In my last article we discussed Sousa’s explanation of sense and meaning. Both of these are essential if new material is to be retained. Now let’s talk about additional and supportive ideas for the retention of information.

Edgar Dale an American educator of the early 20th century, whose doctoral work was in the field of curriculum revision with an emphasis on audio-visual tools, developed a model  that he named the Cone of Experience and published it in  1947 This graphic is designed to show the difference between abstract and concrete methods of presenting new material. Concrete methods employ more of our senses, and require active participation. Abstract methods usually rely heavily on the senses of hearing or seeing only. Much study in the area of effective teaching methods for retention have affirmed and expanded on Dale’s Cone of Experience, since his use of it in the mid-1900s.Let’s look at some of those:

1. New Information is more likely to be retained if interacted with in a variety of ways. One primary point Dale wanted to make was that various teaching methods should be employed to affirm learning.

2. Concrete Methods tend to result in higher levels of retention. This is not to say abstract methods, such as reading or hearing a lecture should never be employed. Rather, it suggests two possibilities:

  1. the learner should be given just enough information to begin a concrete interaction with that information and after his concrete experience, abstract data can fill in some of the gaps and be used to confirm his experience.
  2. If abstract information is given first (as in a spoken lecture) it should be followed  up with a concrete or hands-on project that will confirm what was heard.

3. The use of varied methods keeps learners interested for longer. David Sousa, in his book, How the Brain Learns, discusses what he calls the novel affect. Learners need to receive information in short packets, and through varied methods. Novelty keeps them involved and forces them to concentrate. Connie Weaver, also discusses the importance of creating short “learning episodes” or lectures of no more than seven minutes, before asking the learner to actually do something with the information.

4. The short-term memory only has a capacity of about 5 to 7 minutes. Sousa who explained the benefits of varied methods and novelty, speaks of how important short learning packets are in relationship to the short-term memories capacity to receive information. Five to seven minutes of information is all that our short term memory can handle. Then it must be interacted with for retention of the material to occur. That means learners need to try what they have been taught. They need to speak back what they have heard. They need to jot down notes, create a diagram, or teach it to someone else. These interactions need to be short and immediately following the “learning episode” to be effective.

5.  Learning is more likely to be retained if multiple senses have been involved in the process. This means if a learner has heard the information, and has also seen it, he is more likely to retain it. If he has tried it–involved mobility and touch–he is even more likely to retain it. Oddly enough even smell and taste can have an impact on retention, which is why some neo-learning methods suggesting the burning of the same candle during a learning episode of the same subject.

6 Learning is more likely to be retained if it is clearly connected to other previous learning. This is because we are sense-makers. This fits well with the discussion in the past blog about sense and meaning. The brain attempts to make meaning of new information by connecting it to a prior body of knowledge. If the educator does not make those connections, sometimes the learner will make erroneous connections and the learning will be truncated.

7. Learning is more likely to be retained if the learner appreciates the value of the material and derives a sense of enjoyment from the learning. Krashen refers to this as the “Pleasure Hypothesis”. He says that learners are more likely to remember what they have learned if the experience evoked positive emotional feelings. When the learner is excited about what he is learning and sees the value in the new information he will stay invested and retain much more than if he is being “forced” to learn.

How is the materiel to be translated interacted with by the translator?

Do you see how new information is connected to an prior body of knowledge?

How might the “pleasure hypothesis” inform methods, practices, and procedure at a workshop?


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