Relearning Information After the Summer Isn't All Bad


Submitted a year ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
One of the most moving moments in the movie "Inside Out"  happened when a personified childhood memory faded away—a sacrifice that made room for new memories and allowed for the next development stage of the main character. Of course, this happens all of the time as we age, and often we are not even aware of it. 

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But teachers are always thinking about the learning that may be lost. In fact, it is this time of the year when they wonder just how much students have forgotten since they last saw them in June. Contrary to what was depicted in the movie, neuroscientists will tell you that the information students learned in previous academic years isn't entirely gone—it is only more difficult to recall. Unless we access the information stored in our brains on a regular basis, we have a more difficult time remembering it, especially if it is recently acquired. So if you want to remember something important, one technique is to test yourself on that information regularly from the time you first learned it. And this brings us back to why the ten-week summer vacation is a concern for teachers. If students don’t periodically review what they’ve learned over the summer months, more will have to be relearned in the fall. 

However, there is a silver lining to relearning material. As Ulrich Boser from the Center for American Progress wrote in the New York Times, “Forgetting can help us gain expertise, and when we relearn something we couldn’t recall, we often develop a richer form of understanding.” According to Boser, dusting off an old memory allows us to make deeper associations that may improve our understanding and foster better reasoning. So while it’s better to keep important information accessible since we need to use it often, we can also benefit from revisiting strands of learning, particularly as students are progressing from one academic year to the next—even while clearing the necessary space for their own developmental leaps.  

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