Learning and Memory
What Is Learning?
Learning means that you take inputs from your environment and encode them into your long-term memory. The diagram above demonstrates the process required for taking something and getting it stored permanently in your long-term memory. The key to learning how to use your time in class effectively is to understand that it takes an effort to learn material. Simply sitting in a class is not enough.
- First Store Sensory Inputs into Sensory Memory
As you take in sensory inputs, such as the sights and sounds from a lecture, you have to actively attend to the inputs in order to move them into long-term memory. The first step involves the brief storage of sensory inputs into your sensory memory. Your sensory memory has a large capacity but can only hold information for a brief time. If you do not give these new inputs attention to move the information into your working memory it will fade away. You do not have time in class to take each piece of new information and act on it; therefore taking notes is essential to learning new material. Without them you will have no chance to later rehearse the information in your working memory.
- Next, Move Information into Working Memory to Build Long-Term Memories
When you move information into your working memory, you simultaneously retrieve related information and schema from your long-term memory. By acting on the combination of the old and new information, you build new long-term memories. Because the effectiveness of your working memory depends on retrieving the schema related to the subject, it is important that you understand the schema for the subjects you are studying.
- Result: Outperform Fellow Students
Numerous studies show that students who attend class regularly and actively engage with the material outperform their fellow students. That is because they are doing to work to encode information into their long term memory. The following strategies explain how to use your time in class and how to process the information so that you can move the information into your long-term memory.
- Milton J. Dean, Working Memory and Academic Learning: Assessment and Intervention (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008).
- Rona F. Flippo and David C. Caverly, eds., Handbook of College Reading and Study Strategy Research (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2000).
- Paul Hettich, Learning Skills for College and Career (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1998).
- Mark A. McDaniel and Aimee A. Callender, “Cognition, Memory, and Education,” In H.L. Roediger (Ed.), Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference. (Oxford, UK: Elsevier, 2008).
- Scott W. Vanderstoep and Paul R. Pintrich, Learning to Learn: The Skill and Will of College Success (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003).
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