worthwhile pursuit and not just something that they ‘have to do’.

Three conditions for good learning

Priming your learners in such a way will instill in them the three most important conditions for good learning, as preached by Carl Rogers:

  • Realness – show the learner how the learning will apply to them in the real world
  • Empathy – get into their shoes and ask what they need to take away from the learning
  • Trust – ensure there are no barriers between you as the teacher/instructional designer and the learner. You must make them feel like that they are free, self-actualising people and not just there because they ‘have to be’.

Applying science to learning

The session touched on issues of freedom and control – both of which are strong emotions infused in the learner through e-learning in particular – and the importance of the facilitator in creating the conditions for effective learning.

This was all expertly portrayed by Bill through evidence from research conducted by psychologists into the different parts of the brain and how they interact. To try to put it into layman’s terms; the Cerebrum is the part of the brain is the part that fosters learning, but in order for this to be enabled, the Limbic system, which deals with emotions, must be free of any negative or defensive feelings.

That’s appliance of science, and it was an ingenious way to prime the brains of each of the delegates present for the rest of the day’s sessions.

Where can I hear more?

I will be covering  some other pretty fascinating speakers in future blogs so keep your eyes open or better still, subscribe to the blog so that you never miss an entry.


Eoin Donaghy
Senior Project Manager

Eoin has been working in our frantically busy content department as Content Production Manager since 2010.

His role straddles both our custom content and catalogue operations and involves scoping out potential new projects as they come in and then once work is won, managing that project alongside the customer from inception through to delivery of the final product.

In overseeing a large portfolio of bespoke e-learning modules as well as ongoing production and maintenance work on our huge off-the-shelf offering, no two days are ever the same for Eoin.

Outside of work, Eoin enjoys not thinking about e-learning content as much as possible and instead channels his energies into discovering and listening to new music, preferably in County Donegal. Or that’s the theory. In reality, he watches a lot of CBeebies.

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