Long Term Memory, Part 1: Introduction

Learning June 23, 2022

Every teacher hopes that students will remember what they teach. Unfortunately, more frequently than not, students forget what they learn almost immediately. For retention to take place in students’ minds, the cycle of learning needs to be present in the instructional strategies the teacher uses. The cycle of learning consists of encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. When these three things happen, students bring the new information and knowledge into their long-term memories.

Encoding is how information, knowledge, and skills enter our students’ brains. For information to be encoded in an effective way, it needs to be accompanied by helpful factors such as music, association, emotions, story-telling, movement, or novelty. 

In consolidation, the brain reorganizes and stabilizes the memory traces (Brown, Roediger, McDaniel, 2014, pg. 73). Put in other words, consolidation is the ability to receive new knowledge into their background knowledge, otherwise called schemata. When students receive new information, they can either enrich the old information or change it to make a better sense of it. These two things are called assimilation and accommodation. 

Consolidation is how the knowledge gets settled into the student’s brain and makes sense to the student. Teachers can help students consolidate the new information and knowledge by providing strategies to students that help them organize and settle that new information. Strategies that are helpful include use of graphic organizers, memory devices, hexagonal thinking, metacognition, summarizing, scaffolding, and synthesizing. 

Retrieval is the ability to access the new information and bring it to mind (Agarwal, Bain, 2017, pg. 27). For true learning to happen, students need to be able to bring out the knowledge that they have put in. Some examples of retrieval strategies are brain dumps, spacing, spiraling loops, frequent reviews, flashcards, peer teaching, closed-book quizzes, and tests. 

When encoding, consolidation, and retrieval are present in the process of teaching and learning, students are able to bring information to their long-term memory and retrieve it, which is ultimately the goal of every teacher. Information, knowledge, and skills that need to be used to understand new concepts, to solve problems, or to apply them to the real world especially need to be in our students’ long-term memory. Everything students do at school requires memory in some form or another (Weinstein, Sumeracki, Caviglioli, 2018). 


Yanina Jimenez

Yanina is an SDA multigrade teacher in Illinois, Ph.D. Student at Andrews University, and author of the book Brain-friendly Teacher https://bit.ly/BrainFriendlyTeacherBook.

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