Retaining Learning

When giving IT classes, I’ve always worked with the premise repetition fosters retaining the skills learned.  This is not a fashionable view, as rote or repetition learning is considered old-fashioned and behaviorist. However I can tell it works- and works beautifully –  particularly when it is done in a fun and creative way; for example by getting individuals to complete exercises, work in collaboration with the other learners to create something to model it on how they would use it in the workplace.  So,  it was interesting for me to read this blog post in The Training Zone by Gary Platt on Herman Ebgginhaus’s work , a small excerpt as below:

Ebbinghaus discovered that even with this simple task memory failed at an
alarming rate. His findings are often illustrated by a graph showing how memory
and recall deteriorates over a short space of time. The X axis (horizontal)
measuring time and the Y axis (vertical) measuring recall.

But again these figures do not represent the research that Ebbinghaus
produced, but do represent the concept he was proposing in chapter eight of his
work, Retention as a function of repeated learning. Put simply: each revisiting
of learnt material reinforces its retention.

Read Gary Platt’s full article here :

So… it is pretty obvious to me that the smartest things that trainers can do is to creatively work towards  increasing retention by allowing time in the day for the revisiting of learning and allowing people the opportunity to think and play –  and therefore remember.  Many trainers simply focus on getting through the material and therefore consider that to be a success, however if the learners cannot remember and then apply what they have learned one day, two days or two weeks after attending the training event there is hardly any point to the trainer patting him or herself on the back because they ‘delivered the content’.


One Comment on “Retaining Learning”

  1. Barb Stapleton says:

    I completely agree with Angela. I frequently say to participants, whilst discussing the Learning Objectives for the day, we may not get through everything here. I follow this with the comment that I would rather they learn and understand the material we do cover, rather than attempt to complete the objectives which can lead to confusion and a lack of understanding. I also believe in getting their input as to what out of the Objectives is most relevant to them. Follow this with repeating steps helps the participant to understand a new concept enabling them to make it a habit in their day to day work. Fun is also fundamental to learning. If the participant is not enjoying the day, they will not retain anywhere near as much information.

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