How Adult Learners Can Fight the ‘Forgetting Curve’

The “forgetting curve” is the rate at which people typically forget new information they have learned, such as information taught to them in school. The 19th century researcher Herman Ebbinghaus developed the concept of the forgetting curve after he tested himself to see his own rate of forgetting information.

Ebbinghaus’s experiments showed that people typically forget about two-thirds of new information they learn by the end of the first day; the other third they retain–at least for a while. When measuring long-term retention, people typically lose about half of that remaining third every two years, while ultimately retaining about 10 percent of the initial information.

It is distressing for educators to think that their students will probably only remember 10 percent of what they learn in the classroom. For children in grammar and high school, much of the foundation of math, grammar, history and science that kids need may be lost by the time they need to put it into practice. For those in higher education, information they may need to be prepared in their careers may also go by the wayside.

Fortunately, there are some ways to increase retention and fight the “forgetting curve” so that students will be better prepared to move on to more advanced information and concepts.

Fighting the Forgetting Curve

One major weapon in the battle against the forgetting curve is repetition. When you only hear or read something once, you retain little from it. Repeating pertinent information helps you remember more of the information. This is why studying for a test works, but it is also why students often forget most of the information they learned within a few days to a week of taking the test–because they stop repeating the information to themselves once they don’t need to remember it anymore.

Another effective technique for remembering information is to connect it to something you already know. Storytelling is one way to do this that usually keeps students’ interest level high and allows them to integrate the new information into existing facts so they can remember how it fits together.

Effective educators can also review previously learned information and then build on it with new facts and concepts that are related to it. In educational circles, this is called scaffolding, because it builds on information that students have already been taught and adds new layers of information to it.

Mnemonic devices are also useful in retaining information. Instead of remembering many different, seemingly unrelated facts, learners only have to remember a word or phrase and what it stands for. Collaboration and group work can also increase retention because social interaction–questions asked and information shared with others–can be easier to remember than dry facts and knowledge.

Armed with these techniques, learners can be confident that they will be able to remember information when they need to, and can make the best possible effort to retain information that may be needed in a career or in life. Join our mailing list to see all the continuing education opportunities CCSU offers.

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6 Tips for Developing a Learning Culture at Work

There are many benefits to creating a learning culture in the workplace. When employees continually learn, their job performance improves, and they may even develop needed skills to advance to higher positions. Efficiency also increases,  and employees may begin to develop a mindset of constant improvement.

Other benefits are that employees may adapt to change better and have more ownership and accountability regarding their jobs. It takes time and effort to develop a learning culture in the workplace. Here are some ways to do so.

1. Recognize and reward learners in the workplace.

There are many ways to do this—offering public congratulations when someone earns a degree or certificate, talking about who is enrolled in a program, and making sure all employees are aware of incentives like tuition reimbursement are just a few. When people see co-workers getting rewarded for continuing education, it will encourage them to seek out learning opportunities as well.

2. Make making mistakes acceptable.

Creating a learning culture means understanding and communicating the truth that making mistakes is part of the learning process. A sense of shame or even discomfort around making mistakes will stifle learning because people will not want to take risks. On the other hand, looking at mistakes as part of an ongoing learning process will lead to greater innovation, as people learn from those mistakes and build on them to eventual success.

3. Use on-demand learning to make it more accessible.

New methods of learning like webinars, online modules, and video instruction make learning more accessible. Employees can access them when they have time, and the entire team doesn’t have to be together in order to learn.

4. Use different learning styles.

Formalized learning like required training can often be looked at by employees as boring and a waste of time. Using educational material that incorporates different learning styles—visual, auditory, hands-on, etc.—will make the training time more interesting and lead to better retention of the material, since any given group is likely to have people in it who learn very differently.

5. Teach managers how to coach.

One-on-one learning can be extremely effective. Managers who can coach their employees on best practices and desired outcomes will find them more highly motivated to improve and succeed as a result of their continued learning. Part of the overall training strategy for any business should be training their managers on coaching skills so they can impact their team positively.

6. Encourage feedback and dissent.

It is not possible to know without asking, whether training or ongoing learning programs are effective and helpful to employees. Also, not every person is the same and feels the same way about learning or about particular learning initiatives. Many businesses try to squelch dissent because they feel it will lead to disloyalty or people leaving the company, but feedback and dissent are necessary in order to identify where the company can improve and to move forward in doing so.

CCSU provides many continuing education opportunities for those in all job fields and also for personal enrichment. Join our mailing list for more information about all the ways professionals can continue to learn through our courses.