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Academy of Dental Management Consultants Corner: How to get the most out of dental seminars


We often go to seminars and hear a lot of valuable information, feeling certain that we’ll remember it all. Most often, we can barely summarize the content in a sentence of two when, a few days later, we’re asked, “What did you learn?”

Most people convert less than 10% of what they learn into action. According to the “fading theory,” which suggests that memories fade simply due to the passage of time, the mark of a memory in your brain is comparable to walking the same route every day and creating a clear path with your movements. If you stop taking that same route, the path will disappear. Similarly, when you don’t consistently review information that you’ve learned or obtained, the memories will be forgotten.

A study conducted by Spitzer (1939) compared the rates of forgetting textbook materials after different intervals of time. The results showed that

After one day, 54% was remembered.
After 14 days, 21% was remembered.
After 63 days, only 17% was remembered.

So, if you find yourself participating in a lecture, you may find it extremely difficult to retain any information because you aren’t able to reflect on what you’ve learned or review what notes you’ve taken. Interestingly, in another study, researchers found that students forget more than 90% of material 14 days after listening to a seminar. It’s clear to see that review and reflection are extremely important!

We can easily see that two conclusions can be made from these studies:
1. Our memories lose information without review
2. For optimal material retention, review any notes within one or two days after receiving the information

Focusing on being a better student by improving your note-taking routine can improve your memory. You will create your own form of repetition (which IS the key to learning) and your own review method that creates the path that etches it into your memory.

The CAT method is a simplified process that can elevate your note-taking and review process.

Divide your notes or pages into three sections and label each section:  Capture, Apply, and Teach.

C Capture: Use this section to take notes during the presentation, write fast and furiously.

A Apply: After the presentation, review the “captured” information and record in this section what you want to remember and use.

T Teach: After you complete the “apply” section, identify the most important concepts that you want to pass along to others on your team, in your family, or your entire organization.

This is the critical step in translating knowledge into action.  Nothing will help you understand and adopt new information and skills more effectively than teaching it to others.

"We remember what we understand; we understand only what we pay attention to; we pay attention to what we want." - Edward Bolles

It’s easy to understand that we retain more information when we study and learn information that applies to our interests and career. Take classes that will expand your base of knowledge and help you master your skills to grow as a professional. When you are interested, you will pay attention and “capture” thorough notes. Investing in the additional review steps to “apply” and “teach” will become a natural approach when you utilize them repeatedly.

From listening to learning to implementing, this will be an easier process when you apply the CAT method of note taking.

Editor’s Note: References available upon request. For more information on the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, please click here.

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