• The Curve of Forgetting

    Posted by AVID Center on 10/30/2019


    By Jenn Nagle, Program Specialist, Teaching and Learning, AVID Center

    Our brains protect us from information overload by deleting information that we either don’t use or isn’t connected to something we already know. It’s a phenomenon that neuroscientists refer to as “forgetting.” Perhaps, at some point today, you read an interesting statistic or dialed a phone number for the first time and are absolutely certain that tomorrow you won’t be able to recall that information—congratulations, your brain is functioning exactly as it should. In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus hypothesized a phenomenon he named “the forgetting curve”, which shows how information is lost over time if we don’t revisit or establish connections to it. This study in how we learn and retain information was replicated in 2015 by Murre and Dros and found to remain accurate today. Information is quickly forgotten—roughly 65% in one hour, 66% in 24 hours, and 75% after six days unless it is revisited.

    AVID educators link the focused note-taking process to the forgetting curve because doing so establishes a strong “why” for having students engage in all five phases of the focused note-taking process and provides guidelines for when, and how often, students should return to their notes if they want to retain what they learned in class. We want students to own their learning, to carry note-taking with them as a tool that will help them thrive in their most rigorous classes. And they thrive!

    The question for educators is how to use the forgetting curve to guarantee students retain what they have been taught? Where are opportunities for students to talk about what they just learned? How is homework intentionally designed to ensure students are revisiting what they learned? When do students revisit crucial content or practice skills within 24- or 48-hours of it being taught to them? In six days? In 31 days? Where does the forgetting curve appear in unit plans? In pacing guides and curriculum plans? Over the course of a semester? We invite educators to combat the research-based phenomenon known as “forgetting” with strategies designed to help students remember. Focused note-taking is a great place to start. Educators at AVID-member schools can access a variety of classroom resources on focused note-taking on MyAVID.

    Want to learn more about AVID’s Focused Note-Taking and other best practices that help all students own their learning? Join us for AVID National Conference this December in Dallas, Texas.


     Jennifer Nagle is a Program Specialist with AVID Center’s Teaching and Learning team and has had the privilege of leading the development of the Writing for Disciplinary Literacy and Reading for Disciplinary Literacy resources for AVID Center. This is Jenn’s 24th year working in education; she has been an AVID Elective teacher, AP History teacher, Instructional Coach and led district initiatives focused on literacy and research based instructional practices at both the site and district levels before joining AVID Center as a full-time employee. She is passionate about closing expectation, opportunity, and achievement gaps for students across the nation and believes literacy is integral to that work.

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