Hermann Ebbinghaus

On Learning

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Breakthrough learning discoveries from the 18th century

Born in 1850 in the German town of Barmen, Hermann Ebbinghaus was a psychologist and school teacher who performed experiments on himself and others during his research into the effect of our own memories on our ability to learn. In 1885, in a work called On Memory, he published the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, which shows how much we naturally forget after learning something new.

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve




This curve shows that a week after attending a training course, we remember only 23% of what we learnt. So if you spend, say, £2,000 on a training course yet you only retain 23% of the learning, you're paying £2,000 for £460-worth of content. Add to this that you won't necessarily remember the most relevant 23%, and the problem becomes even bigger.

But it's not all bad news. Professor Ebbinghaus also showed that if you reinforce that learning, you can push retention back up to 100%, and it then drops off more slowly. The Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne University has extensive information on Ebbinghaus' research.

Navanter's research into training impact

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve is, of course, very old research, so at Navanter, we decided to do our own research into the impact of training in relation to organisational support for using new skills quickly in the workplace. We did this in 2017, and our research shows a remarkably similar pattern. At the end of our courses, we asked delegates how much support they felt they would get from their organisations to use their new skills quickly. Then two months later, we asked the same delegates how much impact they felt our training had had on their jobs. The results show a clear trend that the more support they felt they'd get, the more impact the training had. More startling, though, is that there is almost no-one who felt they'd get poor support who then found they had good job impact, and no-one who felt they'd receive good support who then had poor job impact.

Training reinforcement in 2019

So what does training reinforcement look like in the digital age? This depends on you: the learner. At its most basic level, reinforcement means going back over your course notes at regular intervals to remind yourself of the key points you highlighted during your learning event. Moving up from here, refresher days are a popular choice to ensure new behaviours are adopted into standard working practices, and to remind you of the key learning whilst stretching you further. Or perhaps some personalised coaching would work best for you to truly cement your learning in place.

New for 2019: Blended learning to increase training ROI

At Navanter, we believe that providing the reinforcement and mental focus to maximises knowledge retention is as important as the training itself. It's this which gives business impact from our training courses. As all learners have different personalities, a blended learning approach is usually the best way to embed learning into teams. We believe we're unique in the industry to put so much effort into undoing the effects of Herr Ebbinghaus' Forgetting Curve. Take a look at our blended learning process to see how this might work for you.

There's no right or wrong, and the choice depends on the individual. But whether you're training with Navanter or with another provider, or just reading a book, Ebbinghaus' research is still relevant to you, today. Talk to us to make sure you're not throwing hard-won training budget down a black hole. Whether you're training with us or with someone else, we'll help you use your new skills quickly and effectively in your workplace.

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