L&D: Combating the Forgetting Curve

I Almost Forgot About the Forgetting Curve

Did You?

You can tell by what you’ve Designed and Developed and Deployed.


The Forgetting Curve

From Wikipedia

The forgetting curve hypothesizes the decline of memory retention in time. This curve shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. A related concept is the strength of memory that refers to the durability that memory traces in the brain. The stronger the memory, the longer period of time that a person is able to recall it. A typical graph of the forgetting curve purports to show that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material.

From Wikipedia

Hermann Ebbinghaus (January 24, 1850 – February 26, 1909) was a German psychologist who pioneered the experimental study of memory, and is known for his discovery of the forgetting curve and the spacing effect. He was also the first person to describe the learning curve.

Remind ‘Em and Have ‘Em Retrieve

I learned about this a long time ago … and my distant memory take-a-ways are:

Spread out the Initial Learning – and spread out the Reinforcement of what was to have been learned after Initial Learning.

That’s not always feasible – spreading out Initial Learning – as the Enterprise wants people on the job and getting ‘er done ASAP. So my compromise was to get the Training done ASAP and find ways to reinforce (and build upon) the Initial Learning.

That was easy when you first design a T&D/L&D Path top-down – as I have been doing as a consultant for my external clients, since 1982.

When you design top-down you can see when and where and what to reinforce – and what kind of burden you will create – you will be competing no-doubt with the real-world job tasks of the Learner.

And as I use a Facilitated Group Process of Master Performers in both Analysis and Design – they always keep me and the Design of a Path – with at least one foot planted in the real world. The other foot is in some ideal world. Which is possible with a top-down approach to the system of Instruction (Learning). IMO.


If you are always doing incremental, Instructional One-Offs (not your fault I am sure) there is less opportunity to get feasible along with ideal in getting the right Initial Learning out along with the needed Reinforcements.

Again, Master Performers can be facilitated to take the wheel of those Business Decisions/ Design Decisions – as they know what will be reinforced by the job well enough – as well as what the Job won’t reinforce. I try to leverage their insights and strong feelings. I do that by reminding them that their names will go on the Design Document and even on the Paths produced.

NNSY 101 Sup Path

The Path above led to the Path below – where the Knowledge/Skills covered in the former could be reinforced and built upon in the latter.

These are examples of a project where there were Reinforcements within a Path … and Path-to-Path.

NNSY 101 Zone Manager Path

One thing I know for sure about Master Performers … is that they don’t want their good names associated with any Foo Foo from L&D.

They work hard to make the Content Performance-based, in an appropriate suggested sequence, and chunked (modularized) appropriately for re-sequencing in the the Individual Development Plan using the Individual Planning Guide that’s produced along with every Path – because as we all know:

One size does not fit all.

Great Video From Will Thalheimer

On The Learning and Forgetting Curve.

12 minutes

Bookmark it now.

Watch it again – later.

In segments.

And … bookmark and visit Will’s new site: https://www.worklearning.com/

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