What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Memory

First Class Education are a Teaching Supply Agency who like to share relevant and helpful news with our clients, especially if we feel that it can help with their teaching techniques.

This article is a brief summary of some of the work done by Robert and Elizabeth Bjork who study memory and learning, along with a handful of tips that Teachers can consider using in order to harness their students’ memories and enable them to benefit maximally from lessons.

According to the Professors, there are a lot of misconceptions about memory that still influence the ways in which we teach students today. For example, it is still widely believed that techniques that enable quick learning will also ensure long term retention of information, but this is not the case. In fact, it has been shown that if information takes a long time to learn and requires revision, it is actually more likely to enhance long term memory.

This evidence led the Professors to coin the term “Desirable Difficulties”. The term refers to the difficulties we experience when learning new material, which are shown to enhance learning as they encourage encoding and retrieval processes that support learning, comprehension and remembering. So if your students are struggling to get their heads round something, it’s really important to encourage them to stick at it because once the penny has dropped, they’ll likely be able to recall that information for a long while!

In an interview, the Professors Bjork emphasise that each child is an individual and will have had a completely different experience of life from the child in the seat next to them. As a result, the way they have been taught to learn is also different, so it is vital to have an understanding of each child’s experience with learning as with this understanding comes an ability to tailor teaching techniques to suit each individual.

Throughout their work, the Professors have suggested techniques which teachers can use with their students to help them learn. Below we have briefly outlined four techniques that are recommended.

Vary conditions of practice

Students love it when they can leave the classroom for a little while, and research suggests that changing up the environment in which material is learned can aid long term recall, so why not use this to your advantage because it will certainly help them!

Lots quickly, or little slowly

Spacing out study sessions has shown to increase long term recall. It’s better not to encourage intense study for students, if they’re being tested at the end of the learning period it is advisable that learning is spaced out.

Mix it up

Whilst flitting from one topic to the next may seem to make no sense, this type of interleaving-practice learning has only been shown to increase long term recall. Creating a change in direction in class can also refresh appetite for learning and keep students attention focused too!

The generation effect 

Remember being told to “read, cover, recall, repeat” when you were learning french vocab at school? Remember peaking under your hand when you couldn’t quite remember the answer? Well, that little cheat method will have impaired your ability to learn that one word! Research suggests that asking students to generate an answer from the information they have already been given, is more effective for learning than presenting them with the answer first and getting them to memorise it – they’ll thank you down the line!


If you want to learn more about Memory and Teaching Techniques to make the most of it, head to https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/listen-what-every-teacher-needs-know-about-memory or if you are a Teacher looking for opportunities in Primary, Secondary, SEN or Support Staff roles, please get in touch to find out how First Class Education can help you.