Memory is an important consideration in teaching and learning. I enjoyed reading this summary of the book Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger and McDaniel, which explores scientific evidence for deeper learning related to memory. It seems many of the generally used methods to study and remember concepts are ineffective. Often students will try to use rote memory techniques or highlighting text, which do not lead to long-term retention. Some of the concepts gleaned from the summary include:

  • Deeper learning requires an effort to make it stick, so keep learning active
  • Interleaving concepts is helpful, i.e. meshing concept A with B, then C with A and B with C
  • Just when ideas are becoming understood switch topics to keep things varied
  • Frequently return to previous topics
  • Use reflective learning
  • Explain how learning works and model its process for learners
  • Help learners practice figuring out what they don’t know

In my own teaching practice, I would like to include all of the above. Of high importance would be modelling the learning process, as nurses are expected to be responsible for their own learning. It is impossible to know everything in healthcare, so when I myself don’t know the answer to a question I could walk them through the resources I use.

Another consideration for instructors is exploring how memory changes as people age. An article by the American Psychology Association says that the brain does change as people get older and so does memory. Noticeable memory decline often begins when people are in their 40s, as there are less neuron connections and blood flow to the brain. However, though people start to have trouble remembering what they ate for breakfast or specific episodes, other types of memory, such as words and concepts or procedures, remain intact. The article explains that research shows people can compensate for memory difficulties. In fact, memory training classes can measurably enhance memory retention throughout the lifespan.

As an instructor, it is important not to discount people as they age. It is also very helpful to explicitly explain how memory and learning works, as these skills can boost learning at any age. Older learners can also bring more knowledge and experience than younger counterparts.

 

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