Two weeks ago, we kicked off a blog series on the science of learning. Each week, we’re reviewing a key aspect about how humans learn, absorb information, and remember.
So far, we’ve covered two “simple and practical strategies” that you can use to increase the impact of a compliance learning program:
This week’s post tackles “retrieval cues”—basically, strategies you can use to program learning so it’s easier to recall later. For a learning designer, these can be a lot of fun.
To Extend Learning, Use Retrieval Cues
Thanks to that song’s chorus, I now know the 50 U.S. states in alphabetical order, from Alabama to Wyoming. In fact, I can still recite them at a moment’s notice—beginning with any one of the states—even if it has been years since the last time I tried it.
Jingles, songs, and slogans are able take up near-permanent space in our brain because teachers, would-be Don Drapers, and autocrats all understand something crucial about learning:
Getting information IN to the brain is only the first step. To really learn something, you also need to be able to get the information back OUT.
Retrieval is Key to Learning
Have you ever tried to remember something and failed—and yet it really felt like the information was in there somewhere, you just couldn’t find it?
Research studies support your impression: The information IS somewhere in the big filing cabinet of your brain. It hasn’t fallen out or disappeared; you just can’t locate it at the moment.
There’s virtually no limit to how much learning we can remember. . . . Our retrieval capacity, though, is severely limited. Most of what we’ve learned is not accessible to us at any given moment.
In other words, when you learn something and then forget it, you haven’t actually forgotten the information—you’ve just lost the cue for retrieving it.
Memory cues are in limited supply, and so as we take in information (which we do pretty much constantly in life), our ever-efficient brain recycles old, unused ones.
The key word here is “unused.” The brain only replaces cues you don’t seem to need—leaving new, frequently-used, or really vivid memory cues intact.
But there are ways to game the system. Anything that makes information easier to remember will give its associated cues more staying power—even when it’s linked to large or complex bodies of knowledge.
Pros use mnemonic devices like:
So how can compliance programs put these devices to use? Try some of these strategies:
A few mnemonic devices can go a long way to helping your audience remember what they learn. Ready to make your compliance content stick? Sign up for a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts.
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