Increasing learning retention with Sheila B. Robinson

Retrieval practice is a technique used in teaching as a way of getting people to generate ideas and think actively. In this episode of the Learning While Working podcast we are joined by an expert in this field, Sheila B. Robinson, who is a speaker, educator, and consultant. We discuss some key retention strategies, how to incorporate them into your learning design, the benefits of the ‘Spacing Effect’, and Sheila’s top advice with where to begin.

About Sheila B. Robinson

Sheila B. Robinson, Ed.D., of Custom Professional Learning, LLC, is a speaker, educator, and consultant with a passion for the science of teaching and learning, presentations, and asking good questions. Through her talks, professional development workshops and university courses, Sheila teaches people how to make learning stick and how to ask good questions, along with program evaluation, survey design, data visualisation, audience engagement, and presentation design.

Sheila is author of Designing Quality Survey Questions (SAGE Publications, 2018), and writes a popular blog with numerous articles on survey design, learning, presentations and other topics. Sheila is also a Certified Presentation Specialist (CPS)™, Vice President of the Presentation Guild, and Senior Design and Facilitation Consultant with Evergreen Data.

Key takeaways:

  • Why learning retention is our ultimate goal: it encompasses all universal aspects of learning, from school to work. It is about being able to pull from your brain what's there, because you've learned something. It’s a great way to empower your learners with this skill so they can make the most out of your program.
  • Testing evokes negative emotions and Sheila is reluctant to use the word ‘testing’ because it leads us to think about assessment. People think they are being judged, which makes them anxious and not optimal. The idea of retrieval practice as self-testing is a chance to help you process newly learned material and integrate it with prior knowledge.
  • Apply the spacing effect: it demonstrates that learning is more effective when study sessions are spaced out. It gives learners time and a chance to embed long-term memory. We have been doing this since our childhood at school, e.g when you first learn the times tables, then it spaces out over time until you no longer forget them.

Segmented time stamps:

  • 01:59 What learning retention means to Sheila
  • 02:53 The universal aspect of learning retention
  • 04:00 Ways to increase retention
  • 07:18 The problems with the ‘Testing Effect’
  • 11:10 The role of demonstration during training sessions
  • 13:45 Understanding the ‘Spacing Effect’
  • 19:51 Having a module to inform students about learning retention
  • 21:13 Sheila’s advice for increasing retention

Links from the podcast: