You finished a great book a couple of weeks ago and in record time too. You couldn’t put it down. So why when someone asks you ‘what happened in it’ you can’t quite remember?
According to Julie Beck, a health and psychology writer at The Atlantic, it is because the information we are taking in is only held in our working memory – part of short-term memory which deals with immediate conscious decisions.
— UNCPTLC (@uncptlc) January 22, 2018
To retain that information properly, we must make a conscious effort to metaphorically move it into our long-term memory.
So what should students be doing instead?
“If you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out,” Beck wrote.
While reading a book for class, it is often frustrating for students to be told to only read one or two chapters at a time.
“If you read a book all in one stretch — on an airplane, say — you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time,” wrote Beck.
And it’s the same with that Netflix series you’ve been binge watching. The reason you can’t remember the details of so much of it might not be down to the fact you fell asleep around episode 12.
Beck points to research which shows if we watch a program in a conventional way, waiting each week for a new episode, we are much more likely to remember happened.
With this in mind, educators have started to explore the notion of ‘slow teaching’.
Paula Marantz Cohen Professor of English at Drexel University wrote in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education how she embraces slow teaching.
Marantz Cohen is at the forefront of an honors program which runs numerous slow learning courses.
Instead of racing through material at lightning-speed, she looks “closely – and by extension, slowly” at one aspect of the course, be it a text or idea, for a period of 10 weeks.
slow pace teaching… https://t.co/2JIurDCGXx
— Dr. Frank Johnston (@dr_jpsych2) February 1, 2018
She claimed attempting “to cram in as much material as possible over the course of a term” is ineffective.
“I am convinced that key concepts and texts will adhere better to memory and understanding if their presentation is slowed down,” Marantz Cohen asserted.
Learning, and teaching in fact, does not adhere to a one-size-fits-all method. It is doubtful students would pass their degrees in the same timeframe if all professors adopted this technique. But, like with pretty much everything, moderation is key.
So maybe slow down on that textbook reading. Take it chunk by chunk and hopefully more of it will make its way into that precious long-term memory bank.