Combating the Forgetting Curve

Learning leaders are well acquainted with the learning curve. They’re not giving sufficient attention, however, to what is known as the “forgetting curve.” This refers to what happens when the training’s not reinforced: employees quickly forgetting what was learned.

Here are seven tactics that can be incorporated in learning programs to help employees remember the curriculum better:

Using memory aids

Mnemonics such as verses, acronyms or memorable phrases will go a long way to help the learners retain information, whether it’s abstract or a list. People often count on mnemonics to remember.  Some can identify the number of days in a month only with “30 days hath September…”

Others use, “Please excuse my dear aunt Sally,” as a mnemonic for the order of operations in mathematics (parentheses, exponents, multiply, divide, add, subtract) which is used in all electronic spreadsheets.

Create mnemonics for the processes you want employees to remember. Don’t underestimate the value of checklists, which are reducing errors in fields as diverse as surgery, aviation, civil litigation and investing. Creating mnemonics helps employees remember the checklists you want them to use.

Linking the learning to what employees already know

New information sticks better in a learner’s mind if it builds on existing knowledge. That means the instruction should begin with a short review of existing skills and the new learning should be linked to them.  If the level of the learners’ existing skills isn’t known, it’s advisable to establish a baseline.

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Using multimedia

Curriculum is absorbed more quickly and remembered longer if learners absorb it with both eyes and ears.  The more varied the media used the better the retention. Use color and for visual material, try using moving graphics.

Beginning reinforcement during training

With unreinforced learning, much of what was learned will be lost in 20 minutes. Whether the training is virtual or led by an instructor in a classroom, build content retention by creating an immersive environment by letting students take notes on their personal devices and by encouraging them to share information by tapping the collaborate tile. Additionally, debriefing employees as soon as the training’s over, whether an entire group or person-by-person, is key to uncovering any instances of the training not being understood.

Providing ongoing access to content

Give learners reinforcement information that can be accessed after then training’s over by using forum-style discussions, webinars, polls, video how-to’s and direct messaging. Be certain the employees understand the organization’s expertise directories and provide an easy way for them to ask questions.  Use social media, individual development plans, paired coaching, group exercises, the shadowing of more advanced employees and the full range of company communications media.

Encouraging skills application right away

Particularly for behavioral skills, students who fail to apply the new skills right away may never do it.  Let them practice during the training and encourage them to use the new skills immediately.   If you’re teaching a whole new way to work, such as with selling, ask them to use one new skill at a time in a safe environment – with a colleague rather than a customer or direct report — because it’s hard for people to totally change the way they’ve been working.  Be certain the employees’ managers are encouraging use of the skills – and rewarding their use when it’s appropriate.

Beginning before the training

Especially for multi-day programs, ask the employees to free up their workload so they can focus on learning during the training.  Encourage them to make a self-assessment to identify the particular skills they need and to complete pre-class work thoroughly.  They’ll stay more focused, and remember more.

For more information: WWW.eFOURlearning.com 

Originally published by Bill Rosenthal – Written for TrainingIndustry.com

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