The ability to learn and hold information in our brains is key to success. From achieving academically right through to mastering new skills in life and work, there is no argument that learning and retaining information is massively important.
If we’re going to learn anything, there are two kinds of prior knowledge needed:
- Knowledge about the subject
- Knowledge about how learning works
Our education system tends to concentrate on number one very strongly, and ignores number two in most cases. It’s equally as important to recognise how learning works and which way works best for which students.
Education research shows that low-achieving students have “substantial deficits” in their understanding of cognitive strategies in learning and retaining information. This shows that some students don’t learn as well because they don’t understand how to learn, and not that they don’t understand what is being taught.
Let’s take it back to basics and look at some simple techniques for learning…
Force yourself to recall
Effective learning is hard, in the same way as lifting a weight to your capacity will make you stronger. The age-old flash card is a great tool because it forces you to give the answer and recall the information time and again. Repetition is the oldest trick in the book.
Don’t become fluent
Fluency is when you’re reading and it feels easy, so you’re basically skimming. This can be a problem as you’re only taking in some of the information, you can combat this in a similar way to recalling. Practice next time you check for a platform number or a bus time at a station, turn away and try to recall it without distraction, this way you’re more likely to remember.
Connect new and old things
When you’re extending knowledge on a subject, you’re elaborating on it to the mind. It connects old to new knowledge. One good technique is to use real-life examples of principles you’ve just learnt, even come up with a rhyme to show your understanding, the memory part of the brain reacts well to rhyme.
It isn’t wasting time, when you step away from a piece of learning. Head back to it at a later date or time and the brain will automatically make that bond stronger, helping you to retain the information.
Do you have any techniques for memory improvement? What works best for your students or children? Let us know in the comments section below.