Think back to a time when you solved a problem. Do you remember the moment when you finally discovered the answer, that "got it!" feeling it gave you?
It turns out that those “Aha!” moments, as they’re often called, actually alter our brains in a way that not only give us a feeling of deep satisfaction, but also help us retain the knowledge we just managed to unearth and help us learn more effectively moving forward.
Researchers at MedUni Vienna’s Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering in Austria recently teamed with Goldsmith University, London to find out what happens in our brains during when the Aha! moment hits.
This study only scratches the surface of why creating learning experiences in a way that provides for Aha! moments is so important. Allowing learners to discover the answers for themselves instead of spoon-feeding them helps them retain the material longer, improve their ability to reason and feel good in the process. But how can you accomplish this in a training program?
Good stories allow learners to discover revelations on their own as they experience the protagonist moving through the plot, attempting to resolve the main conflict. Through the choices the main character makes (or doesn’t make) and the resulting consequences he or she experiences, teaches learners organically. These Aha! moments reward learners intrinsically and are much more likely to stick with them over time.
Take for example a course on legal compliance. By creating a story where the main character is offered a lucrative contract by a client on the condition that he receive a kickback in return, tension is created that draws learners in by creating curiosity and empathy for the character.
“Will he take the bribe, putting his career and reputation on the line in the process?” the learner will wonder.
“Will he blow the whistle on the client, which could also have serious repercussions? Or will he turn down the bribe and remain silent, which could put the company in jeopardy down the line?”
As the story unfolds, revealing the protagonist’s choices and their results, learners experience their own Aha! moments when they realize what the right decision was, and why.
In traditional learning, this lesson would have been delivered directly without allowing learners to discover it for themselves. Through a well-woven story, the Aha! happens naturally — just like it would in real life, giving it exponentially more learning power.
The most effective learning experiences are ones that empower learners to make discoveries on their own rather than having answers handed to them on a silver platter.
If you want your audience to walk away from your learning experiences with more meaningful, long-lasting knowledge, you have to provide them with opportunities to have an Aha! moment.