As a trainer, have you ever wondered why information you provide often doesn’t “stick?”
Memory is more complicated than most of us think. Take this quiz to find out what you already know.
True or False?
1. Learners who can perform a new learning task well are likely to retain it. (T/F)
2. Immediate memory will dump input in 30 seconds or less. (T/F)
3. Lifting weights improves memory and cognitive function better than aerobic exercise . (T/F)
How well did you do? Here are the answers. (Citations for these facts are at the end.)
1. FALSE. Even if a learner performs a new learning task well, chances are high it will not be permanently stored in memory.
3. FALSE. Although no studies have found a link between weight training and cognitive function, aerobic exercise does improve memory and cognitive function of both adults and children.
How Can I “Pump Up” What My Students Remember?
Students can only process input intently for about 10 minutes before losing focus. To prevent the material from fading, we must quickly use it in a different way. In training, this could involve applying the information through an activity, like solving a case study, building a model, talking about how they’ll use it on the job, etc.
In order for information to encoded into the learner’s long-term memory, it must meet two criteria:
• Does the information make sense? (Does the learner understand it?)
• Is the information relevant? (Can the learner connect it to past learning and current needs?)
Think of the training YOU do. How well does it meet these 2 criteria?
Making Better Training
You can probably guess by now that the odds are stacked against your learners’ remembering everything you teach. Here are 3 helpful, easy techniques to help boost retention:
1. Use humor.
Increased oxygen and the positive feelings that result from laughter improve the probability that students will remember what they learned.
2. Make clear what the students will be able to do as a result of the lesson.
State the learning outcomes at the beginning of class, and return to them as you move from one chunk of content to the next.
3. Provide prompt, specific, and corrective feedback.
Frequent, brief quizzes will build retention better than one large test.
Remember: You CAN boost your students’ retention. Just use these simple techniques!
Guila Muir is the premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help transform you from a boring expert to a great presenter: www.guilamuir.com
© Guila Muir.
* Facts from “How the Brain Learns,” by David Sousa. Corwin Press 2006, and Wired Magazine, May 2008