Why professional writing courses must incorporate learning retention activities, or they lose value.


Posted April 18, 2018

Training employees can yield amazing benefits for organizations. For example, a study from the Association for Talent Development found that companies in the top quarter of per-employee spending on training had, on average,
24% higher profit margins and 218% higher income per employee than firms in the bottom quarter.
It makes sense when you think about it. Training is a professional investment that pays off in performance and productivity gains, as employees learn to do their jobs more skillfully, effectively, and quickly. This is especially true of writing skills’ development, since writing is so foundational to every aspect of a business.
However, there’s a hidden roadblock that derails many writing courses: The Forgetting Curve.
Developing employee skills can pay off only if the new learning sticks. Unfortunately, most people forget most new information almost immediately. This is called the Forgetting Curve, a formula first tested and articulated by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the late 19th Century. Ebbinghaus discovered – and later studies confirmed – that most new information is forgotten almost immediately after learning it, and only a fraction of the new information is retained over time.
File:Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve (Figure 1).jpg
Image: “Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve” by Educ320 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
If trainees forget what they learned, they’ll simply default to previous habits, behaviors, and skills, yielding no real impact to behavior or productivity.
In other words, it turns out that retaining new knowledge is just as important a process as – and separate from – learning it in the first place. Yet many writing courses fail to account for retention over time; once the course or seminar is over, they simply wash their hands of it.
How do you solve the professional training retention problem?
Repeated exposure is key, but there’s a science to it. Studies have found, for example, that you can’t just throw the new information at a person repeatedly in a brief timespan and expect them to retain it. We must use something called “spaced repetition.” This even works on animals: in one study, researchers trained bees to distinguish sugar water from other stimuli. Some bees were trained every 30 seconds, others every 10 minutes; the latter group learned much better.
Training reinforcement and retention activities also need to be baked into the learning process from the start. When designing in-house training scenarios or selecting training vendors, verify that they include tools and activities that will reinforce the new information and boost skills and information retention over time.
Hurley Write has developed a learning retention program for professionals who take their customized, instructor-led; online courses. Contact us to learn more!
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 25 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.