CTL Blog

Applying Recent Research on How Memory Works to Teaching and Learning

December 16, 2011 | 1 Minute Read

In a two part series on human memory recently published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, James M. Lang considers how current research on how human memory works can inform the way we teach. Lang's interest in the topic was sparked by an article published in College Teaching in which Michelle D. Miller discusses the evolution of cognitive theory and how instructors can apply these theories to create more memorable learning experiences.

Recent developments in cognitive theory and memory research suggest that students’ greatest challenge is retrieving information from their long-term memories. If, as the research suggests, retrieval is aided by cues, then as instructors we can help students by developing effective cues. In practice, this means beginning the term and each learning session with engaging learning activities and thought provoking framing questions.

For Lang, the take-home point is Miller’s advice “If you want students to better retain course material, she said, use teaching strategies that ‘require students to respond, and respond frequently. That is, hands down, the most important application of this research.’”

In his blog, Lang lists some books and articles about cognition and how we can use what we know about cognition to improve student learning.

Could course discussion boards, survey tools, or classroom response systems (“clickers”) foster student retention? How might we incorporate tools like these in our courses?