Learning and What Causes Us to Forget

, , | Colin Dawson
  1. Forgetting happens most rapidly soon after learning something and then tapers off after time.
  2. Learners will first forget content that does not make sense to them
  3. Most people are more likely to forget what they hear than what they read.  This is probably because reading is a more focussed activity than listening.
  4. Although we may forget the exact words of something we just read, we often remember its meaning.

What does all this mean for learning designers?

  1. To form a persistent memory, a learner must pay attention to the information, process it deeply and connect it in a meaningful way with existing knowledge.
  2. A learner’s pre-existing knowledge may compete with newly acquired information.  In this case, allow the person time to discriminate between the two types of similar content.
  3. Practicing informational retrieval can facilitate retention because reconstructing memories alters them and makes them “stronger”.
  4. Don’t expect learners to remember trivial information.  They will most likely forget it after a test.

So, these points give us cause to reconsider how what we are designing can avoid these forgetting potholes.

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