The Learning Process
 
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Memory Retention

Short and Long Term Memory is a cognitive skill
       
Every minute of our day, in which we are not sleeping, our brain is receiving all sorts of information from the following sources:
  • Visual - light and dark, colors (tints, hues, intensity)
  • Tactual - soft, hard, rough, smooth
  • Olfactory - pleasant, unpleasant aromas
  • Taste - bitter, sour, sweet, pleasant, unpleasant
  • Temperature - conditions ranging from extreme cold to extreme hot
        In our daily lives we depend on our working short term memory to retain information that ranges from 30 seconds to a few hours or a day or two. Eventually our short term memory is forgotten unless we train ourselves to assign a priority of importance to the topic(s) and undertake to take steps to convert the information into permanent or long term memory which can be retrieved as long as decades later.

        It is a normal part of aging to experiencing a decrease memory recall as we age. There is a proactive wait to delay and reduce the effects of aging by the use of memory training. Some individuals, from childhood, struggle to remember names or classroom lecture material. Such occurrences should be investigated for physical causes by a neurologist.

Information Overload
        It is common for individuals, who are involved in extremely intense classes, seminars, or training sessions, to experience a dramatic inability to retrieve the information in the following hours, days, or weeks after the presentation. Technology allows the combination of color graphics, charts, plus audio & video in PowerPoint presentations that the attendees can record on their cell phone, handouts, or as notes via paper/computer laptop.

        When we pay attention in a lecture, the verbal information first goes into the primary or short-term memory. When we rehearse, recite, and or paraphrase the data and concepts, part of it is transferred into our secondary or long-term memory. The parts that we paid the least attention to or are least interested in,  is not retained and forgotten.

        Whether new information is "stored" or "dumped" depends on the:

  • value we place on the information;
  • communication skills of the presenter;
  • how attentive we are;
  • the temperature in the room;
  • the comfort of the seating; if we are hungry or satiated;
  • if information overload has occurred,

Developing a Short Term Memory Skills
        Memory training is a way to focus our utilization of our short term working memory skills. Our working memory allows us do many things in our daily lives - such as remembering a phone numbers, a person's face or name, or even where you are going while running errands. Taking notes becomes virtually impossible if working memory is not properly functioning.

        Some people have a limited ability to hold even small amount of information in their short term memory. The cognitive skill that is their “working memory” is weak and needs to be strengthened. Short term memory training can really help.

Brain Training Helps
        Brain training attempts to identify the source of the cognitive skill weaknesses. When cognitive skills are weak, tutoring will not help will fix the problem. Brain training targets strengthening cognitive skills and makes them work correctly, so that retrieving memory details becomes enhanced. A cognitive skills assessment test should be administered and interpreted by a psychologist. This type of testing has historically been used to diagnose learning disabilities. Accurate testing reveals both a individual's cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Major brain skills evaluated include: attention, working memory, processing speed, auditory processing, visual processing, long term memory, and logic and reasoning.

        Professional testing tools include the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ III-COG) and the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJ III-ACH). The WJ III-COG is the gold standard of cognitive skills testing, and is used by psychologists and educators across the country to measure brain skills strengths and weaknesses.

The Recognition Stage of Memory
        Recognition occurs prior to the recall stage. It is much easier to recognize the correct answer on a multiple choice test when five options are listed compare to recalling the correct answer without a list of options. Enhancing information recall also assists in achieving effective long-term memory.

        It is extremely important that the individual fully understands new material before it is converted into long term permanent memory. A good technique for understanding is formulate the concepts into a narrative that is expressed in a written or oral form. If you are unable to do this, then your understanding lacks clarity demonstrated by the inability to form a clear and correct memory.

        Many students hesitate to ask an instructor to explain/clarify a point that is unclear to you. This is associated with the fear of being the only one who doesn't understand; however, it is very likely that it also is unclear to others. A good instructor appreciates the opportunity to answer questions. Sometimes, because of time constraints to cover a specific amount of material requires questions to be reserved at the end of the presentation.

        Remembering forms an original, clear trace in the brain. This initial information is of vital importance because it is more difficulty to change incorrect impressions than to initially store correct impressions in long term memory because of the effort to unlearn before attempting to relearn. 

Connect Learning New Information/concepts to an Established Knowledge Base
        Analyze information/concepts to determine if they are alike or different from related topics. Do you tend to agree or disagree with the conclusion if the information is based on conjecture? Are there any aspects which you can criticize? Analytical thinking encourages the consideration of all aspects in the search for  knowledgeable and as a result recall is significantly improved.

The Principle of Recitation
        Reciting the material, even just once more, significantly increases retention, so try to utilize the technique whenever possible. Hermann Ebbinghaus, a psychologist and researcher, has reported that each additional recitation (after you really know the material) strengthens the mental trace deeper establishing a base for long-term retention. For many people, by the time they achieve bare mastery, there is little time left. As a result they are eager to go on to something else. 

        Recitation can take several forms:

  • Thinking about it - is potentially the least effective because it gives us the least amount of reinforcement
  • Writing it out - involves muscle movement messages to the brain which are known to increase mental response and recording
  • Vocalizing - is usually the most effective single technique for review because it employs more of the senses than any other review technique (utilizing both auditory and vocal senses.)

        When reviewing your notes immediately after class by vocal recitation, you will not only be consolidating the new information, but also strengthening the neural messages sent to your subconscious brain.

        It is important to gather the information in note form according to categories, and information clusters prior to reciting them. The most effective method is to cover the notes and then recite them aloud. After finishing the recitation, check for accuracy. Do not attempt to memorize and recite the material word for word; instead using your own words explain the material to a friend or fellow student. When you become comfortable in verbalizing the material, you know it! 

How Recitation Works.
        As you read the words in a sentence or paragraph, the primary or short-term memory holds the thoughts in your mind long enough for you to acquire a sense of the sentence or paragraph. Due to the very limited capacity, as you continue to read, you replace the words and ideas of the previous paragraphs with the subsequent paragraphs.         

        As we contemplate an idea, conveyed by a sentence or paragraph, it has a chance of moving on into the secondary or long-term memory for permanent storage; However, there is no guarantee that it will be stored in long term memory. Whether new information is "stored" or "dumped" depends on our reciting it and on our interest in the information.

Memorization
        Recent studies indicate that learning which involves memorization of a unit of material begins slowly with the amount learned per unit of time is small at first, then increases. Eventually the learning process slows and becomes small again. Note: This finding contrasts with older studies which showed that learning was rapid at first, then became slower until it leveled off.

        It is normal to encounter periods when there seems to be little or no gain. This is occurrence describes a plateau in learning may be caused by: fatigue, loss of interest, or diminishing returns from the continuous use of inefficient methods.

        To others, a plateau is a pause between stages of understanding that continues until the individual acquires a new insight or "break through "that signals the start of a new learning stage. A lower stage of an understanding or skill development may actually inhibit or even interfere with progressing to a higher level. For example, learning to recognize individual letters of the alphabet interferes with learning to sight read words and later learning to read word-by-word can become an obstacle to reading by phrases or sentences.

       Plateaus or periods of slower progress in learning are inevitable. Parents, teachers, and coaches should not allow slow progress to become a source of discouragement. Learning usually is still be taking place, although at a slower pace that requires the perspective of observation over months, not days of weeks. It helps if the individual acquires the tools that allow a self analysis that results in improving learning habits in academics and sports. Sometimes slower period of learning may be due to stress, fatigue, poor nutrition, and/or lack of sufficient sleep. If this is true, the most efficient choice is to temporarily drop the activity for a period of a few days for R&R (Rest and Recovery) to recharge our "mental and physical" energies.

       Each student learns at their own pace that depends upon their inherited learning ability. Some individuals acquire knowledge and new skills at a slow pace compared to those who seem to pick up things at a much faster pace. Slow or fast learners should be able to learn the material equally well, if provided with a stress free opportunity without time restrictions. There is evidence that both rate of learning and rate of retention can be improved with practice.

The Principle of Neuro-Transmitter Depletion

        The length of time one spends studying or attempting to read for content will, at some point, exceed the time we function efficiency and our retention begins to suffer. Researchers indicate that the average student cannot exceed on the same subject for more than about four consecutive hours, even with short breaks every hour. What occurs is that fatigue, boredom, sometimes slight disorientation may occur. Too much consecutive studying, even if the material being covered is relative simple concepts or an easier subject area for more than four consecutive hours event with 10 minute breaks each hour.

Recommended Reading:

PDF  Tips for Assessing Cognitive Skills for Decision Making Tips for Assessing Cognitive Skills for Decision Making. (Source: MDS Manual). Intent: To record the individual's actual performance in making everyday decisions.

PDF  Functional Assessment of Cognitive Transit Skills  The test was developed based on a Functional Skills List developed by professional who does psychological or educational assessments to determine if a person has cognitive disabilities.
References:

The Process of Learning

Skill Development Environment:

Resources:
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combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs.
   
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