Facilitate memorisation in digital training with “Chunking”.
There’s so much information; I won’t be able to memorise it all.”
Memory plays an essential role in the success of a training solution. Although we don’t all have the same memory capacity, many tools exist nowadays to facilitate our acquisition of new skills or know-how via digital training.
But first of all, to gain greater insight into memory triggers, we need to understand the mechanisms behind memorisation.
Our memory: how does it work?
Our brain has developed a finely-tuned memorisation process that stores only the information we need. This process consists of three phases:
- Encoding: the brain translates the information to assist appropriation
- Storage and consolidation: it stores information in the right place so it can easily find it again
- Retrieval: it trains itself to go and find the information to ensure it is accessible when needed
To facilitate this process, the brain is equipped with two types of memory:
- Short-term or “working” memory retains only important concepts that can be utilised immediately. It therefore has a very time-limited storage capacity.
- Long-term memory then takes over, storing retained information that is not necessary accessed on a day-to-day basis.
The focus filter also plays an important role in memorisation, deciding which information the brain should focus on. Find more information in our article dedicated to focus!
We can use mnemonic tools to stimulate the memory, but the “Chunking” method lets us go a step further.
Chunking: breaking things down for better memorisation!
Chunking is the art of grouping information into blocks or pieces to make it easier to memorise. The principle is simple: create groups using a range of accumulated processes in order to reduce the amount of information to be memorised.
The concept of chunking was introduced by psychologist George Miller in 1956. He claimed that our brain capacity enabled us to process around seven chunks per concept! This learning technique can be found in the habits of professional chess players and top-level athletes.
A practical example of chunking: memorising the first ten digits of Pi
Are you able to memorise the first ten digits of the number Pi: 3.1415926535? It’s possible with chunks, and easy to memorise!
First, concentrate on the numbers you don’t know. You probably already know that Pi is roughly 3.14. So you need to memorise the remaining 8 digits: 15926535. Our brains can retain up to seven different chunks.
- To make things simpler, let’s split it into four: 159-26-53-5.
- 159 is a well-known Alfa Romeo model.
- 26 is the number of letters in the alphabet.
- 53 is the number of France’s Mayenne department.
- 5 is the number of chunks we have created to memorise Pi (3.14-159-26-53-5)!
To help us memorise this sequence, we can associate chunks with images to provide a thread for our thinking. For example: a young man with a sweatshirt bearing the logo “3.14” is driving an Alfa Romeo (159) with the letter A on the back (first of the 26 letters of the alphabet) to Mayenne (53).
This is an example of small-scale chunking that helps you memorise new information! Chunks are not just for use with word or number sequences: they can also be applied to an entire concept, and even a training session.
Practical application of chunking in training
If you want to remember a chunk, two steps are necessary:
- Create a link between the chunks: come up with a story or associate mental images with each of the pieces.
Reactivate your chunks: perform several repetitions of the mental gymnastics you’ve created around the concept to be remembered, to ensure it is anchored in your brain.
- Reactivate your chunks: perform several repetitions of the mental gymnastics you’ve created around the concept to be remembered, to ensure it is anchored in your brain.
Creating chunks seems a fairly simple matter in the case of a concept. However, if we change scale, the method is a little different.
4 tips taken from chunking to optimise the impact of your digital training
1. Structure your content as much as possible
In the virtual classroom or in your e-learning modules, you need to structure your content well, so that you only present what’s really important! One concept per section, to make the brain’s job of sorting information easier. Remember: the better you understand, the more you retain! Example: an e-learning module divided into 3 distinct sections with one concept to be remembered for each part and a memo sheet at the end of each sequence.
2. Generate chunks with the participants
Facilitating a group discussion is one of the best ways of supporting participants in creating chunks. For example: looking for key ideas together, creating links related to common images that are meaningful to everyone.
3. Create mental association
By linking concepts to anecdotes or something the learners have already experienced, the new information can be more easily assimilated! Using storytelling approaches for the delivered information can, if done carefully, engage learners’ cognitive resources, both on an individual and shared level. For example: link each keyword to an image, a colour or an emoji, and reuse them frequently so that the brain retains the link.
4. Work around a deliverable at the end of the sequence
Producing a deliverable means being able to draw on collective intelligence to capitalise on all the concepts that have been seen and memorise key concepts. For example: ask your participants to produce an infographic, a memo sheet or a sketchnote to encourage them to take ownership of the learning in their own way, either individually or in a group!
You now have everything you need to make use of chunking in your digital training sessions!
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