Professional development should be viewed as process, not an event. Anybody who thinks that by simply going to the occasional professional development event that they will develop their capability to any significant extent is kidding themselves.
Maximising professional development is all about what you do with what you have learned. Knowledge, just sitting inside your head, very quickly dissipates, as the research proves. The research on retention of learning goes back to the nineteenth century with Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist (1850-1909), who created a way to assess the rate at which people forget.
Ebbinghaus found the rate to be highly predictable, and completely dependent upon repetition and reinforcement. Psychologists now call this the ‘forgetting” curve’.
Ebbinghaus discovered that when we acquire a new idea, much of our forgetting occurs right away. A significant amount of information is forgotten within twenty minutes of learning it; over half the material learned is forgotten within 60 minutes. Almost two thirds of what we learn within a day is forgotten.
In other words, if information is retained for a day, you have given yourself a good opportunity of retaining that knowledge in the long term.
Even better is when you revisit the material for consecutive days to reinforce the learning. This maximises your chances of retaining that knowledge long term (as represented by the graph, below).
- Keep a professional development journal (handwritten or soft copy)
- Write a regular blog
- Share with your colleagues (informally at a meeting or formally by running a training session)
- Record your learnings (voice memos or video on smartphones is an easy way to do this)
- Have a regular time scheduled in your week to ‘have a coffee with yourself’ to review training, conference notes and other learnings