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Executive Education

A teaching method to ensure maximum learning retention

  • The Ivey Academy
  • |
  • Nov 27, 2017
A teaching method to ensure maximum learning retention

We all remember instances in post-secondary school, college/university, a workshop, or a seminar, where we’ve learned something particularly relevant then gone home and not applied a single thing that we learned the previous day. Sound familiar?

Research shows that after 30 days, only 10 per cent of the learning acquired in a passive state is retained. In a passive state, learners don’t apply what they’ve learned.

In the 1980s, three researchers from the Center for Creative Leadership formulated a model for learning and development to determine the optimal methods of learning for successful executives. Termed the “70:20:10” model, it concludes that learners obtain 70 per cent of their knowledge from on-the-job experiences, 20 per cent from interacting with peers, and 10 per cent from formal education or training. Well-designed formal learning creates links between all of those pieces in order to maximize retention. It’s one of the reasons Ivey uses the case study method to analyze business issues; learners are placed in the role of the decision maker. By tying learning to a sense of action, students retain more knowledge because it is learned in an active state instead of a passive one. Case studies allow for the participant to learn vicariously; to visualize themselves making the decision and performing the action – not only mentally, but emotionally as well. Although knowledge is important, action is truly powerful.

Learning Embedded in Action and Practice

At The Ivey Academy, we take active learning one step further by employing a process we call Learning Embedded in Action and Practice (LEAP). In order for learning to stick – to actually have an impact on how people do things and make decisions – learning must be embedded in what people are doing and how they do it. Traditional learning focuses on knowledge delivery so that only the mind is engaged. Our learning process focused on action and practice requires the learner to actively participate mentally, physically, and emotionally. This results in greater retention and applicability in a personal context. It’s our way of doing executive learning, and it is rooted in the principles of what we know about the psychology of learning to ensure that what is taught has a significant impact on how people behave and make decisions.

To optimize learning from LEAP, experiences must be carefully designed and implemented. While LEAP makes use of case studies, it is not limited to solely the case method. Role plays, experiential behavioural exercises, computer simulations, multi-team collaborations, mindfulness exercises, and action learning projects are all examples of how learning can be embedded in action and practice. The more intense the action and practice, the higher the potential for learning. At the same time, the learning experience must be carefully planned and facilitated. The highest intensity learning experiences offer the least control over the learning itself in real time. That’s why we use only the most experienced senior faculty, expert industry practitioners, and partners to be present and ever-vigilant during the entire learning process to facilitate the learning to the next stage, no matter what issues arise throughout the journey.

The outcome of LEAP is learning that continues long after the participant has left the classroom. Learning embedded in action and practice provides incredible value to not only the participant on an individual level, but to the participant’s organization. It’s how we ensure that retention is maximized and behaviour change sticks.

For more information on LEAP and how it is applied in executive education, click here.


The Ivey Academy is ranked as one of the top Executive Education providers globally by Financial Times. The Open-Enrolment portfolio comprises 19 programs focused on core leadership, business acumen, and industry-specific skills. Open programs are typically three days to three weeks in length, and are held at both our Toronto and London campuses. Our Custom Academy business unit works with corporations, governments, and other NGOs and non-profits to design and execute development and training programs tailored to the client’s specific needs. Custom Academy programs are typically multi-cohort, multi-year endeavours, supporting executive, HR and L&D objectives, and run either at our Toronto and London campuses or globally based on client preference. All Ivey Academy programs are deeply experiential in nature, concentrating as much on behaviour change as knowledge transfer.


  • Martha Maznevski