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Creating memorable learning experiences means making learning challenging.

Forgetting is central to learning; full stop.

Wait, isn’t forgetting the enemy of learning.

Not necessarily.

That’s because it takes time to determine the degree of real learning and retention. That time from the initial acquisition of material to recalling it or repeating a skill can further ingrain that ‘learned’ material into the mind. 

That’s why creating truly memorable learning experiences often requires the inclusion of forgetfulness.

It works because time increases learner effort in the recollection of information or skills. That effortful recall ultimately furthers long-term retention.

Sound hard? That’s because it is. 

But learning doesn’t necessarily happen when things are easy. Deeper, more meaningful learning often happens in the face of challenges.

Infusing challenges that leverage forgetfulness into the design of a learning experience can yield greater long-term advantages to the learner.

But what if learners make mistakes, fail to recall information or even spend more time working through the learning experience.

That’s ok. In fact, it may be more effective.

Mistakes accommodate feedback. Efforts to recall, even failed ones, can enhance memory.

The value of strengthened long-term recall and retention is certainly greater than the extra time learners may spend in the experience.

Does this imply setting every learning experience to Jedi Master?

Of course not.

The balance between challenges that demoralize learners and those that push them to deeper learning can be struck with experience and focused experimentation.

Looking to include challenges that leverage forgetfulness requires an appreciation of the value that mistakes and feedback bring to learning, recall and retention.

This perspective yields challenging yet memorable learning experiences that get real, long-term results.

Further Reading:

Burns, M. n.d. In the Flow: Striking a Balance Between Challenging and Motivating Students. The Learning Counsel.

Bjork, R.A., Bjork, E.L. (2019, April 18). Forgetting as the friend of learning: implications for teaching and self-regulated learning. The American Physiological Society.

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Brian Harris

Brian Harris is the Chief of Design and Development with Brilliant Educational Services. He specializes in producing learning experiences and educational materials that are engaging, entertaining, and effective.