Strategies to Improve Retention
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Strategies to Improve Retention

January 5, 2020


This Learning Leader Series is created to help retailers implement an efficient training program. In this video, I will be talking about the strategies to improve retention. How to optimize the formation of memory. I would like to start by sharing how, and for what length of time we retain information. and at what rate we forget. To illustrate the concept, I would like to reference a very meaningful study regarding memory, carried out by a German psychologist, Herman Ebbinghause, in the late 1800’s. As a consequence of his findings, today we have the forgetting curve, which shows over time, we all have memory loss. Let’s look at the graphic that illustrate the rate at which we lose what we have learned, It is natural to forget what you have learned, and Ebbinghause discovered, that the nature of forgetting is exponential. The forgetting curve portrays what happens to a student after a lecture or an online course with no practice. Ebbinghause discovered that immediately after a student learned something, they had 100% recall. However, after 19 minutes, on average, the normal person would retain 60% of what they have learned. Therefore, we basically lose half of what we learn within the first hour. By the end of the day on average, we retain 33% of what we learn. and after a month, we retain 21% of what we have learned. Despite having a few flaws, Ebbinghause’s findings have been widely accepted, and it is a classic in the field. If you are training your associates, it is very important to consider the concept illustrated by the forgetting curve. Since low retention is highly correlated with low transfer of skills to the job, it results in low performance. In the work place, we need to retain knowledge long enough to apply it. We will be addressing two retention strategies that will be very valuable when you are implementing your training, because they optimize the formation of memory. The strategies are: 1. Repeated Retrieval 2. Spacing Let’s start with the first strategy, Repeated Retrieval. As the name implies, it is the practice of systematically retrieving information from your memory. I’m referring to actions like situations and events that have the capacity to activate acquired memory. Such as, answering test questions, putting ideas into practice in the work place, explaining or teaching the topic to others. If the information learned is used or retrieved often, it will be moved from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. Items stored in the short-term memory will be quickly lost. Forgetting has a purpose. It’s how our brain avoids information overload. The Retrieval Practice is not a Panacea. Other strategies are also helpful. Please watch the videos on the series. However, to retrieve can produce remarkably strong learning with lasting retention. People often ask me, “How many times should I practice retrieving?” The truth, is the answer to this question is unknown. It varies, depending on the content and the individual. However, we should retrieve 4 to 7 times. Try it! It works! Here are some examples of Retrieval Practices. All our online courses have tests for your use. Retest utilizing the Retrieval Library. This library is available for additional testing, which students may utilize. For example. How would you apply what you have learned in the Customer Service Course? Have them pretend they are teaching the online course to someone else. How is this different from what we do? What do we need to change? Such as signage in the break room or a news letter. Reward practices and behaviors that demonstrate what they have learned. Implement reviews weekly or monthly to ensure that the relevant training stay in the forefront of their minds. Let’s talk about the second strategy – Spacing. Looking at the forgetting curve again, and with the help of the learning sciences and the neurosciences, to discover how we can combat forgetting and optimize the formation of memory. It is key to remember that in the first 24 hours there is a big loss, as seen in the graph, because it is fairly steep. The closer in time the content is delivered, the easier it is to retrieve. The first day is crucial. The ideal retrieval interface is, multiple retrievals within the first 3 days, and then again during the following week. And finally, a month after the content is delivered. You should practice retrieval more often with difficult materials. Practicing retrieval for a long period of time, for example, throughout a month instead of a week, tells your brain that the knowledge is needed in the long term. When planning your employee development program, consider that there is a huge benefit to not delivering the content all at once. People need time to do multiple retrieval for a stronger long-term memory. Spacing works both ways. In the delivery and in the retrieval of content. Learning in the work place has a different purpose than the cramming strategy most of us practiced in our school days. As illustrated, after taking a course or a lesson, it is crucial to plan for a retrieval process, creating a continuous learning environment, and weaving learning into the work place. To forget is part of life, however we need to embrace this fact and create a process to improve retention. Other factors also play a role in retention. Such as stress level, prior knowledge, time, sleep, relevance, difficulty, and training modality and format. Checkout the other videos on the Learning Leader Series. Thank you.

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