5 Best Practices for Knowledge Retention
23rd August 2013
The majority of the challenges we face – whether these are at work or within education – are based around gaps in skills, knowledge retention and training. But how do we store, interpret and use information?
What is knowledge retention
The information mechanism within our brains means that true knowledge is the ability to understand, associate and retrieve or recall information effectively. In a work environment, knowledge in this context tends to refer to skill, experience or know-how. It’s clear that an efficient, knowledgeable workforce is a valuable asset to any business and many employers are turning to improved training to achieve knowledge retention. However, learning, understanding and retaining new information can be challenging.
The brain’s ability to handle new information and put it into practice can be a frustrating process. Commonly, our minds are flooded with a sea of information, of which we only retain a very low percentage. When we talk about learning new skills, information or procedures, the issue of knowledge retention often arises. The old saying does ring true, “In one ear and out the other” when it comes to retaining large amounts of information at once. Newly acquired information tends to disperse at an alarming rate as our brain is limited to what it can learn, retain and store from short term to long term.
To make learning new information as easy as possible, Sponge has laid out our five top tips for learning and increasing knowledge retention where you need it….in your brain!
Avoid information overload
When it comes to knowledge retention, the human brain has a natural capacity of information that it can effectively handle and process at once. Meaning that flooding the brain with large amounts of information at once is not constructive towards a good learning environment. The majority of this information will only be retained short term, or be patchy at best.
Ideal conditions for effective learning employ staged content that builds upon previously learned skills. This gives the learner time to digest and put into practice what they have learned before, becoming competent and confident in their abilities before the next level of training begins.
Make sure your learners don’t tune you out
Naturally, when faced with large volumes of information, the brain filters out some of what it deems to be ‘background noise’ and focuses on learning and retaining a smaller amount of key facts. But what if they tune out the most important lessons within your training and their focus lies within supplementary material that offers less value?
Effective training courses should adopt content that is specifically tailored to the knowledge retention of each particular subject area. Additional or background information isn’t always helpful. Taking slightly longer to learn individual pieces of only the correct information, then solving the overall puzzle, is easier and more rewarding than cramming every bit of information into the brain in a hurried fashion.
Memorable training that sticks
For a learning experience to be positive and effective, it needs to be engaging. If learners lose interest in the information that you provide them with, learning and knowledge will grind to a halt. Interactive, outcome-focused learning will engage the trainee and promote maximum retention.
Valuable tools for engaging learning include user-centric graphics, which make complex information more easy to interpret; audio, which reinforces visual learning via auditory senses and video, which can help dense information and technical processes to be demonstrated. By combining these methods, learning never becomes dry – varied learning stimulants keep learners engaged, allowing maximum absorption and knowledge retention.
Make your learning relative
Abstract volumes of information will automatically make a trainee ask “Why do I need to know this?”. And, if they cannot see the value of the information, your training will not be effective. It’s always important to stress the whys and the whens of new information – why an employee needs to know and when they will use the information.
By relating the information to a real work scenario, your learners will see the value and importance of gaining maximum familiarity with the data that you provide.
Rehearse, test and perform
Throughout life, we continually learn. We know that returning to do the same thing after a considerable lapse of time may throw up some issues. If we aim at knowledge retention, rehearsal is the glue that will keep information in our brain. Rehearsal is the repeated practice of new information or skills, reinforcing the exercise to move the knowledge from short-term to long-term memory. For complex information, multi-sensory strategies can be beneficial for really hitting home the information by strengthening its presence within your skill-set.
When information is no longer used regularly – and therefore rehearsal is minimal or non-existent – its presence is minimised within long-term memory, making retrieval far more difficult. This is when forgetting information tends to arise, information that is continually practised lodges its place within your mind, making locating and using such knowledge a quick and easy process.
As obvious as it may seem, testing the knowledge that you have just learned enforces the stored information. This is best achieved by testing learners after each particular stage within a subject. This is because learners have had the chance to absorb and rehearse the information, then retrieve it when tested – reinforcing the pathway early on in the learning process.
Studies have shown that active minds learn to store, understand and use new information more easily. A busy mind that is used to adapting and processing new information tends to acquire extra information more easily. If this part of your brain isn’t active, education may be more difficult for you than for others who are consistently learning. This isn’t to say that the skills have to be related – you may have a hobby that you invest time in, which is completely unrelated to your day job but keeps this part of the brain ticking over.
Sponge provide easy-to-use training and implement learning solutions that aim at maximising the knowledge retention of your employees. Get in touch below!
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