Fighting the Forgetting Curve

May 05, 2023

Written by:
Today's Class Team

Wouldn't it be great if you could retain everything you learn, the first time you learn it? Unfortunately that's not how most people's memories work, and we have the concept of the forgetting curve to blame. 

What Is the "Forgetting Curve"? 

the forgetting curve

In the 1880s, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted memory experiments on himself to better understand the processes of learning and forgetting. 

As he plotted his data on a graph, he uncovered the percentage of information retained declined exponentially over time without reinforcement. His findings detailed some shocking figures — on average we forget 50% of new information within an hour, and about 70% within one day. This memory model became known as the Forgetting Curve. 

For those of us that need to learn and retain new information and skills, these aren't inspiring figures. However, Ebbinghaus also identified several factors that cause us to lose information quickly, and how we may retain newly learned information more effectively.

Factors That Impact Retention

We now know the ability to retain new information is dependent on a few key factors: time, presentation of material, and relevance. 

How Much Time Has Passed 

We lose information at a surprisingly fast pace. The biggest drop happens quickly after a learning session has ended. After approximately 20 minutes, we're only able to retain about 60% of information taught. The longer we go without reinforcing new information, the more of it we lose. Within 30 days, we forget up to 90% of what we learned. 

How Material Is Presented 

The way material is structured has a big impact on how we learn, especially as adults. Traditional training for the automotive industry is instructor-led, and classes only happen sporadically — leaving large gaps between training sessions. Typically information is taught in large chunks, leaving your team members with a lot of information to absorb all at once, which further inhibits your team's ability to retain new information.

Read More: What You Should Know About Adult Learning 

How Relevant Information Is 

As our teams go through training, it's important that the information presented is relevant to a team member's position. For example, presenting training about diagnostic troubleshooting to a service advisor is not very relevant to their role. However, if they are given training related to communicating this diagnostic process to customers, they are much more likely to remember that information as it is critical knowledge for a service advisor. The more meaning new information has to us, the longer we'll be able to retain it. 

How To Avoid The Forgetting Curve

The good news is we are not doomed to always forget what we learn. There are ways for us to combat the effects of the forgetting curve. With the right type of training, your team will easily recall new information right away. 

Daily Training

Because the sharpest decline in retention happens 24 hours after new material is learned, reinforcing information daily becomes important for success. Ebbinghaus noted every time material is reviewed, less is forgotten after each review session. By introducing daily training to your team, you're able to easily increase the frequency of training to help reinforce your team's new skills so they put information to use right away. 

You're also eliminating the way traditional training imparts large chunks of information all at once. As mentioned above, the way material is presented has a big impact on how well your team absorbs new information. With daily training, information becomes bite-sized and team members only spend a few minutes each day learning, which significantly reduces the amount of material covered at once. 

Make Learning Meaningful 

Adult learners need motivation for learning — a reason why. Effective training can combat the forgetting curve by keeping information relevant to each learner's daily experiences. Training that acknowledges your team's differing roles and builds on their existing skills is more likely to be retained. 

Ready to Leave The Forgetting Curve Behind? 

See for yourself how daily training helps your team fight the forgetting curve to better retain new information. We'd love to show you how the Today's Class training program can help deliver real results for your shop, so let's find some time to talk.

Tags: Training

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