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How the brain learns: 8 Core learning principles

Written By

Aditya Shukla, Psychologist & EdTech Consultant


Observational Learning

The most basic way students learn is by imitation - copying what teachers, experts, adults, and peers say or do. Monkey See, Monkey Do works for skills, concepts, reactions, and decisions.



Periodic repetition strengthens the connections between neurons. These neurons “hold” what you learn. Eventually, learning becomes automatic, like a habit after many repetitions.


Metaphors & Analogies

Metaphors are a gateway to understanding new details that feel confusing. Analogies help in comparing and contrasting similar concepts. Use them to strengthen conceptual understanding.


Variation in Input

High variation in the type of solved problems and questions helps conceptualize learning material. Adding feedback (immediate, delayed, and superficial) improves precision.



Meta-cognition is reflecting on study material, connecting it to the real-world, re-studying it from a different source, analyzing errors, making mental connections between concepts. This strengthens all aspects of learning.


Following Curiosity

Curiosity is as natural instinct to learn more. While learning, finding an interesting topic and then snowballing around it tends to strengthen learning because you are already motivated.



Chunking is grouping information together based on similarity and category. Chunking increases the ability to remember short-term and long-term, and makes information more meaningful.



Learn concepts and examples in a mixed fashion instead of in order based on type. Mixing improves conceptual understanding and problem-solving abilities.