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Education for all

By Noigroup HQ Education for all 12 Dec 2013

We believe in education for all – that knowledge transfer can be adapted and made beneficial for all. The health world is oblivious to the rich and unused body of knowledge that exists in the education silo. For example, if you are considering therapeutic education for a group or one on one, the initial thought should be “what is your curriculum? – the word itself brings up notions of content, timing delivery, measurement, style, aims and objectives.

We exist in a dream world if we believe that the education we provide in the peace and safety of the clinic maintains its purpose and power once the patient leaves. But we can improve on this. Let’s build up an “education for all” section on noijam.

Two works better than one    

Most education is analogical and thus metaphorical. A example may be saying that “the brain works like the internet” which may conjure up schemas (a word from psychology for organised patterns of thought, frameworks for thinking or, as we like to call them, neurosignatures) that include notions of change, dynamism, overlap, complexity and even freak-outs. However, if you give two analogies the transfer of knowledge will be even more powerful. So a second analogy may be that the brain also “works like a market economy” and this may activate schemas such as changing with supply and demand, growth with use and proper input, the need for planning and the need to understand and fend off threats.

The power of two in enhancing knowledge transfer has been shown in negotiating and educational studies (Gick and Holyoak 1983; Loewenstein, Thompson et al. 1999). It just makes sense too. If two analogies can be mapped together in the brain, a much broader schema can be formed, they can be contrasted and a more optimal schema may be accessed and be more appropriate for a particular time and place. Broad and different schemas also provide a variety of anchors in the brain to tag and link new knowledge  – the market economy may suit the business person, the internet may suit the computer wiz. But the message is simply – provide two educational stories rather than one. And by the way – did you ever wonder why so many exam question began with “Give two examples of……..” The educationalists knew all along how to asses depth of knowledge.

Call out to readers:

Are you stuck with just one example/metaphor for something? Where could your education of patients in the clinic use another example?  We would like to extend an opportunity to seek help from the thousands strong, worldwide faculty of noijam, which as a reader of this site you are a member of.  Let us know where you need a few more examples for your work, or share with us your favourite examples and metaphors for explaining the complex concepts of pain, injury, recovery and health to your patients.

I was talking to noister Tim Cocks last night about explaining myelination of peripheral nerves. His two examples are  “imagine if you wrapped a series of pancakes around a garden hose” and “think of a pearl necklace”

– David Butler

EP3 – TheExplain Pain 3 Day Course
The Neuroscientist, The Educationalist, The Psychologist
April 4-6, Melbourne, Australia.

Gick, M. L. and K. J. Holyoak (1983). “Schema induction and analogical transfer.” Cognitive Psychology 15: 1-38.

Loewenstein, J., L. Thompson, et al. (1999). “Analogical coding facilitates knowledge transfer in negotiation ” Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 6: 586-597.


  1. timcocks0noigroup

    The synapse is one of those “gifts from neuroscience” that I find can be a powerful part of pain education. The idea of a changeable, dynamic communication interface with variable settings and the ability to “amplify” or “turn down” a message can help to not only explain pain, but also give a person experiencing chronic pain something to “grasp”; a biological, physiological target to counter the “its all in your mind” accusations that so many face.

    But, perhaps more than any other topic, I find that I lose some people when explaining synapses. Perhaps its a scale thing, synapses are pretty small, or perhaps its a complexity thing, maybe both.

    What I’d really like is a few more metaphors, a few more examples to help explain synapses – a bit more flexibility to help people get to that “aha” moment.


    1. davidboltononoi

      I often refer to this part of the journey in my “Entertaining performance ” for the office worker in reference to the parcel sorting office at the post office. The onward journey of the parcel and how it gets there depends on the size and address of the parcels . At the same time, for the fisherman fish swimming across a pond can be caught or swim on depending on the gauge of the net. ……..keep it light and relevant to the person where possible. The point is, just like a singer or comedian we each have to develope our own repertoire, our own script. It will never work if we try to copy how someone else delivers their “Act” or memorize a list of metaphors and analagies. Depending on our own life’s journey so far we all have within us a wealth of them……

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