Psst…do you want to know a 137-year-old secret about education?

by | May 18, 2023 | 1 Minute Mastery | 0 comments

Looking for effective teacher pd ideas? 1 Minute Mastery is the answer.  Why is it so effective? Let’s find out!

Educators have known for over 137 years that memory begins to decay almost as soon as we learn something.  We know this thanks to the pioneering work of Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist.  Ebbinghaus conducted groundbreaking research to study memory decay, which he used to create what is now known as The Forgetting Curve. In this article, we will learn a little about how Ebbinghaus conducted his research, and list some strategies that help combat memory decay.

How did Ebbinghaus Research Memory?

To study how much and how quickly human beings forget information, Ebbinghaus devised a unique experiment. First, he created lists of nonsense syllables. These were meaningless combinations of letters, such as “ZOF,” “RUT,” or “KIB.” The reason for this is so that he could just study memory in it’s purest form, without any interference in the experiment with prior knowledge, associations or inferences.  Ebbinghaus himself then memorized these lists of nonsense words, saying them over and over until he could repeat the list without any mistakes. Then measured how much he could recall immediately after he learned the lists, and then at different time intervals for days and weeks after.

After plotting the data, a pattern of memories fading occurred that he named The Forgetting Curve

Understanding the Forgetting Curve

What Ebbinghaus discovered was fascinating.  Within the first hour after a learning episode, around 50% of all the information they learned was forgotten. Within 24-48 hours , almost 80% of the information was gone.  

This finding does not support the popular current model of teacher professional development of going to all-day workshops, at least if they are simply the sit and get format, where new information is given out all day long, without strategies implemented for the participants to process and review the information. Here are some of our favorite strategies to overcome the forgetting curve and get information transferred into long term memory. These strategies are the foundation upon which 1 Minute Mastery lessons are built.

Teacher PD Ideas to Overcome the Forgetting Curve

The best teacher pd ideas employ several strategies to counteract the forgetting curve and promote long-term retention among students:

  1.  Spaced Repetition: 

As the old saying goes: “Too Much, Too Fast, Won’t Last”. To combat the forgetting curve, there needs to be spaced repetition, sometimes called distributed practice. This is why there is only a single 1 Minute Mastery sent out each week. That gives an entire week to try the strategy, review it, incorporate it, get feedback, and make it part of your permanent professional practice 

2. Chunking and Organization: 

Breaking down complex information into smaller, manageable chunks helps students retain and recall content more effectively. The 1 Minute Mastery lessons are organized into five broad categories:  

  • Getting and keeping Attention
  • Connecting and Engaging
  • Teaching and the Learning Environment
  • Facilitating and Presenting
  • Teacher Self Care

Having the strategies organized into meaningful categories can help aid translating the individual strategies into long term memory.

  1. Real-Life Application: 

Each 1 Minute Mastery is designed to give a practical solution to a common classroom problem  Relating these 1 Minute Mastery strategies to real world issues makes it easy for the teachers to see the value and applicability of the strategies, and are therefore much more likely to retain that knowledge over time, and be able to retrieve it at will.

  1. Continuous Review and Reinforcement: 

The teachers can view the video as many times as  they would like, and can go back to previously viewed videos as often as they would like to review other strategies. 

  1. Emotional Connection: 

Having an emotional connection to the material being learned can also enhance memory formation. The 1 Minute Mastery videos are filled with stories, personal anecdotes and other connections purposefully to make an emotional connection to the material.. Emotionally charged experiences are more likely to be encoded in long-term memory, counteracting the forgetting curve.

  1. Active Learning Strategies: 

Actively involving the learners in the lesson can also help combat the forgetting curve.  The 1 Minute Mastery lessons are all based on a lesson, a strategy, and action item for the teacher to try that will help them in their professional practice.  Active participation stimulates the brain and reinforces learning through experiential and interactive methods.


If you’re looking for effective teacher pd ideas, going to “Information Only” all-day workshops is frankly, a waste of precious time for educators. What is needed is ongoing teacher development, every day of the year, that is timely, practical and easily accessible to the busy teacher.  Teachers want to improve their practice, and are in constant need of new strategies to deal effectively with our changing brains.  Let’s help them out. Let’s give them 1 Minute Mastery.