The Learning Process
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Retaining Memory

Memory is the retention of information over a interval of time. There are four basic
kinds of memory: short-term memory, long-term memory, visual memory and auditory
memory. These kinds of memory form the foundation to acquire the basic/fundamental
skills of learning requiring the retention of concepts and information. Efforts to acquire knowledge is
fundamental to overcoming temporary and permanent processing abilities
and associated memory difficulties.

       The Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model includes 3 interacting systems of memory: Sensory Memory, Short-Term Memory and Long-Term Memory

Sensory Memory The memory system that holds information coming in through the senses for a period ranging from a fraction of a second to several seconds
Short Term Memory (STM) The second stage of memory can hold about seven (5-9) items from a few seconds to a minute; the exact amount of time can vary; Also known as working memory - the temporary space in conscious mind of information about tasks we are thinking about.
Long-Term Memory (LTM) The relatively permanent memory system with a virtually unlimited capacity to store information deemed important. Long-term memory lasts from a minute or so to weeks or even years. Long-term memory the recall of general information learned on previous occasions - i.e. specific past experiences, motor skills, etc..
         Memory can be classified as to the method used to acquire the original information -    
  • Visual memory - Recall of what has been seen; memory deficiencies are inclined to affect reading and spelling
  • Auditory memory - Recall of what has been heard; auditory memory deficiencies will often experience difficulty developing a good understanding of oral presentations.
       A mnemonic is a specific reconstruction of target content intended to tie new information to the learner's existing knowledge base and, therefore, facilitate retrieval. There are a variety of mnemonic techniques, including keywords, peg-words, acronyms, loci methods, spelling mnemonics, phonetic mnemonics, number-sound mnemonics, and Japanese “Yodai” methods.

       A mnemonic is a great tool for improving memory by recalling associated information after the skill has been learned.  

Processes in Memory: Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval
       Current scientific research on memory is being conducted by using the "information processing approach".  Modern computer science and other related fields to used to provide a reference frame to understand the process of memory. The first step to remembering is to prioritize massive amounts of sensory information.
  • Prioritizing information before Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval.

  • For storage to take place some physical change in the brain must take place (Consolidation). When information is stored we must later retrieve it. Failure of retrieval could be from any of the three processes.
Encoding Transforming information into a form that can be stored in long term memory
Selective Attention Focussing on one item requires subborninating other information in the background
Storage The act of maintaining an inventory of information in memory
Consolidation The process, believed to involve forming a permanent memory
Retrieval The act of accessing information stored in memory

Memory Exists as a Short and Long Term Skill
        All memory starts out in the mind's short term storage which ostensibly stores items briefly - less than a minute.  Long-term memory is directly related to its origin as short-term memory. Items in short term memory must be organized by associations prior to being converted/transferred to long-term memory. This process known as "Rehearsal".

        Short Term Memory is temporary and has a relative small capacity-

Displacement: When event that occurs, it is held in short-term memory. When the stoarge capacity is exceeded. each new item entering short-term memory replaces an existing item.
Rehearsal: The act of purposely repeating information to maintain it in short-term memory and prepare it for transfer to long-term memory.

Retrieving Information
        Sometimes the retrieval of information becomes slow, garbled, and even lost as the associations (links) are become detached. This is sometimes due to concussions, extreme physiological trauma or tragedy causing cognitive impairment, diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or dementia, and drug and medication abuse.

       Research into preserving or enhancing cognitive function is largely based on using enrichment approaches that intensify the learning experience. There is wide support for this that is supported by  abundant scientific evidence on the potential for neural and cognitive brain plasticity.

       One form of enrichment is cognitive training that is the systematic training of cognitive ability whose goal is to preserve, enhance or develop cognitive abilities such as memory, executive control and coordination. The concept is similiar to the use of physical training to develop muscle strength or flexibility. Depending on the condition affecting the brain, such training can be applied in isolation or in combination with medication.

       Much of our performing real-world tasks involves more than one cognitive process. Even what appear to be simple processes requires multiple cognitive processes that operate in concert.  Multi-domain cognitive training interventions must integrate several cognitive processes that are not restricted to a single process (i.e. memory or processing speed).

       Research has demonstrated that the brain has the potential to be reprogramed to compensate for impaired brain regions. We know that cognitive training is conducive to enhancing higher levels of cognitive activities. The accumulated knowledge and experience requires an active brain. The old adage of "Use it or lose it" is a proactive action to delay or prevent cognitive decline.

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 memory to retain information that ranges from 30 seconds to a few hours or a day or two. Eventually the short term information memory is discarded 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 long term memory which can be retrieved 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.

        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.

The Process of Learning

Skill Development Environment:

Mental Training:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs.
Mental Training for Athletes:

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credit is given for the source of the materials.

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