The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve
Let’s be honest. How many times have you attended a lesson with your dance teacher, learnt lots of great stuff, told yourself you will remember it all and practice hard, only to come back to your lesson the following week remembering NOTHING of what you were taught?! Don’t be embarrassed, we have all been there!
You can thank this tendency of forgetfulness to a scale known as Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve. In the late 19th century, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus tested his memory over various periods of time and recorded the results. He found that immediately after learning something new, information was lost exponentially, with the most significant decline in retention within the first few days!
Modern research into the Forgetting Curve shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information presented to them. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent, and within a week, an average of 90 percent of the information is lost. No wonder we can’t remember what we were taught.
Fortunately, there are tools we can use to aid our memory:
- Write down what you learn; even just a few key points about topics covered in your lesson, and immediately after you have learnt it. In theory lessons, take notes throughout your class, your teacher won’t mind.
- Practice what you have learnt after your lesson. Even if it is just for 10-15 minutes. The aim is to reinforce what you have learnt with your body, not just your mind.
- Repetition. The sooner you practice again, the greater the retention of information. Within 24 hours, be sure to practice again, and again after that.
- Long term retention comes down to frequency of retrieval. We are all guilty of practicing term one medal routines to perfection right up until medal day, but immediately forget all our hard work when term two dances come along! Socials are a great way of drawing on our memory to reinforce those skills and routines.