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Memory and Learning

Why are song lyrics so easy to learn and remember, even years later, whereas the information we heard in a lecture yesterday is so difficult to recall? The answers lie in how we activate – or not – our information processing system in our brains.

  1. Genuine learning requires us to move information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. Our short-term memory has a limited capacity and time limit; it isn’t called “short-term” for nothing. Establishing an effective, efficient information processing system is essential for deep learning.
  2. The strategies we use to encode information affect how easily we can retrieve that information.
  3. Frequent review prevents information from diminishing. Without reinforcing information by using active learning strategies, we often have to “re-learn” entire blocks of information that we’ve already covered in a class. How frustrating!
  4. Part of frequent reviewing includes actively testing ourselves on ideas and information. Active learning techniques include, but are not limited to: putting the information and its implications in our own words; solving problems without looking at a “cheat sheet”; teaching someone else the information and why it’s important. If we are consistently checking our understanding, over time we should be working more on what we don’t know and occasionally rehearsing what we already know – in other words, getting out of our comfort zone and really stretching our brains.
  5. Looking for connections between pieces of information and ideas is a helpful way of not only processing information (actively learning it) but also for filing it away for future retrieval, moving it into long-term storage. Making a concept map is one great way to visually show what you know. The very act of creating a comprehensive concept map allows you to actively learn and intentionally create mental file folders for the information.
  6. Attending to and developing ways of recording information in ways that play to your learning styles will help you LEARN ideas, information, and concepts, and will convert your learning from the “what” to the “so what.” Find more information in Putting Multiple Intelligences to Work for You.
  7. Remember, too, that your Advisor, your Professors, the Advising Center, and the Personal Counselors are all here to help you develop as a learner. Don’t be afraid to ask!

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