Improving Recall


It does not matter if you are an instructional designer or a technical writer. Understanding how people learn is important if you want your audience to remember the information you provide.

My company, Radcom, hosts a monthly book club, and this month we are discussing Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel. This book debunks several misconceptions about the best methods for learning and provides proven ways to improve learning and recall.

Three of the methods to practice recall are:

  • Retrieval Practice: recall facts from memory.
  • Delay Subsequent Retrieval Practice: try to recall information later after you’ve learned. This is reinforce retention better then immediate practice.
  • Practice Repeated Retrieval: retrieve information over and over until it is mastered.

I am not going to get into details of the book here. What I want to do is encourage people to set aside preconceived ideas on learning and recall and read this book. If you don’t have time to read the book you can read an excellent summary by Justin Gasbarre at: Book Review: Make It Stick, or you can join the Radcom book club on May 25, 2016.

After reading the book I challenge instructional designers, technical writers, and other conveyors of information to consider how to incorporate the practices in the book to improve knowledge transfer and retention. For me the book opened up the floodgates of ideas. Here are a few of my high-level, brainstorming ideas:

  • Weekly emails
  • Text messages
  • Flashcards
  • More, smaller chunks of repeated information instead of one long, large brain-dump
  • Touch a variety of senses – text, images, color, sound
  • Games