Thursday, 10 March 2016

Cognitive Science for Learning - Remember for Life

This is a brilliant look at different types of memory, how the brain transfers information from one type of memory to the other (or not), and the extent or limitations of different types of memory. I liked what it said about motivation and interest being factors in whether information is more or less easily retained and committed to long-term memory. I also thought the differentiation between episodic memory -- recall of facts, dates, times in chronological order -- and semantic memory -- also declarative but independent of dates, times, and context -- was fascinating as I wouldn't have guessed they were two specific types of memory using different parts of the brain.

I understand that repetition is sometimes necessary, but my aim in teaching is to reach people on a deeper level, and use their interests, self-directedness, and experiences to create a setting in which they will learn by doing and remember by caring, rather than committing random facts to memory through repetition.

Some techniques I could use are story-telling, role playing, problem-centred group work, and situational analysis -- basically, any context in which the learner participates and to some degree facilitates and directs the learning process. Check out this video on story-telling as a way to help memorize facts. Though a deliberate rote recall technique is pictured here, the principles still apply of remembering based on emotional investment in material and in an increase of retention up to 90% when facts are associated with a story.

Teaching journalism or trades writing, for instance, I could ask students to find an article they can relate to and talk about what it brought up for them. I could provide examples of pieces poorly written and students could work independently or in groups to identify areas of improvement. Since writing news from press releases is a big part of the field, I could provide press releases and ask students to use specific techniques to rewrite the material. I think in any one of these cases they could learn by their work and through their struggles, implementing peer feedback as they go.
If I were teaching trades communication, role playing and problem-centred group work would really allow learners to interject with their own experiences and hear from their peers what may or may not work. I think in this situation, peer feedback would be more valuable that instructor feedback, depending on the situation.

Another article I read on memory strategies gave a number of pointers for remembering that I could implement from a teaching perspective. Visual maps and props are high on the list of ways to facilitate memory. Venn diagrams and episodic organizers are helpful, but also rather stilted and not as effective for students who struggle with written ideas. Posters, art projects, photography, and other visual stimuli would likely create a longer lasting impact. I also spent a lot of time outdoors in a first-year English class and found the lessons I learned on self-reflection, non-fiction prose, and story line have stayed with me over the years.

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