Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Forgetting Curve

As we have discussed previously in this dyslexia blog students with dyslexia often have problems regarding memory.

Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German pyschologist is famous for his research into memory which he carried out in the 1880’s. His experiments give an insight into learning and forgetting and his findings are still valid today. He tested his own memory using a large number of nonsense syllables which he created.

His findings were as follows :

It is harder to memorize material that does not have significance or relevance to the learner.

His data revealed that increasing the amount of material to be learned usually dramatically increases the amount of time it takes to learn it. This is the learning curve.

He established that relearning is easier than initial learning, and that it takes longer to forget material after each subsequent re-learning.

Ebbinghaus’s work also suggested that learning is more effective when it is spaced out over time rather than crammed into a single marathon study session.

Ebbinghaus also discovered that forgetting happens most rapidly right after learning occurs and slows down over time. This is the forgetting curve. It shows that about 80% of what students learn today will be forgotten within 24 hours ,if the material is not gone over.

So what can we learn from this ?

It is important that students regularly review the knowledge that they are learning; this is how things move from short-term to long term memory and become easier to recall at speed.

Effective revision should an ongoing process, not a cramming session just before the exams.

It is important for students to revise at particular points in time in order that they don’t forget the information they have learnt :

They should go over the information they are learning in the same day (in the evening for 10 minutes ) also 24 hours later, one week later and one month later ( or sooner ).

Remember that students with dyslexia will also need to revise even more frequently. The more over learning they do the easier it will become to recall information. It is a good idea if students can make up questions to test themselves on the information they are learning, as this is a good aid to learning.

It would be a useful if parents and teachers explain the importance and implications of the forgetting curve to children in order to encourage them to review material learnt more regularly.

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