How to enhance retention transfer

16 Feb

Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction is a model for planning and designing instructional experiences. For me, the model is the guidebook to the map that an ADDIE based instructional design project offers me. Each instructional event relates to a condition that is required for learning. The nine events are:

1. Gain attention
2. Inform learner of objectives
3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
4. Present stimulus material (content)
5. Provide learner guidance
6. Elicit performance
7. Provide feedback
8. Assess performance
9. Enhance retention transfer

Perhaps of the nine events, enhance retention transfer is the most important. Retention transfer is the ultimate goal of any training, and arguably the only real marker of a successful course.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in on a presentation by Dr. Daniel Pratt. In the presentation, he posed this question to the audience:

If you had only 20 minutes to learn material that had to be recalled accurately a week from now, which of the following would produce the best results a week later (and why)?

The options were:
1. Four study sessions of 5 minutes each;
2. Three study sessions of 5 minutes each, plus one 5 minute test of free recall, writing down as much as you could remember (no feedback);
3. One study session of 5 minutes, followed by three consecutive 5 minute tests of free recall, writing down as much as you could remember (no feedback);

The majority of the audience selected 2 – three study sessions of 5 minutes each, plus one 5 minute test.

The answer, of course, is 3 – one study session of 5 minutes, followed by three consecutive 5 minute tests.

Why?

Because retention transfer is more effective through active engagement, that is encoding and retrieving new material (1 study + 3 tests).

This leads me to other methods of retention transfer, not just testing.

Currently my favourite methods of retention transfer are spaced learning events (for example, recurring virtual meetings or classrooms) and continued support (face-to-face, e-mail, twitter, blogs, wikis). All of these are examples of active engagement.

What other methods do you use for retention transfer?

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