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The Science Behind ECHO

The Seven Building Blocks of ECHO

ECHO is built upon seven design principles that are grounded in solid empirical research in the field of cognitive psychology.  Much of this research is summarized in the book, Make It Stick. These principles are scientifically proven to improve long term retention and learning.

1. Retrieval Practices Are Essential to Overcome the Forgetting Curve

Providing opportunities to retrieve what the brain has learned at strategic moments causes the learner’s forgetting curve to be interrupted. These small boosts interrupt the forgetting process.

The simple act of memory retrieval both strengthens and builds new neuro-pathways in the brain that make it easier to recall that information in the future.  The more we call something to mind, the greater the likelihood that we commit it to long-term memory.

2. Retrieval Practices Are Better than Relearning

Relearning is not as effective as retrieval practices. Relearning is both time consuming and doesn’t necessarily result in long-term memory retention. But more importantly, we sometimes mistake fluency for mastery.  We deceive ourselves into thinking we know the material, but in reality we are just familiar with it – we haven’t really internalized it.

3. Retrieval Practices Are Better than Cramming (Massed Learning)

We are all familiar with cramming before a final exam.  We are also familiar with how quickly what we learned fades away.  Cramming is great for short-term memory but does very little for long-term retention.

4. Effort is Required

When learning is harder, it lasts longer. Think of memory like a muscle – the more we work it, the stronger it gets. When more cognitive effort is required to retrieve knowledge, greater retention results. Even a single retrieval practice can produce a large improvement in retention if it is effortful.

5. Spacing – Your Memory Needs Time to Breathe

The passage of time is a critical ingredient for the consolidation of learning as the space between retrieval practices allows for greater memory retention and growth.  Proper retrieval practices that allow for some forgetting to occur require greater effort which in turn strengthen memory.

6. Feedback is Critical but Should Be Delayed

The benefits of providing feedback are self-evident. But what cognitive psychology has demonstrated is that delaying feedback is even more beneficial. The act of delaying feedback briefly produces better long-term learning than immediate feedback.

7. Retrieval Practices Need to Be Interleaved

In a retrieval practice, when two or more topics are interleaved (studied alternately), our ability to remember them increases. The act of interleaving provides the spacing component mentioned above and steers us away from the concept of massed practices.

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