Author: Bradley Wolfenden
When it comes to learning, stickiness matters. This is especially true in reference to the field of cybersecurity, as the nature of the industry is defined by constant evolution of technologies, threats, and skills. I use the term “stickiness” to describe two pillars that are essential for learning cybersecurity: retaining core concepts and knowledge, and a commitment to lifelong learning.
For decades, learning psychologists have performed research to better understand methods and strategies for teaching that reflect how the brain learns. From her research, one such psychologist, Stella Collins, developed the acronym, L.E.A.R.N.S. to support educators’ ability to create more impactful lessons and more effective classrooms.
· L: Linking
· E: Emotions
· A: Anchor
· R: Repetition
· N: Novelty
· S: Story
So, how do we best encourage stickiness in learning to prepare the future cybersecurity workforce? All-in-all, effective learning happens by resetting the brain’s “natural forgetting curve” and improving its ability to retain information. There are many rabbit holes on this subject that await your attention, but here are a few key highlights and considerations:
1. Memorization is not synonymous with learning. The rote memorization of content does not lead to the creation of neural pathway connections that are crucial for knowledge retention. Yes, repetition is hugely important. But that’s not all. Learners need to demonstrate their learning through active, hands-on, and practical experiences.
2. Different brains have different preferences for consuming information. We’ve all been in classrooms or training programs that we’ve found to be dry and boring. Sometimes this is a factor of the material itself, but even the most dull of topics can be taught with and engaging and meaningful approach. Diversify the methods by which you deliver the learning content to cater to different types of brains -- lectures and slides, games, videos, historical context, groupwork, presentations, hands-on activities, etc.
3. Relevancy in learning helps to connect the dots. Establish a clear link between the learning content and its application to the learner’s work performance. When learners recognize the value of the learning experience, this emotional connection with the topic improves its stickiness.
4. Emphasize the information or material that is most important for learners to retain. The truth is, learners will not retain every little piece of content they receive from their learning experience. Make it clear and obvious to the learner which concepts or topics are key takeaways, and encourage their focus on these areas.
5. Don’t neglect the “post-learning” experience.
Create a schedule for repetition and review to best reinforce the material. One effective strategy for this is to encourage social learning -- the individual that received the learning experience shares this newly learned knowledge with peers.
It’s no secret that cyber professionals operate within one of the most rapidly evolving workplaces. This factor demands an ability to think on your feet and make critically important, strategic decisions that balance one’s academic background, current understanding of best practices, and appropriately measured predictions for the future. To support these individuals and their quest for on-going learning, training and development, consider the aforementioned suggestions for making their learning more sticky.