‘Forgetting’ research

Posted on Mar 22, 2014

Take a look through most of the current thinking around L&D and there a whole range of ideas, thoughts, practices, approaches – whatever you want to call them – that are intended to enhance the value that you are adding to your organisation.

The problem with blindly following many of these recommendations is that they often fail to acknowledge the resistance that many workplace practitioners will face from others within their organisation (I know, I’ve been there).

The purpose of this blog post is to provide you with a range of ideas, research, suggestions etc that I have found useful in helping to underpin my rationale for ‘acting differently’.

I’ve found that by showing the research, figures, hard data etc that I’ve received less resistance from stakeholders – I’ve even seen / heard of examples of those same stakeholders repeating the data/research to others!

I’ve previously been asked to designed a ‘sheep dip’ sales programme. There was no guarantee that any sales staff would actually sell the product immediately after the ‘sheep dip’ programme. I used Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve research to show the futility of relying on a sheep dip programme as well as related research around spaced repetition to help shift people’s (by people, I mean project stakeholders) perceptions as to how the programme should be delivered?

I won’t regale Ebbinghaus’s research as it’s been done a gazillion times by others, but here’s a few articles you may find of use in the area of the Forgetting Curve, spaced learning, spaced repetition etc

Clark Quinn – Thinking and Learning

Training Zone – The Forgetting Curve and its implications for training delivery

Clark Quinn – Extending Learning


Wikipedia – Spaced repetition

Wikipedia – Forgetting curve

You may also find it useful to bookmark my Social Bookmarks on this subject as I’m likely to add to this list beyond this blog post being published.


Despite my use of the Ebbinghaus research/data being successful in convincing my stakeholders to adopt a non sheep-dipping approach it was interesting to read this blog post from Dr Will Thalheimer in which he challenges the sweeping generalisation around ‘forgetting’.

Make sure that you explore the various links etc within Will’s post…. you may be surprised (particularly, if like me, you have touted Ebbinghaus’ research before)


Have you successfully used the subject of ‘forgetting’ in any of your work?


How did you get on?


Enough of the lurking! Why not leave a comment? You know you want to...

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