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The (Dark) Magic of Forgetting and How to Fight It

The forgetting curve is a concept in psychology that describes the rate at which people forget new information over time. The forgetting curve is based on the idea that, without reinforcement or review, people will forget a significant amount of new information within a short period of time.

The forgetting curve was first proposed by the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the late 19th century. Ebbinghaus conducted experiments in which he tested his own memory for lists of nonsense syllables, and found that he forgot a significant amount of the material within a few days or weeks. He then used this data to create a graph showing the rate at which he forgot the material over time, known as the forgetting curve.

The forgetting curve has been studied and tested extensively by psychologists and educators, and has been found to hold true for a wide range of material and learners. It is often used as a basis for designing learning and review strategies, as it helps to identify the optimal times for reinforcement and review in order to facilitate long-term retention of new information.

How to battle the forgetting curve?

Several strategies can be used to battle the forgetting curve and facilitate long-term retention of new information, including the following:

  1. Use a variety of teaching methods. Using a variety of teaching methods, such as lectures, discussions, demonstrations, and hands-on activities, can help to engage learners and facilitate easier memory retention. This is because by using a variety of methods we make our students use different parts of their brains and approach the subject matter from various perspectives thus deepening their memory and understanding.

  2. Provide regular reinforcement and review. One of the most effective ways to combat the forgetting curve is to provide learners with regular opportunities to reinforce and review the material they have learned. This can involve providing learners with review materials or quizzes, or allowing them to engage in activities that help them to apply the material in a real-world context.

  3. Use spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is a learning strategy that provides learners with regular review and reinforcement of the material at increasingly longer intervals. This can help to consolidate the material in learners' long-term memory and reduce the rate at which they forget it.

  4. Use mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices are techniques that help learners to encode and organize new information in a way that makes it easier to remember. This can involve using acronyms, rhymes, or visual aids to help learners associate the new material with something they already know.

  5. Provide learners with a meaningful context for the material. Providing learners with a meaningful context for the material can help increase their motivation and engagement, which can facilitate long-term retention of the material. This can involve connecting the material to learners' own experiences and goals, or providing real-world examples of how the material can be applied.

There are many strategies that can be used to battle the forgetting curve and facilitate long-term retention of new information. By implementing these strategies, you can help learners retain and apply what they have learned over the long term.


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