It’s scary to think we waste hours, absorbing new information just to forget it minutes later. What’s the point of learning if we don’t practice knowledge retention? Luckily, there are 5 scientifically proven ways to beat this ubiquitous knowledge retention issue, many of us face, on a daily basis.
Why we struggle with knowledge retention
Before we can meaningfully apply these retention strategies it’s important to understand why our brain forgets new knowledge. This can be explained in two simple points:
1. Our brains get stuck at the first hurdle
When we read a book or listen to a presentation we can miss up to 3 or 4 concepts in just the first few minutes. This is because the brain gets stuck at the first new concept/obstacle. It then tries to apply the new concept but fails. And if you continue to read the book or listen to the speaker. The brain is still focused on the first point and fails to absorb all of the new points, even if you hear them, they don’t get retained. And of course, without complete information, you have ‘incomplete information’.
2. We need to make the mistake, ourselves
No matter how good the explanation and how well you feel you understand the concept. You won’t really grasp or retain the concept until you make a mistake when implementing it. This is because your interpretation will vary from the actual meaning the writer/speaker intends to communicate. You’ve only interpreted what they’ve said, and more often than not, the interpretation is not quite correct. You can only find out how far off the mark you are by trying to implement the concept.
How we best retain knowledge
Some interesting stats about how different learning processes influence our retention.
- 90% of knowledge when we teach someone else/practically apply it, immediately after learning.
- 75% of knowledge when we practically apply it.
- 50% of knowledge when we engage in a group discussion.
- 30% of knowledge when we see a demonstration.
- 20% of knowledge from audio-visual.
- 10% of knowledge from reading.
- 5% of knowledge from lectures.
Read more about the stats here.
Interesting stuff but how we can try to retain more when we are forced to rely on things such as books and presentations? Here are 5 scientifically proven ways to encourage your knowledge retention, even if the learning process is statistically against you!
5 tips to boost knowledge retention
1)Ask yourself questions about the new material
If you are reading a textbook, this can simply be what is the main point of this section?
What are the key discussion points?
Try to answer these questions as you read along the text. Writing the questions and answers down is even more helpful.
2) Engage in reflective learning
Similar to the above point but more practically focused. When learning new materials you should be constantly be asking yourself “How can I immediately apply what I just learned?” If you focus on how to immediately apply the knowledge to your current job, it will increase retention and positively influence performance/deliverables in a big way.
3) Skim material
The idea here is to skim-read material first and pick up on keywords and concepts that you’ll be covering. This way when you read the material, properly, your brain knows what to expect. And you can organize the new information into your pre-learned headings.
4) Relate new material to what you already know
In one study, participants who were provided with relevant context linking to previous knowledge, before listening to prose passages were better at knowledge recall later than those who had received no context before.
You can add context for new material as you are learning it, or you can prepare and spend some time thinking about what you already know about the topic before you begin studying.
You can connect the new information to visuals in various ways. For example, you can imagine that you are having a conversation with a friend about the new information, you can visualize a story about or even better, you can vizualize practically applying the new information.
What’s the one thing you are going to do after reading this blog? Try applying one of the retention techniques and I bet you will retain more from this blog, than most things you have read today.