Distributed practice: Forgetfulness is God’s gift to debtors

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

WHY do we easily forget things? For instance, how come we seemed to have forgotten the ills of the Marcoses during the Martial Law regime as Senator Ferdinand Jr. appears to be taken seriously in the 2016 race for the vice-presidency? How about the convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada (who was later pardoned by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) who won the mayoralty race in Manila and is poised to claim his second term in office? There are many examples out there to prove that we Filipinos have short-term memory.

No doubt many of us have short memory, if not belonging to a forgiving society. If you think you don’t have, then pardon my French. Just the same, you’ve to read this important piece on how to minimize forgetfulness.

Looking back, maybe it has something to do with the shallowness of what the entertainment industry offers us, like what they do in perpetuating Eat Bulaga, Showtime, and many more. Our attention is diverted to showbiz, never mind that a good number of the population is mired in poverty and that government service remains an oxymoron in our vocabulary.

But what makes us forget things? German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) was one of the first researchers to study forgetfulness. In his early studies, Ebbinghaus found that it is also important not to “cram” information you want to remember into your brain. To do just that, he suggested spacing out study sessions to better retrieve information later.

And so what buzzword can we offer as a solution to solve forgetfulness? The answer can be found in “distributed practice” as proposed by Ebbinghaus in many of his studies. What does it mean? It depends on what you’re talking about. In our brand of politics, distributed practice may be a misplaced idea, but not in training programs.

Distributed practice comes in handy when you allow seminar participants to have three breaks – morning, lunch, and afternoon meals, which are better appreciated even by those who prefer a nicotine break. A learning event becomes productive if the expert brings his lecture to the barest minimum so the participants can do their share through group activities, workshops, and presentations.

In between, a seminar facilitator brings to life his message by showing short video clips, throwing humorous anecdotes and many more during a presentation.

So, you too need to apply distributed practice when you teach complex subjects to young students. Of course, you need to do that if only to cut down on the short attention span of the millennials. I’ve learned a long time ago that requiring students to do their daily recitation will not necessarily solve the issue of forgetfulness.

One of things that I do is require people to challenge my ideas, and show me what they got under a know-it-all scenario  ̶ one approach to making people mentally alert during a presentation. This is not to say that I’m a boring speaker. I must admit that at times, it can happen, so much so that I think I felt sleepy in one of those monotonous presentations while handling public seminars, in-company workshops, and doing part-time lecturing for senior, college working students for nearly 20 years now.

And yet I studied how to deliver the best presentation material using Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule which means limiting the number of your slides to 10, delivering them all in 20 minutes, and using at least 30 points in font size.

However, each and every opportunity is a challenge. At the end of each presentation, when you ask for questions, you’re still hounded by the sound of silence. Have they understood the message or not? Sometimes, you get irrelevant questions that should have been answered by the organizer rather than the speaker.

At times, you get pretty complex questions that could force you to give snotty answers, except that you don’t do that. After all, they’re still your clients. So what do you do? The best approach is to give the best possible courteous and decent answer. I’m telling you that’s how people will remember the lesson long after the seminar has been completed.

So what’s the best antidote to forgetfulness? Mark Twain said it best: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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1 Comment

  1. I do not agree. It is not forgetfulness but plain stupidity and low I.Q. Of the Filipino voters. Imaging voting for Joseph Estrada, Bonbong Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Enrile and Litoy Lapid that needs an interpreter to translate English to Tagalog in congress. How stupid can Filipinos be?