Memory is the evidence that meaningful learning has taken place. It is the ability of someone to recall what has been previously learnt. If you learn a body of knowledge in the past and fail to remember it, it means you have forgotten and some factors must have been responsible for this. The implication of this is that you have to start all over.
Human beings have limited attention and typically can only attend to just one input channel at a time; and when this piece of input (information) is acquired, it is place in the short-term memory (STM), which is the work-bench where an individual does his/her thinking (Crowl, Kaminsky and Podell, 1997). Crowl and his associates explain that when a piece of information is acquired it must be properly processed, otherwise, such information dies off, and thus it becomes increasingly difficult for an individual to remember or recall such an idea. This therefore implies that a piece of information must be learnt repeatedly, and must not be too large at a time; otherwise, the STM may throw away some parts of the information. This often explains why people find it difficult to locate an item placed or kept somewhere when in need of it. It may then be assumed that when such an individual places an object, he/she has not taken time to “look and relook” and then commit the location of the object into heart in order that its location may be easily traced.
The same idea may applies in classroom situation, where a learner is taught a concept and would need to recall the facts surrounding the concept, for the teacher to conclude whether the lesson has been successful, and to also evaluate whether the learner has learnt. The ability of such a child to remember a learned concept, is the product of the process by which we commit the piece of information into memory contingent upon when the information is passed across to him/her. The short-term memory that does the initial processing of the information has the capability to store information for 20 seconds, and unless the receiver of the information acts on it, the information is forgotten.
Similarly, for pieces of information to be stored in the memory at one time or the other, it must not be too large. This is because the short-term memory cannot hold too large a volume of information at a time, before it disposes of it. However, a better way to remember some pieces of information is to chunk them bit by bit; and by this recall can be enhanced. But to a greater extent, if we want to recall some of the bits that go into the STM, we need to rehearse very well. Rehearsal is a process by which we exercise the repeat of a piece of information so that such information does not elope from memory after the 20 seconds capacity of the STM. There are two types of rehearsal:
- Maintenance Rehearsal
- Elaborate Rehearsal
In maintenance rehearsal, repetition is made of the piece of information, to allow one to act upon it. For example, if a police officer on the highway wants to keep the information of a vehicle whose driver has decided not to obey the stop and search service of the police on the check point, the officer could repeatedly (within a minute) recite the number plate information to another officer who then records it. This will enable the officer to easily track down the escaping vehicle another time.
In elaborative rehearsal, effort is made to pass a piece of information into the Long-term memory. Here, an association is made of a new piece of information with existing information in order, to retain the newly learned and to also aid recall. Apart from association, the learner has to repeat a new information and then associate it with an existing piece, so that when it is to be retrieved for use, it will be easier to recall.
The Long-Term Memory
Some of the methods by which information is stored in the LTM memory are:
- Sentence creation: This is otherwise called verbal elaboration. It is a process by which a sentence is made with a learned concept as a component. For example, when a child is taught the alphabets, the teacher often associates the letters with an object as “B” for Ball, “E” for Elephant. The sentences that could be made are “B” for Ball”, “kick the ball”, “E” for Elephant, an elephant is big. When this is repeatedly done, the child easily recalls the concept being passed.
- Creation of mental picture: When a concept is associated with an object as shown above, the child will recall quickly. E.g. letter B as in Ball. Whenever the child comes across letter B, she/he can also visualize a ball.
- Creation of mnemonics: Here a learner could use acronyms i.e. first letter of each of the points being mastered, or an arrangement that makes the points meaningful to pronounce. Thus when the individual wants to recall, it will be very easy to retrieve it from memory. A typical example is the arrangement of the characteristics of living things as MR NIGER i.e. M= Movement, R=Respiration, N=Nutrition, I=Irritability G=Growth, E= Excretion, and R=Reproduction.