In addition to understanding general principles of memory, it is helpful to understand how age and memory abnormalities can impact the ability to retain information.
Memory Expectations by Age
The age of students greatly impacts what memory skills can reasonably be expected. From kindergarten through second grade, students can encode basic facts. Teachers should give directions using both images and text. To help with consolidation, teachers should frequently review concepts through songs, picture books, and movement. Retrieving in these grades takes the form of repetition. Students are able to repeat the facts learned using rhymes and songs.
From third to fifth grades, students encode information through stories, close reading, and focused cognitive effort and attention. For consolidation, middle graders often use graphic organizers, hexagonal thinking, reading comprehension strategies, and multi-step problem-solving strategies. Retrieval processes become more complex. Students can remember material obtained through direct instruction or reading, and can remember procedural knowledge with frequent retrieval practice.
From sixth to eighth grades, students can encode concrete and abstract knowledge as well as procedural skills. They use a variety of study skills to remember material for tests and applications to real-life and multi-step problems. They can retrieve information the next day and even days after if they take notes, go over them, and practice retrieving information without looking at their notes.
In addition to age, problems with encoding, consolidation, and retrieval can also impact the memory abilities of students.
Students can have encoding problems when they are not able to pay attention or remember previous learning. They do not remember what they just heard or read. They do not remember what they learned the day before at school. Students with encoding problems tend to have problems staying engaged with their school work. To encode new information, students connect it to old information, but this can only happen if they remember the old information. They could use memory strategies to encode new information, but they have trouble encoding the strategies. These problems can impact implicit, explicit, and procedural memory. Students who struggle with encoding information often struggle with consolidation and retrieval as well because these happen after information is encoded.
Problems with consolidation often happen when students do not understand the information well and end up relying on rote memorization. This hinders consolidation because consolidation takes place when students make new neural connections by associating the new knowledge with previous knowledge.
Similarly, some students can encode and consolidate information, but cannot retrieve it well despite extensive study due to ineffective study strategies or test anxiety.