By the time you have reached the end of this article, there is a good chance you will have forgotten this opening sentence.
Well, not now, obviously, you have committed it to memory to prove to me otherwise.
The point here is that we forget stuff. We do it all the time. We read things, we hear things, we experience things, and almost immediately the process of forgetting begins. It is a well-researched problem, starting in the 19th Century when Hermann Ebbinghaus began to experiment on his own memory and developed the Ebinghaus Forgetting Curve. It stipulates that we forget things increasingly over time.
For me, this is a crucial thing to consider.
I design and deliver training courses on leadership and project management. So the forgetting curve is something that profoundly affects how I do my work. In fact, I sometimes start courses by telling people that, by the next day, they will have forgotten 90% of what we talk.
If you think that is bad, the online courses fare much worse for many reasons which I will cover another time.
So how do I address the forgetting curve?
I provide notes
My Powerpoint slides are very sparse in terms of information. They are there as visual cues for the course. So, I write detailed notes for each course and hand them out to my attendees so that they have something to go back to when they want to refresh their memory. They can also add their own notes to them as we go through the course to help the attendees link the course to their work.
I interact a lot
I build lots of small exercises and opportunities to reflect because these have been shown to really help retention of information. Splitting courses to small segments of me speaking followed by an exercise or discussion keeps people engaged and means they listen more intently and remember more.
I also like energy in my courses, I like to have my attendees get up and move around. It keeps their blood moving and freshens up the atmosphere.
I consider different needs
People have different preferences in how they learn. Some prefer to hear instructions, some prefer to see graphs and images, some prefer reading and some learn better by doing. I try to make sure that I deliver each topic in a number of ways to address each style.
I link the course to real life
Within my courses, I ask attendees to bring real life examples into the exercises or I set them work-based assignments to do. Real learning happens when people take a new topic and synthesise it to apply to a situation they are currently facing. It is a very powerful way of cementing learning.
I shorten my courses
I prefer to run 2 or 3 short sessions than have people for a whole day. A day long course is difficult for attendees, their attention span wavers at several times and the last hour can be more about crowd control than learning. Having two 3 hour sessions works much better than a full day’s course.
I use Paused Repetition
In my leadership development course, I split the sessions over a few months and that means we can meet every four weeks and recap previous sessions. This allows the ideas and lessons to become engrained. Paused Repition has been shown to be a very powerful memory aid.
I hope you can see that I spend a lot of time and effort in trying to make my courses interesting and stimulating and in trying to ensure that my attendees can retain as much information as possible to help them develop in their roles. It is importnat to me because knowing that people are kerning and developing from my courses is why I do them.
In these days of lockdown and remote learning, these are lessons that I am trying to apply to my remote delivery. It is a learning process for me! Come and talk to me if you want to know more about my courses .. my contact details are at the top of the page.