058 How to retain more information

058 How to retain more information

Episode 58 – How to retain more information

Hi there. Welcome back to another episode of The Art of Business English. This is Andrew Ambrosius here again. And just like to wish everyone Merry Christmas. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas period. Didn’t send out a podcast on Christmas day. I’m sorry guys, I was taking a bit of a break from it all. Just here home today, I thought I’d put together a quick episode for you. Now, I do have the kids running around in the background, so if you do hear any crazy laughter, that’s just my lovely little chickens playing with their pet dog.

Now, just to start this episode off, basically like it’s that time of the year again where we need to start thinking about reflecting on the year that’s been and then looking to the year that’s coming. To do that, basically what we can do, is we can do a couple of things. We can think about what we have achieved this year and then we can look at what we want to achieve for the coming year.

What I want to do in this episode, is I’m going to sort of set this episode up over two weeks, okay? So this episode and next week, I want to look at a learning method which is called the spacing effect. Because I want you all to think about how you learn and retain information and how you memorize it. Because I think it will be useful if you understand the spacing effect and how this can help you to memorize more and be a better learner.

Basically, what I want to do then is go over the spacing effect and also think about goal setting and why it’s important. In this episode, I just was wondering if you guys have set or if you’ve got any goals that you set last year that you’re reflecting back on? And if you’ve achieved those goals and how they’ve come along. Hopefully, you’ve had a good year and it’s been quite successful.

I think most people have had quite a positive year this year. 2018 has been quite hectic. It’s been a very interesting year though. Lots of changes, lots of things happening globally. But generally, the economy has been good, so I’m sure most of you have been working hard and hopefully had lots of work and been quite successful.
Let’s have a look then at the spacing effect. Basically, I’m just going to give you guys a quick episode this week. And next week, I’m going to go into more detail because it’s going to be the new year. Going to look at how we can set some goals and be organized. But I wanted to look at the spacing effect because I think it’s very important for you and I as well as learners.

Basically, I’m just going to give a background to what typically happens. And this is the interesting thing, when we’re at school, we have always been taught subjects and topics once. So, normally what your teacher does, is they teach you a topic and then you finish that topic or that unit, and then you move onto the next topic and unit and then onto the next topic and unit. Then maybe at the end of the trimester or three months, you will have a test on the three, four or five units that you covered, or topics that you covered during that trimester.
Now, what’s the problem here is that you only really touch on those topics once. So you will be covering the material and the information just once. The teacher will teach it to you, you’ll be required to do some exercises and study it. And then you’ll move onto the next topic. This methodology really is not an effective way to memorize or recall this information later. Because what it does, it encourages students to do what most of us have always done and that is cram for the exam at the end of the trimester.

Because you are required to know everything that you’ve learned over that trimester, what you do is you haven’t really been compound learning. You have just learned it once, you’ve touched on it and then at the end of the course, or the end of the trimester, you need to memorize it all. You need to recall that information maybe that you learned in the first, second, third unit. And what happens is, you then spend all nighters studying hard, cramming. So that you can try and memorize as much as the information as possible.
Then you go forward and have your exam or your test, and if you have a good memory, you’ll have memorized a lot of it and you’ll get a good grade. Now, if you have a bad memory, maybe you won’t have memorized much and you’ll get a worse grade.

But what happens to most people, whether or not you have a good memory or a bad memory, is that you’ll forget most of this information some days or weeks after you have actually studied for the exam. The whole concept of learning in many ways is a bit broken because you are not really retaining the information that you learned. You’re just memorizing, regurgitating and forgetting.

This surprisingly, is the way that many schools, over many, many years have conducted their learning methodologies in the way that they teach students. That’s quite surprising when there are things like the spacing effect methodology available.


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Andrew Ambrosius is the Director of Castells Immerscom and The Art of Business English. A specialist in Business English training and online course development.