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LP is for Learning Patterns

25th May 2022
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Ok, most of us probably don’t listen to LPs anymore, but I realised the other day that I probably have over 1,500 songs on my Spotify playlist that I can sing along to. I’m sure my neighbours, and anyone I pass in the car, wishes that wasn’t so, but there it is. 

Have you ever considered how many songs you know, at least in part? I bet it’s a lot. Why is that? 

The answer lies in pattern.

Our brains love patterns and music is built on them; key changes, phrases, the beat etc. Even the most wildly improvised Jazz needs a pattern. Without it, musicians would never find their way back to each other. 

When we describe a tune as ‘catchy’, we literally mean that it contains patterns we can immediately recognise and latch on to. The reason we learn choruses first is because those tend to use the most recognisable patterns of all, and because they’re repeated. (Repetition itself forms pattern.) 

Think about lyrics too. You probably find it easiest to recall lyrics that rhyme, because rhyming too creates distinct patterns, with each line providing a vital clue to the next. 

Of course, patterns aren’t just formed using our auditory sense. Imagine I’ve given you a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without the box and asked you to complete it. The puzzle would become progressively easier as the pieces started to form patterns. 

And the smell or taste of fresh raspberries in summer always brings back powerful memories of my Gran, who had an enormous garden where she grew all types of fruit. 

Think about that; one smell, one tiny fragment of a pattern of events can evoke memories that are as powerful now, as they were twenty years ago. And I’m sure that you have your own examples like this.

Patterns help us learn, recall information, and identify information that’s missing and for these reasons, we should always try to build them into our learning interventions. There are all sorts of other ways to do this and here are just a few suggestions, most of which we’ve used many times in Trainers’ Library’s materials:

  • Use acronyms and other word-based patterns to link words together in a memorable way.
  • Encourage people to create and link pictures as a way of reviewing learning. Images make stronger, more memorable patterns than lines of text. 
  • Take your learners on a journey, with a clear beginning, end, and junctions in between.  
  • Use metaphor to create unusual frameworks in which the learning can sit. 
  • Use rhymes and/or easy to remember phrases.
  • Remember that the simple act of repetition helps to establish patterns. So, repeat things in the same way, using the same phrases, in the same order. 
  • Use movement to add shapes to key words and phrases you want people to remember. For example, you could build connections between key words and particular points in the room, or even parts of the body. Imagine I want people to remember, voice, tone and visual aids as key things to consider in a presentation. By asking them to repeat those words, whilst pointing to their tongue, ears and eyes in turn, I’m creating a pattern linking movement to the key words. 
  • Use music, smells or tastes to ‘anchor’ learning. 
  • Tell stories or get participants to create their own stories to illustrate the learning. Like journeys, stories have a beginning, middle and end. (We’ve even created a module in Trainers’ Library that uses a fixed pattern to create memorable stories. 

You might be reluctant to try some of these things; they might seem silly. But a bit of ‘silly’ can make patterns even more memorable. Because, as well as recognising patterns, we’re also programmed to remember things that are unusual and different. 

“Remember that training we went on where we had to touch various points on our face?” “Oh yes! We had to touch our tongue every time we said voice! It was so silly!”

Silly? Maybe. Would it be memorable? Definitely. 

And always remember, retention is the first step in the journey towards achieving change through learning. 

Until next time…

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