Memory can be described as the process of programming, storing, and retrieving information (Baddeley, 1996). These processes are considered to interact with different memory systems. Remembrance is an essential factor to every individual’s past life. How we transmit to the future is tied to how we connect to the past and how we conceptualise to the understanding of the future. We can think of the future as arising from the past or as a continuation of what is taking place at the present. Alternatively, we can think of it as an end or goal towards which processes are developing. Without memory, which in reality develops through remembrance, all our previous experiences disappear and will seem to have never existed (Shields, 2003). Although present and past experiences do not have any further impacts for our lives, the knowledge of how to have an effective memory is important.
The most important memory systems in educational areas are the working memory, short-term memory, and long term memory (Levine, 2002). Memory begins with the conversion or encoding of information into a structure that can be stored by the brain. This process of encoding is known as registering or programming of information in the memory. The memory systems that are involved in this process are short term memory and sensory memory (Baddeley, 1996). After the information is encoded through the short term memory, it is transmitted to the long term memory where it is stored for future remembrance.
While we consider memory to be crucial in our entire lives, the school years demands greater memory. Mostly, learners are judged by the remembrance of what they have learnt. If for instance they perform dismally, learning is alleged not to have taken place. School environment is mostly considered to less memory friendly. This occurs majorly because children are routinely presented with new information throughout the school day and given little time to consolidate the information before other new information is given to them. Just as the correlation between learning and remembering exists, there is also a correlation between understanding and remembrance. If we comprehend something, then we are capable of remembering it better. The more complex and denser this network is the faster and easier it is to store and remember information (Shields, 2003). Effective storage translates to effective retrieval; hence understanding enables an individual to know where to store the information in the long term memory.
I chose this topic because I personally encountered parents who talk of their children having good memory, but later describe the same children as having difficulties in remembering what they had read or what their assignment is. I find this topic so essential not only in understanding how our memory works, but to understand the importance of the past memory in relation to future development. The topic also helps to address the reason as to why many students struggle in school.
The purpose of this paper is to deepen the parents and students’ understanding on memory. With the increase of attention on higher order thinking in education, memorization has become somehow distasteful. In the early stages of learning, memorization is necessary in most areas of study. Like for instance, students are required to memorize their grammatical rules and multiplication facts in order to pass. Thus, this topic is designed to broaden others’ opinion on remembrance of past and future things that are easily overlooked and naively judged by outsiders. The topic also addresses the need for people to understand their past memory and their memory profile so that they can develop effective future memory.
Past knowledge begins with memory. The existence of history fulfills a human fundamental need by reconstituting memory. Memory maintains consciousness of living in the tributary of time and most human beings yearns for their place in that stream. Short term memories have knowledge about the immediate past, and therefore give priority to its sensory subsystem memory. The past events are considered to be real, and its consequences remain to interrupt on the present. Every person is a composite of the places he or she has been and hence the remembrance of things past is an exposition of the intimate connection between our memory and the spaces we move through (Cwerner, 2000).
Memory can be classified as either explicit memory (declarative memory) or implicit memory (non-declarative memory) (Kail & Hall, 2001). Declarative memory can be delineated into the semantic and episodic systems while non declarative memory includes priming and procedural learning. The functions and characteristics of each memory system have substantial implications on educational setting and learning. The information that we get through our senses; visual, kinesthetic, auditory, olfactory, and tactile, is stored for a very period of time in the sensory register. Information normally remains for a very short time in our visual memory. Baddeley (1996) views this information as an image that looks like a replica of what one has just seen, and he considers it to fade with the progression of time. In most cases, most of the information that enters the sensory registers is not processed, but is regulated by the information flow from the sensory registers to short term memory (Levine, 2002). The short term memory holds information indefinitely so long as it is rehearsed, and the primary reason for its decline is its displacement by the presence of new information that has been attended to. The amount of information stored in the short term memory is relatively small, and hence considered to be a momentary resting position of information (Kail & Hall, 2001).
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Although research suggests that there may be several subsystems of short term memory, the two subsystems that have clear evidence are the verbal and visual short term memory (Baddeley, 1996). Many areas of school activities place a lot of concentration on the short term memory systems, especially short term auditory or verbal memory. Like for example, children must remember the instructions given to them by their teachers during discussions, lectures, and conversations. All this information must enter the short term memory before being transferred to long term memory.
In addition to these sub-systems, there are two subsystems of working memory; the visual working and verbal working memory (Kail & Hall, 2001). This memory contains central or main controller executive that interprets information that has just been presented and integrates what has already been stored in the long term memory. For example in life or school, working memory is necessary in the performance of tasks. In order for one to comprehend or understand the material read, one must remember from the beginning of the readings to the end. During class discussions also, students are made to remember what has been said while retrieving information from the long term memory about the topic. Cwerner (2000) shows that higher levels of cognitive task performance such as reasoning, problem solving, reading, and reasoning is accurately predicted by performance on working memory tasks than by performance on short term memory tasks.
Long term memory is connected with the processes of retrieval and storage of information from memory (Cwerner, 2000). The storage at this part of memory is considered to be permanent. Loss of information from the long term memory is known as forgetting. The phenomenon of hindrance in long term memory storage is the main rationale behind forgetfulness of the past information. Like for instance, students are presented with information in the normal school day and before the information is given time to consolidate in long term memory, the student moves on to engage in new information. This process of dissemination of information results in forgetfulness.
Long term memory comprises of interrelated subsystems (Shields, 2003). One type of these subsystems is the episodic memory, which stores information about events or episodes in our lives. Like for example, one can remember an anniversary celebration, who was at the party, and what they did during last summer’s vacation. Impairments or disruption of the episodic memory results in amnesia. Semantic memory is another subsystem of the long term memory, and it stores memory of concepts and knowledge (Cwerner, 2000). Formal education can be described as filling our semantic memory store. Effectiveness of both semantic and episodic memory systems differs from one individual to the other. These differences provide good foundation for the need for teachers to use varied learning activities in classroom, such as group work, projects, and field trips.
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Procedural memory subsystem stores the learning of skills, both cognitive and perceptual motor. Cognitive procedural learning involves such skills as problem solving and reading. On the other hand, perceptual motor skills include such skills as swinging a golf club, bike riding, and driving a car. Although semantic memory can be thought of as storing knowledge of ‘what’, procedural learning is considered to store knowledge about ‘how’ (Shields, 2003).
Shields (2003) consider that mnemonic learning can be the best way of getting information into the long term memory. When mnemonics are embraced during encoding process of information, they provide more verbal elaborations or visual imagery that acts as cues for remembrance of information that is low in meaningfulness or in imagery. The use of visual imagery mnemonics can help the learners form images that they actually see rather than what they imagine, hence enabling them to recall information in the long term memory.
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Many children who experience difficulties in their studies have comparative weaknesses with their long term semantic memory system. Parents and teachers should always try to understand the best approaches in dissemination of information to the students. Generally, most of the students have quite good episodic memories and unreliable semantic memories. In educational environment, priming is of great importance with consideration to the use of technical organizers before the staging of new information to the learners. Hence, memories of practices that are past require to be activated whilst moving in new areas so as to assist the process of making connections in learning easier. Previous knowledge dimensions need to be expounded; their importance re-discovered and tailored for modern use (Levine, 2002). This will enable students have few difficulties whilst learning. For instance, retrieval which is the process of recovering information stored in the memory can be conducted to students in several ways. Review should not only contain the teachers’ summaries of covered information, but engagement of students in retrieval practice to make their own judgments. Without review past information will be lost from memory. Hence, as one keeps on adding new information, relationships and connections between ideas should be identified to avoid interference development.
Metamemory, which is the component of knowing about knowing or metacognition, is important for learners to understand and identify their own memory profiles, like for example, their memory weaknesses and strengths (Kail & Hall, 2001). They should be thought on the difference between remembering and understanding of information. They should also know the general information on memory, such as, encoding activities affects successive storage and recovery of information, that recovery process is as essential as encoding practice, and that elaborative rehearsal is effective than rehearsal maintenance. They should also know the precise information regarding their own memory profile, like for instance their semantic memory system might be better than their episodic memory system or their auditory memory might be better than their visual memory or vice versa respectively (Levine, 2002).
Memory of futures’ and remembrance of the past are helpful because it both alludes to the interpenetration and implication of past and future. It also subtly reminds us that past and future depends on our minds to bring them forth and to activate them into existence. The thought of memory is particularly important with regard to the aids associated with it; aids help us remember. While we tend to avoid the use of visually based terms because of conventional materiality and their connection to the senses, the use of aids, be they conceptual, visual, moral, social, literary, or televisual, is helpful for the recovery of the past information (Levine, 2002). In other instances, it is used for the uncovering of the future as well as accessing real virtual information. All we have and encounter in life is a constant stream of experience and without memory we cannot make sense out of it (Cwerner, 2000). Generally, memory is one of the essential features that shapes the human being, and without it we are prone to repeating the same mistakes in life.
From personal experience, as well as evaluating the learning experience of students, I noted that it is very essential for the teachers to identify the memory strengths and weaknesses of their students for better results. The parents should also understand the different subsystems of memory remembrance of the past and future information. It is also important to talk to people about memory experiences and how it affects the retrieval of information. For better remembrance of the past things, an individual is required to; pay attention to important part of learning, have a mental picture or visualization to what is being thought, relate the ideas of the information being learnt, and repetition of what one wishes to understand (Levine, 2002). Psychologists argue that attention is important in the learning process as it allows the movement of information from the sensory register into the working memory. This will ensure effective retrieval of past information in the long term memory.