Teaching to build Long-term memory

Teaching to build Long-term memory

What is Long-term memory?

Long-term memory stores information for long periods of time, or even indefinitely. Any information that can be recalled from a few hours ago, months ago or even years ago is labelled as long-term memory. Decision making is often influenced by long-term memory primarily, and with a combination of Working memory. There are a few characteristics of long-term memory;

  • Explicit memory: Explicit memory is retrieved or consciously accessed.
  • Implicit memory: Implicit memory is unconsciously accessed.
  • Frequently accessed memory: Long-term memory that is frequently accessed, such as the Happy Birthday song is stronger than less frequently accessed memories. The later tend to require prompts of reminders
  • Life events: Traumatic experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood.

What is Short-term memory?

Short-term memory, also known as active memory or primary memory, is the mind’s ability to hold and process information for very short amounts of time, usually no more than 30 seconds. An example of this could be a remembering an email address before entering it into a contact database. In Short-term memory, the stored information is not manipulated, that is, not used in a decision making capacity. Manipulating or processing of temporarily stored information is a function of Working memory.

What is Retrieval Practice?

Retrieval practice is a Learning Technique focused on using strategies that help students recall learned information that is not directly in front of them. It is about finding ways to help get stored information out of the brain when required by enabling and encouraging students to actively engage with their study material, not just memorise it. Retrieval practise is a move away from the passive ‘cramming’ technique to one that is participative.

Retrieval Practice in Teaching to build Long-term memory

Central to all learning is the ability for an individual to both retain and then successfully recall information. In a classroom setting there are several Learning Techniques and Retrieval practices that Teachers can use to help students build long-term memory with a strong retrieval ability.

Practice Tests

An extensively researched technique, it has been identified as on being one of the most effective ways to enhance learning and build long-term memory. Case study scenarios, practice essay questions and past exam papers can be used. Based on their performance, it allows Teachers to identify knowledge gaps in individual students and work with them to improve in that lesson.

Spacing or Distributed Practice

Individuals learn and remember better when studying is spaced out, instead of done all at once – cramming. This technique revolves around assigning little bits of work on key topics instead of information dumping everything in one lesson. The Spacing technique may require slightly longer, more structured lesson planning to suitably distribute learning outcomes over a period of time.

Tell a story

This is a useful technique in early education. Foundational learning questions such as ‘Where does the rain come from?’ can be better understood in story form. Teachers can get students to narrate a story of events that includes key terms and concepts either to the class or each other. This story then gets built on and tweaked until all the relevant facts are seamlessly incorporated.

A similar method to a lesser extent is using Mnemonic devices: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas – with the first letter of each word corresponding to the name of each planet in our solar system, in its proper order from the sun.

Mind Maps or Memory Maps

Mind maps, also known as Concept Maps or Memory maps, can be an incredibly useful organisational and study tool for both children and adults. It’s one of the most effective ways in slowly building long-term memory on complex topics.

In a classroom settling, request students to make a mind map of linking concepts by memory alone. Once completed have them check the map against the subject matter to see what they got right, what they missed and what needs to be corrected. Then have the student redraw the Mind map correctly. Some examples of how this can be used are;

  • All the individuals, dates and milestones of a historic event and draw arrows to show cause, effect and relationships
  • List out the periodic elements, reactions and chemical agents, and link the elements to their reactions, showing how an Chemical agent can change the outcome

Interested in studying a degree in Teaching and Education? Speak to a Higher Education Consultant if you would like to study a PGCE or Masters in Education.

Teaching to build Long-term memory
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