One of the biggest challenges we hear with learning programs or initiatives is how little of the learning is retained. One of the first questions Learning and Organisational Development (L&OD) departments are asked is: How much is it, and what is the return on investment?

This is a fair call, as most programs we see lead to little or no change. This is because our ability to retain new information depletes as quickly as we learn it. Bringing new skills into a business or developing individuals is more than a fleeting training session. We need to make learning sticky, and by that, we mean it needs to be integrated into the everyday context for employees. Learning is not an event. It is part of a system that individuals must experience every day.

One of the goals for L&OD teams (Learning and Organisational Development) is to combat the forgetting curve. Battling the curve is challenging. The pressure to produce some form of ‘ROI’ can often skew the learning process. The only way to instil learning is to leverage evidence-based applied learning strategies that place the learner, not ROI, as the focus.

What is an evidence-based applied learning strategy? Let’s look at a couple we use here at Red Wolf Group to negate that pesky forgetting curve. These strategies create valuable insights and usable learning activities for individuals!

1. Applied Learning

Applied learning is a contextualised concept that allows an individual to solve problems. Applied learning centres around creative thinking to resolve issues and learn new skills and concepts. It encourages the individual to master a skill. Mastery occurs in their worldview through projects, stretch goals or scenario-based practice. This evidence-based approach enhances the practical application of new concepts and skills.

2. Learning Transfer

Learning transfer contains two concepts:

The rate at which a new idea or skill is embedded post-learning events.

The delivery of meaningful content to continue learning, post-learning events.

Learning transfer is a metric that can be measured, assisting L&OD professionals in assessing if the learning strategy has been successful. Segmentation stimulates and refreshes a learner’s insights to mitigate the loss of knowledge. The key to learning transfer, like any learning experience, is autonomy and context. CONTEXT IS KEY. Without real-world context, any attempts at learning transfer will likely fail. L&OD teams should embed learning as part of a change initiative to ensure any new skills are relevant and valuable in the current context.

3. Spaced-Repetition

Spaced repetition is an evidence-based learning technique that helps our brains to retain and recall information quicker. Spaced repetition can apply in both contextualised learning and non-contextualised learning. Simply put, the delivery or layering of knowledge allows our brains to create and recall the learning pathways over time. Essentially, we take a large concept and break it into smaller chunks. We then deliver the chunks in layers over a period of time. Traditionally this technique was used with flashcards, but with the right approach, it can be applied in various situations.

4. Flipped / Action Learning

This is somewhat similar to Applied Learning. However, we take it a step further by gaining insight into the learners’ lived experiences and already obtained knowledge. The steps are pretty simple.

  • Understand what the learner knows and their experiences.
  • Empower them to explore their current knowledge further.
  • Provide a new concept as a layer to their existing knowledge.
  • Let them play with the concept.
  • Test the new application.
  • Self-reflect on how it went.
  • Teach back to the group or a peer.

When we have the right learning mix, we get what we like to call sticky learning. We can create a perfect blend using applied learning, learning transfer, and spaced repetition strategies, ensuring that learning is embedded. This ideal mix leads to high retention of knowledge, greater knowledge transfer, and highly engaged individuals. Did we mention it also spurs innovation and creativity?

Is your learning sticky? Reach out to Red Wolf Group today, and we can discuss how to stir the learning pot!