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Learning without even trying

Oppdatert: 2. okt. 2018

Ever wondered why you get to use all your notes and study material on some certification exams? Just to give you a decent chance to pass. Here’s why:

You have probably experienced it yourself after attending an intensive course; after just a few hours, a lot of what you just learned seems to be forgotten already!

The 1880 research by Dr. Hermann Ebbinghaus, explain just how poorly we are able to retain information. Ebbinghaus published his famous “forgetting curve” that in a very visual way explain how poor our memory really is, and why it is so hard to remember by the end of the week what you learned in the beginning if it without help.

Typically, a classroom course with an instructor lecturing and students passively listening results in this:

  • 20 minutes: 40% forgotten

  • one day: 50-80% forgotten

  • six days: 77% forgotten

  • one month 90% forgotten

To improve this, and make learning stick, we need a different set of tactics. Research show that spaced repetition will improve how well we remember slightly, smoothing the forgetting curve a bit, but in order to achieve dramatic improvements we should apply the principles of Active Learning. Active learning is when you are engaging in and interacting with the material and combine several forms of learning at the same time; studying, thinking, solving problems and doing. The two main aspects of Active Learning is doing things and thinking about the things you do.

Gamification is an excellent example where these often combine. The principles in Active Learning is superior to lectures and enable students to learn effectively, sometimes without even trying to learn!

Gaining knowledge and skill only by reading and taking classes would seem almost futile and will probably take a long time to move you forward without forgetting too much. Applying on-going Active Learning, kept interesting and engaging with gamification, could change everything to the extreme:

Retaining 90% instead of forgetting it.

Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive study from University of Illinois. Cognitive cross-training takes Active Learning one step further and adds physical activity. Combining physical exercise with computer-based cognitive training promoted skill learning significantly more than using cognitive training alone.

Get your game on and start running :)



H. Ebbinghaus (1885): Über das Gedächtnis || Murre, Dros (2015-07-06) Replication and Analysis of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve || Kerrey, Bob (2017-10-06). Kosslyn, Stephen M.; Nelson, Ben, eds. Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education. || Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 5808 (2017). Enhanced Learning through Multimodal Training: Evidence from a Comprehensive Cognitive, Physical Fitness, and Neuroscience Intervention

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