Learning as a journey: The power of metaphor
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Learning as a journey: The power of metaphor

Do your trainees follow a “learning path”? Do you help keep them “on track” and make sure they head in “the right direction”? If so, you could be helping them succeed. A recent study found that people who think of learning as a journey perform better.

Researchers divided college students into groups and asked each group to visualize the academic experience.

One group was asked to think of college as a series of social interactions. Another was asked to imagine higher education as a container full of meaningful experiences. A third group was asked to think of college as traveling down a path.

Subjects were then given a series of math problems. The journey group got 25% more problems correct than the others. In a follow-up study, students who visualized a learning journey also did better on their final exam.

Trainer takeaway: Use the journey metaphor regularly in your training program. The researchers suggest that it works because learners see themselves as active participants – taking steps to reach their goals. While they may encounter detours or pitfalls, the thought of progress down a path motivates them.

Source: Landau, M. J., et al. (2014). The college journey and academic engagement: How metaphor use enhances identity-based motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(5), 679-698.

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