Forming Memories Requires Intentional Strategies

Submitted 8 months ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
When I enrolled in education classes as a college student, I was informed that the material students learn in their classes was like a library book—always on the shelf and available as a reference when needed. But recent discoveries in neuroscience paint a different picture: what students learn throughout the day is more like a message written in sand on the beach, accessible only until the next high tide. Recent studies have shown that approximately 56 percent of new information is forgotten within an hour, 66 percent after a day, and 75 percent after six days. With these findings, educators now have to come to terms with the fact that our brains are wired to forget, not recall information. And teachers need to consciously implement strategies for students to retain knowledge and make the lessons learned stick.
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So what are some ways that teachers can help students form long-term memories? One way is to help students learn and then review material over intervals with ample time to reflect on learning throughout the year. Another strategy is to offer opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, requiring students to explain what they have learned to a classmate in various contexts. Some students also generate lasting memories by combining images with texts because visual aids help provide associations that establish long-term memories. And when students have frequent opportunities to take quizzes and demonstrate what they’ve learned (and illuminate what they haven’t), they are more likely to be able to retrieve information when they need it one day, one week, or one year from now.

There are, of course, many other strategies that are effective in building long-term memories. But it is helpful to remember that our brain is exposed to so much information every day, its default mode is to shed (not collect) more knowledge. With this in mind, and with a few key strategies at teachers’ disposal, many more of the important lessons will stick.


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