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Helping Students Hold Onto Academic Knowledge

Teachers know that just memorizing material can lead to a superficial grasp of concepts that is then quickly forgotten.  Students have busy lives and busy schedules which gives them little to no time to imbibe  large chunks of information given during school hours.  Once learned old material is replaced by new material resulting in “cramming” which is then quickly lost.  As teachers, we don’t want our students to forget what we have taught them in class.

The University of Waterloo,  published a paper describing how much students retain information after instruction. They found on day 1, students after instruction knew 100 per cent of what was taught.  On day 2, there was no access to the information and no review; they didn’t look at their notes,  and 50 to 80 percent of the information they learnt was  lost.  By the time it was day 7 students only retained 2 to 3 percent of the information given.  Here are a few strategies that we can use with our students to help them retain information taught in class.

Peer-to-peer explanations.  When students explain information to other students this reinforces knowledge given to them and as a result students hold onto what they have learnt longer.  This also makes learning less passive and recall is at its optimum.

Revisit academic materials . Spacing material out and revisiting it throughout the year can enhance learning and retention is increased.  Research proves that when ideas are repeated several times a year students perform much better academically.  Teachers can quickly incorporate a brief review into a lesson or assign it through homework.

Frequent practice exams.  Giving frequent practice tests boosts retention and protects against stress that can impair student test performance later on.  These test grades need not be counted towards an overall grade, but  maybe given as a pop quiz to assess learning ability.

Review the lesson.  Teach a review of the lesson taught the day before.  The concepts taught need to become automatic making room for more advanced concepts.  The foundations to learning about certain topics need to be strengthened before more advanced concepts may be instilled.

Linking concept to image.  Get students to create a mental image to associate with the concept.  Visual aids can help organize information in your brain and cement learning without making a grave effort.

When learning strategies are imbued in our students learning becomes efficient and students are able to accomplish more in a short amount of time.  This also creates a less stressful environment for students overall maximizing success.

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