A few weeks ago whilst teaching about Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve and distributed practice*, one of my trainees was able to conceptualise it by way of learning songs… Here we go, I thought…
“You know when you hear a song for the first time, you can only remember a little of it, but the more you listen to it, the more you remember of the song?”
Well, yes. I suppose there may be a point to this. I thought about some examples that I could use to explain the forgetting curve and distributed practice via the ‘learning a song’ approach and here are my thoughts:
Twenty years ago, Puff Daddy (AKA P Diddy, AKA Sean Coombs, AKA whatever the latest is) and Faith Evans released ‘Missing you’ a song in memory of the Notorious BIG – Notorious! My summer was spent with the CD on loop, playing it over and over again. A 5 minute song turned into 5 weeks, until I became sick of it. To this day, I can still spit bars like the 13 year old me – word.
But was this distributed practice I thought? I mean, my whole summer was blocked with that song – I had overlearned it. Whilst I could use this to discuss the forgetting curve, I suppose frequent visiting over a long period wasn’t the best example to use for distributed practice…
I then thought about a song that I hadn’t heard as much, but with sufficient space between listening… aha! Christmas songs!
A yearly dose of Maria, George, The Pogues et al and… wait, I can’t say that I know all of the words to any of those songs… there’s bits I mumble my way through in an attempt to appear like I know, but I really don’t. Is it because I almost completely forget with such a long period between listening? Maybe.
So what could I use as an example? Well, I have struggled with this one. Would I have remembered ‘missing you’ if I hadn’t listened to it intensely for such a long time and overlearned it? Maybe I could have been more efficient with my time and had I thought about improving my memory of the song, would have listened to it a couple of times every week? Then I might have remembered a few other songs from that summer.
I can’t think of an example to demonstrate distributed practice, but I’m going to conduct a little experiment on myself and listen to the pogues twice a week up to Christmas in an attempt to get the words… then I might have a decent example to use in future. I’ll keep you posted!
*For those of you that have no idea what I have just been on about, a summary of the forgetting curve and distributed practice can be read by clicking the links.