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Advice From an Education Expert on Helping Students Retain Information

Advice From an Education Expert on Helping Students Retain Information

Naphtali Hoff is a former educator if 15 years and a current consultant. On Smartblog on Education this week, he coaches fellow educators on basic ways to help students retain the information you’ve worked hard to teach them.

Having students forget the concepts you’ve dedicated time to teaching them is a painful occurrence- but it happens all the time, one that Hoff recognizes is something every educator will go through.

“...we all know how it feels. It can be one of the most frustrating experiences for a teacher, seemingly invalidating all of the hard work — in terms of preparation, content delivery and reinforcement — of the past many weeks. Why does this happen and what can teachers do to ensure that students properly process and retain key information?”

Hoff wants educators to understand the difference between tapping into a students short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM).

"LTM is like our internal hard drive, offering long-term memory and storage in various parts of the brain’s cortex. If properly encoded, the information can remain for a lifetime,” he says.

"So what can teachers do to ensure that information gets properly stored and encoded by their students and that it can be properly retrieved as needed?”

His first suggestion is that educators “organize and order information.”

He recommends regularly making use of flowcharts, timelines, or word webs to help students organize information/ big ideas into smaller components for students to best remember.

In that same vein, he recommends grouping “similar concepts or related ideas” so that students “can focus on clusters rather than on many independent words and concepts.”

He also suggests using a “funnel approach,” where “[t]eachers can help students remember information if they teach general concepts before moving on to specific details.”

" Just as with a funnel, which is wide on top and then gets progressively slimmer down toward the bottom, you begin with the wide concepts. Once the general concepts are understood, details relate better, make more sense, and fall more neatly in line.”

Finally, he tells educators to “add ‘mental glue.’”

Mental glue is a form of elaborative encoding that helps us remember things. We remember via context, such as the place where something occurred or was taught, specific actions associated with the learning (cooperative groupings, soft toss Q&A, etc.), and even with the clothes that we were wearing. One memory expert once shared at a workshop that she did not change her outfits for entire units (!) in order to help her students retrieve information by looking at her and using that as a retrieval cue.

Read his full post here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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