Facilitating better knowledge retention


One of the most important goals for me as an educator and facilitator is to figure out how much new information people will take away with them. I am always on the lookout for ways to increase the efficiency of learning as well as the retention.

When designing a class or a facilitation session I spend some time identifying the learning outcomes I would like to achieve. I then spend some time organising the content together with the exercises for content practice or repetition.

So far so good.

The key to subject mastery is teaching it to others. If you're able to accurately and correctly teach a subject to others, you'll have a very good mastery of the concepts, and superior retention and recall. This has been very powerful for me. The main challenge with this is during a given session there isn’t always the time needed for the learners to master the subject matter as a teacher would.

I spent some time considering how I could integrate this into the different sessions - how could I make the learners achieve some of the benefits I experience as a teacher?

I have slowly been experimenting a few methods into my teaching whose goal it is to maximise the ‘teacher’ retention for the learners with some fairly good results:

Interactive Lecturing

Most of my teaching sessions are interactive with content presented in chunks spread out with different activities. During these content breaks I have a few things I can choose from.

  1. Pause the lecture and instruct the learners to think about the material coverage (a few moments, max 1 minute). I then ask any one of the following:

  2. Ask them to state a certain number of facts they feel are most important. Ex.’Think about the information you just heard, as a group let's come up 5 most important facts we need to remember fro this material’

  3. (individually in silence) ‘Write a one sentence summary of the material’. Compare your summary to a person sitting next to you. Are your summaries similar? different? discuss.

  4. ‘If you had to explain why this material is so important to a colleague, what would you say?

  5. ‘If I stopped the lecture now and as a teacher/facilitator asked you a question. What might that question be’

  6. Bonus - Develop a Quiz - Form groups. For each group, identify the 7 most important concepts from the class. Develop 7 (this can vary for the session and content, time can vary from 5-10 min) ‘true/false’ questions to test the session knowledge. When complete give to next group to answer. Next group needs to answer the quiz that they just received. Debrief discussion.

This last one is very fun and most learners really appreciate this and is a great way to finish up a session.

I find that any of these questions are effective during a session to allow learners to stop and focus their attention on the material that was presented. This works to enhance their comprehension which leads to improved retention.