Educators educating Educators

Nov 24

Forgetting Curve

 

 

People usually forget 90% of what they learn in class within 30 days. Also, the majority of forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class.

Hermann Ebbinghaus was a German psychologist who pioneered the experimental study of memory, and is known for his discovery of the forgetting curve and the spacing effect. He was also the first person to describe the learning curve. He is most famous for discovering the most depressing fact in education. People usually forget 90% of what they learn in class within 30 days. Also, the majority of forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class. This has been confirmed many times since.

 

Hermann Ebbinghaus


In 1885, he published his groundbreaking Über das Gedächtnis ("On Memory", later translated to English as Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology) in which he described experiments he conducted on himself to describe the processes of learning and forgetting.

Ebbinghaus made several findings that are still relevant and supported to this day including the forgetting curve, the learning curve, and the massed-spaced effect.

Arguably his most famous finding is the forgetting curve, which illustrates the decline of memory retention over time. The forgetting curve describes the exponential curve that illustrates how quickly we tend to forget the information we have learned. The sharpest decline is in the first twenty minutes, then in the first hour, and then the curve evens off after about one day.

Forgetting curve


Forgetting curve

Forgetting curve with reminders

 


The forgetting curve graph shows that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material.

Ebbinghaus also described the learning curve that refers to how fast we learn information. The sharpest increase occurs after the first try, and gradually evens out. This means that less and less new information is retained after each repetition. Like the forgetting curve, the learning curve is also exponential.

 




News

There are two fundamental phenomena regarding memory that all educators should be quite attentive to as they directly affect memory and how well students remember information after initially presented.

By understanding these two essential factors affecting working memory detailed in November 2017 Ed Tip, educators will be able to drastically improve students’ retention of new information.