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How Can We Help Student Memory?

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No matter what education we follow there will always be some type of memory work. This is rarely the only component of an learning, for we need to compare information and understand any patterns. But memory is always one component of learning.

So it makes sense to say that improving memory helps learning to some degree. Obviously we need to learn facts before we do something with them. So perhaps it might be best to say that memory is the start of learning.

An infant starts learning a language by repeating words in isolation. Then they start to form sentences, including sentences they have not heard spoken by others. This appears to be natural. Memory leads to understanding.

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Some different type of memory are:

Sensory Memory – Very brief, we remember what we see, hear, feel for a few seconds, But this quickly fades. Obviously we don;t remember every experience, every sensation we ever had.

Short Term Memory – This is the task we are doing at the moment, isolated facts. Looking for the keys, Dialing a phone number … this is short term memory. We often don’t need all that information latter, so we forget it.

Working Memory – This is a few facts put together. We read a sentence, add up the columns on a spread sheet, do puzzles. We put some facts together in a pattern, and perhaps derive a conculsion or achieve a goal.

Long Term Memory – This is the information from the past, anything from yesterday to information we learnt as a child. It can consist of both isolated facts and interconnected information/patterns.
Students who want better results need to feed their long term memory. But information must go through the short term and working memory first.

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How do we feed memory, how do we learn?
– Something we are enthusiastic about will be easier to remember.
– Things we do repeatedly, like playing a video game or driving a vehicle, will become second nature to us. Learning is the same, the information becomes part of us.
– Active participation is usually better for learning than just hearing about a topic. Read and do, rather than just read.
Diagrams can be easier for memory than isolated facts or blocks of text. Use diagrams for learning where possible.
– A healthy diet without junk food and sugar will significantly help memory.
Exercise and sleep make a big difference.
– Narratives help us remember information. If the information is a story it will stick in the head far better than isolated facts.
– Rote learning is an old method, but it is a starting point. We may need to write out a spelling list several times. But then we can start using the words to say something meaningful. Both the rote learning and the use of the words is good for learning.

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All education requires us to learn new information. But the type of education we choose, and what we do with it, is very much about the type of individual we are.

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