How to remember what you’ve learned (at SharePoint conferences and everywhere)

If you’re attending the SharePoint conference in Anaheim next week or the European SharePoint Conference later in October or any other conference, here’s a question for you:

What is the best way to retain the information you learn for the long term?

  1. Get a copy of the speaker’s slides and go through them to refresh your memory
  2. Have a beer (SharePint!) with fellow attendees and let the learning percolate through your head
  3. Make your own notes on the session recalling what you’ve learned
  4. Answer a quiz on the material presented

The right answer is that 3. or 4.  will help much more than 1. or 2. This is because, according to cognitive psychology research, when we retrieve something from our brains we make it more likely that the information will be recallable in future.

Here is some evidence from an experiment conducted at Washington University in St. Louis (see here for details, the graph below comes from Experiment 1). Two groups of students were followed – one group spent a certain amount studying and the other group spent the same amount in total studying and testing themselves – practicing recall. As you can see, the group who studied and took a test remembered much more a week later – retaining 56% rather than 42%.

Graph showing retention of test vs restudy

So if you want to remember something over time, not just for 5 minutes, practice retrieving it from memory – make some notes, talk about it to a colleague or take a quiz or test! This will help beat the forgetting curve.

This obviously has application in delivering learning via SharePoint as well as helping oneself learn at conferences. But I hope if you’re attending any of the SharePoint conferences coming up that this might help you retain the information you learn.

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