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10th July 2018

Thinking about the “M” word

No, not money…Memory! 🙂

Many have argued that our system of education is antiquated because a good grade is usually dependent on memorizing large chunks of information. 

Why do we need to remember so much information when we have unprecedented access to huge amounts of data to literally anything at our fingertips?

I would say that without knowing the basic knowledge, there’s no way we can critically think about higher order questions. For example, in organic chemistry, we cannot begin to think about synthesis and deductive questions if we do not have basic knowledge of reagent and conditions involved in various reactions. 

So how do we improve our memory?

Firstly, it’s important to recognize our memory works in three steps, Encoding, Storage and Retrieval. 

Encoding – In the context of school/tuition, it is mostly via visual and sound encoding. Semantic (what something means) encoding is the most effective as the information will likely be stored under our Long Term memory.

Storage – Information is either stored in the Short Term Memory (STM) or Long Term Memory (LTM). Research have shown that students who simply read through their notes and tutorials tend to store the information in their STM. Constant reviewing, practicing and reflecting upon their mistakes helps move the information into the LTM.

Retrieval – Some methods of improving retrieval of information: State dependent learning, being in the environment you are in when you first learn helps you recall better. Schemas/acronyms, mental shortcuts that help you organize and understand new information. Chunking/mindmaps – grouping similar information together allows easier recall. Frequent short tests/quiz helps retention as well. 

Lastly, remember our brain is a muscle and it gets stronger when it is used more. Conversely, if you don’t like to think and enjoy being a passive consumer….it atrophies. Our brains can be filled with junk or it can be filled with all kinds of valuable knowledge. It can also get malnutrition from lack of “brain food” and burdened by negative emotions/stress hormones. Treat it well.

Share this with someone if you found it useful! 🙂

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