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From the Deputy Principal – Teaching & Learning, Mrs Elizabeth Watson – The Curve of Forgetting

Deputy Principal - Teaching & Learning, Elizabeth Watson

Deputy Principal - Teaching & Learning, Ms Elizabeth Watson

The Curve of Forgetting – It’s More Important Than You May Realise

German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909), conducted the pioneer study on the pattern of memory retention. His ‘forgetting curve’ hypothesised the decline of memory retention over time. Although Ebbinghaus’ research dates back to the 1880s, it is still widely used and highly regarded. In 2015, a research team led by Murre and Dros, successfully reproduced his findings and concluded that his methods and theories still held true.  

The Forgetting Curve, or the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting, shows how learned information slips out of our memories over time – unless we take action to keep it there.

The steepest drop in memory happens quickly after learning, so it’s important to revisit the information you’ve learned sooner rather than later. After that, regular reviews will help to reinforce it. But you can leave longer and longer gaps between these review sessions. This is known as ‘spaced learning.’

Doing this, will help to reinforce your learning, and improve your power of recall, so that you can remember what you’ve learned in the long term. Other strategies you can use to improve your memory are: overlearning information, making what you want to learn meaningful, and challenging your memory regularly.

Why Do We Forget Information That We Hear in Class?

Curve of Forgetting

  • After class we know 100%
  • Day 2 we know 30% – 50%
  • Day 7 we know 15% – 20%
  • Day 30 we know 2% – 3%

What Can We Do To Help Us Remember?

Curve of Forgetting 2

  • After class we know 100%
  • That night – spend 15 minutes going over the work from class – back to 100%
  • Day 7 – spend 10 minutes going over the work again – back to 100%
  • Day 30 – spend 5 minutes going over the work again – back to 100%

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.” Albert Einstein.

 

Mrs Elizabeth Watson

Deputy Principal – Teaching & Learning

E: ewatson@waverley.nsw.edu.au