TEACHERS PLATFORM: Why do students forget what we teach them?

Forgetting is normal under certain circumstances, but in school, forgetting leads to low grades and sometimes dismissal. Below are reasons why students forget and some suggestions on what you can do to overcome each one.

1427231830Nelson-Mwesigye
Nelson Mwesigye

Forgetting is normal under certain circumstances, but in school, forgetting leads to low grades and sometimes dismissal. Below are reasons why students forget and some suggestions on what you can do to overcome each one.

1. Changed clues

You may have information stored away in your mind but are unable to recall it if the right cue or “handle” is missing. In other words, if you study material one way and a test question asks for the material another way, you may be unable to recall it. To prevent this, it is important that you learn material using as many of your own words as possible. When you can put something completely and accurately in your own words, it significantly increases your ability to remember. Teachers should help students practice a variety of approaches.

2. Interference

Learned material interferes with recall of previously learned material. To deal with this, all material to be remembered must be refreshed in the mind by regular review and repetition. Materials should be learned in a structured manner. Students should be given time to revise before an examinations are done.

3. Mental overcrowding

This cannot only inhibit memory but can also prevent learning. Too much input at one time into the senses inhibits learning and remembering. That is why it is normal to experience poor learning and recall when studying with the stereo on, TV going, talking in the background, and worrying about personal problems, etc. Study and teach where it is quiet and where it is going to stay quiet until you are finished studying.

4. Negative thinking

Students who believe that they cannot remember are the ones most likely to forget. You must believe you can remember before you can. If believing in your ability to remember is difficult for you, see a counselor, or a learning skills specialist, or start reprogramming your mind with positive self-talk such as, “I will remember this,” and “I have a good memory.” Teachers should encourage and motivate their students.

5. Underlearning

The most common reason why students forget is because the material is under learned. To remember something, it must first be learned, that is, stored in long-term memory. If you don’t do what is necessary to get information into your long-term memory, you have under learned the material and forgetting is normal. To combat under learning, repeatedly recite or quiz yourself on your textbook and lecture notes.

Learning is a process that takes time and repetition for humans to move information from short-term memory toward long-term memory. That is why when material is reviewed once or twice; it is difficult to remember for quizzes and exams. With the tight schedules of today’s school, students and those who have not yet mastered the skillsneed sufficient review is critical to learning.

6. Disuse

Forgetting something because you don’t use it is another normal and unavoidable human characteristic. Most forgetting takes place immediately after hearing or seeing new material. To address disuse, you must regularly recite and review material to be remembered until it is stored in long-term memory then, it is less likely you will forget. Encourage your students to do a lot of practice and revision.

7. Effort and intention lacking

The term “Effort” refers to finding out what humans need to do in order to remember and then do it. “Intention” means to deliberately choose to remember. The art of remembering is a direct result of the amount of effort exerted coupled with the intention to remember. Recall is the outcome of the effort you choose to allot to the task of remembering.

Furthermore, your mind does what you tell it to do, for the most part. If you don’t intend to remember something, you are telling your mind, indirectly, not to remember, so you don’t. Teachers should tell their students what they should remember; and students should also tell themselves what they should remember/

The writer is an English Language Instructor

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