Your Case for Training: Adult Learning Retention Statistics

I haven’t been able to find this information on adult learning retention rates until now and I’m sharing it with you!

I just got back from a great meeting today with my local ATD Chapter. ATD stands for the Association of Talent Development, formerly called ASTD (American Society for Training & Development). It is the world’s largest organization for talent and human capital development.

For 25 years I have been teaching live workshops, seminars and training programs for executive and administrative assistants. I love the live classroom environment. To me, nothing has more impact than being in a room with people and interacting with them. I use a hands-on, experiential approach vs. lecture. Basically throughout the workshop day, my participants are working in groups, brainstorming, practicing newly-learned skills, giving feedback to each other, writing scripts, role playing, doing creative activities and given feedback by me or our trainers.

Since we, as a culture, are moving into the age of online learning, webinars, and virtual video training (all of which Office Dynamics now offers), I have been wondering about the learning retention between live classroom training and webinars or online learning. Well, today I finally got an answer. Are you curious? I hope so because this is important information.

Adult Learning Retention Statistics:
Lecture – 5%
Reading – 10%
Demonstration – 30%
Group – 50%
Practice and Doing (experiential!) – 75%!

What does this mean to you and why should you care? It means that you will retain more of what you learn when you practice the skills you are learning vs. just reading or listening to lecture—a whole lot more! So if you have the opportunity to attend live seminars, workshops, training or administrative conferences, do it! It will be well worth the financial investment and your time. 75% is a huge retention rate!

Actually, I incorporate all the above learning modalities into my live workshops as do the Office Dynamics’ trainers. We lecture a little bit, participants read a little bit, we demonstrate skills, participants work in groups all day, and participants have to demonstrate newly-learned skills. We use creative props to reinforce learning.

But what does this mean to those of you who can only take online courses or attend webinars? I am all for those especially since Office Dynamics is launching several new online courses for assistants and webinars in 2015. It means that it is not enough to hear information. You need to read your handouts and PowerPoint slides after you attend the webinar. Use a highlighter as you review the printed materials. Highlight great ideas, new tips, and actions you need to take or do more often. Then practice the skills right away so you can retain the information you have learned. Either practice with someone else at the office or practice by doing. Get feedback.

If you attend a webinar or live video conference training program with a group of your peers, you will retain more information because of group interaction and connection. You can also practice with your peers and give feedback to each other. You can make the learning fun and engaging while watching a video.

This also means that you need to be engaged when you are taking online or virtual courses. It is not a passive activity. In other words, “I’ll just sit back and listen.” I am experiencing this myself right now. I signed up for a 7 week course on developing effective online training courses. There is a ton of information, homework, and handouts. I love the instructor who provides audio classes each week. I have realized much is dependent on me being an engaged learner. I can’t just sit there and print out materials and fill in the blanks. I can’t just listen to my instructor and expect to retain what she tells me. It is the same for you. As a student, take the initiative if you really want something to stick.

Since everyone needs to be life-long students, we should make the best use of our time by ensuring our own retention of information. Listening is good, but engaging and practicing is better. For example, if you attend any of the Office Dynamics’ webinars in the upcoming months, interact by commenting in the chat box; ask questions; give feedback. You should make notes while I’m speaking to “lock in” what you are hearing. Again, your time is valuable and if you are taking time (even 10 minutes) to learn, then make it worth your while.

Joan Burge

Adult learning retention is an interesting topic to me. I wonder, how do you best learn and retain information?


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10 thoughts on “Your Case for Training: Adult Learning Retention Statistics”

  1. Here is a problem with your numbers… First many of these number come from Edgar Dale or some spin off of his. The original study that produced these numbers was flawed. A quick question for you. When have you ever seen a scientific study where every number ended in 0 or 5? That should be the first clue. There is other data out there that supports active learning assisting in retention. Just a heads up on these numbers.

  2. I also have a client asking me to site sources for these stats. He’s a good-guy client wanting to be able to pitch our programs internally, not a skeptic. Does anyone have a lead on the stats cited above?

  3. In the military, we practiced each of these steps for learning our jobs, but it wasn’t until we were actually out in the field doing it that all we’d been trained on sunk in. It makes sense!

  4. I’ve always learned best in a group/hands-on environment. I have also found that researching a topic to teach others is another way that I learn best. After participating in a webinar, I then create a PowerPoint presentation of those things that were most interesting to me. In this way it gets me excited and gets the creative juices flowing should I have an opportunity to share this with someone else!

  5. Awesome blog! Sometimes my bosses remember and sometimes they didn’t. However, lucky me I have a Mom who always remembers and sends flowers in Professional Admin Day! Flowers are nice, but the gift of education/training would be something I would really enjoy and my manager will also receive the benefits as well!!

  6. Hi Joan,

    I love incorporating multiple styles into my learning approach. Having a genuine interest in a topic speaks volumes for my personal retention. It seems as though no matter how many times a subject is covered, I always pick up something new to put into practice. My highest retention comes when I prepare to teach/share the information with others.

    Interest + research = retention

    Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with us!

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