Memory Improvement and Research Related to the Science of Memory

By Fahey, John A.; de los Santos, Gilberto | Education, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Memory Improvement and Research Related to the Science of Memory


Fahey, John A., de los Santos, Gilberto, Education


In a time of high-stakes testing and accountability, educators must use research-based skills, tools and techniques to assist students learn content and remember the information. Learning the content is a function of numerous educational practices that assist memory. This article focuses on memory. Without the ability to remember the content we have not learned it, according to the standards-based tests. We need to learn how we best remember and how we can improve this skill.

* Memory: A Definition

What is Memory? Memory is a glorious and admirable gift of nature by which we recall past things, we embrace present things, and we contemplate future things through their similarity to past things. Boncompagno, 1891 (Yates, 1966. p. 58)

Introduction and Purpose

Although the art of memory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the "Decade of the Brain," has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The new millennium should produce exciting, innovative ways to access and expand memory. Scientists have located multiple loci in the brain for memory storage and neurochemical research has provided invaluable information on the chemistry of neuron activity. Recent use of music and exercise are demonstrating exciting and effective ways to increase memory. All of these discoveries and the potential instructional strategies are important for educators to incorporate into their pedagogical repertoire.

This article is about memory improvement, and some of the recent research implications related to the science of memory. A proposal to use music, movement and objects or articles as metaphors to assist students to remember will be offered in order to add practical application to understanding.

Historical Perspective of Memory

From the concept of natural memory to ancient views of artificial memory, people have examined this art and devised numerous mechanisms to assist their efforts. Certain techniques and patterns were established early in the studies of memory. In the late thirteenth century, Lull distinguished between types of memory (Yates, 1966). Lull presented two types of artificial memory; the first employs medicines and plasters, and the second relates to frequent repetition of information "like an ox chewing the cud." (Yates, 1966, p. 192). The importance of repetition has been understood since 400 B.C. (Noll & Turkington, 1994). The concept that "the brain strengthens learning through repetition," so long as it is not boring, supports efforts to improve memory (Jensen, 2000, p.78), however, there are numerous significant research findings that take memory strategies to levels beyond the "cud" metaphor.

The Multiple "R"s of Memory-Record, Rehearse, Retain, Reconstruct, Retrieval

For a person to remember he, or she, needs to proceed through a pattern of actions that enable a word, idea, concept or skill to become embedded into long-term storage. Long-term memory storage is enhanced by association, repetition, reconstruction or through vivid feelings.

Preparation for standardized tests at key gateways in educational evaluation requires the ability to memorize information and to recognize it at the appropriate times. Content knowledge is required before the learner can move to the more complex levels of educational taxonomy. In this pattern the multiple "R"s of memory might be helpful.

The use of "R" words employs a mnemonic device (all begin with an "R") to assist recognition. They are examined as follows: (see chart on following page).

Avenues of Understanding

Recent investigations of brain-based research on memory suggest types of memory lanes (Sprenger, 1999), the importance of attention and receptor modification (Jensen, 1998) and the action of messenger proteins in the recall processes (Milner, 1999). …

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