What I have learnt…

When choosing my modules for this semester it was an easy choice with this module, marked entirely on blogs seemed easy. Although the description did not really reflect what goes on. I thought we would be being taught the science of education but I was very surprised when I turned up to the first lecture and we were told we could learn about whatever we wanted and that we had to do presentations every other week!

The blogs weren’t that bad, but it takes a lot of time to do them all. The really good thing that I has come from doing these blogs is, for me, finding research has become so much easier becasue I have had to do so much, so this is a really good skill to have improved. Having to do them every week also kept me motivated to do the work. However, it would have been beneficial to know the blog and comment grades separately.

However, I really dislike the presentations!!! Having to be recoreded doing them and having to upload them to YouTube for anyone to say made me more nervous, and I was fine doing presentations before this module.

Overall, this module has its pros and cons.

Synthesis blog

Over the past few blogs I have been talking about a subject that is very broad, and that is memory, because there was so much that I could have talked about I thought I would look into the aspects of memory that students would most benefit from knowing about. I have looked at what memory is, what affects it, and different ways to boost memory and looking at if they work or not. When looking at these blogs they could have seeemed unrelated but I will now look at how they all link together…

Memory is the process by which information is encoded, stored and retrieved. Memory is a very important part of our lives and without it we would not be able to do anything that required knowledge. Atkinson & Shiffrin (1968) put forward the multi-store model of short term memory, they show how information is transferred to long term memory through rehersal of information.

Baddely and Hitch (1974) put forward the working memort model, a model of how information is stored in long term memory.

To read more about these visit https://psychofed.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/what-is-memory-and-how-does-it-work/#comments.

So now we know what memory is and how it works we can now look at the more interesting topics that I have been looking at. I thought a god way to bring this all together would be in the for of tips, but I will split these into tips for older students and tip for younger students, as a lot of research notes that there are differences for older and younger students. As research is showing that different things help for different ages, although some tips may apply to both.

Tips for younger students:

  • Reduce stress levels as stress can have a negative affect on the recall of information (Kirschbaum, Wolf, May, Wippich, and Hallhammer, 1996). This can be done by planning ahead for exams/assignments and leaving enough time to prepare for them.
  • Meacham and Singer (1977) found that students were better at remembering tasks when there was a reward of money, so perhaps as an incentive to remeber revision and assignment dealines students could be rewarded financially, perhaps with extra money for every semester of work completed.
  • Keep close relationships with relatives as research has shown that those that do more activity and spend more time with close family score higher on memory tests, and those with the highest scores were the youngest (Stevens, Kaplan, Ponds, Diederiks and Jolles, 1999).
  • Thorell et al. (2009) found that ‘training your brain’ is effective for students of preschool age for improving working memory.
  • Have some alcohol after lectures, Parker et al. (1980) found that consuming 1 ml/kg of alcohol after learning improves recall.
  • Only use caffeine to improve concentration in lectures that do not require active participantion. Nehlig (2010) found that caffeine only improves concentration when material is presented passively.
  • Don’t have too much caffeine as it can cause headaches when consumes excessively (Hering-Hanit & Gadoth, 2003).
  • Drink green tea, it is a good source of l-theanine, this helps to reduce stress and stabalise moods. Owen et al. (2008) found that when ceffeine and l-theanine are combined  it improves the speed and accuracy of their participants.
  • Eat breakfast, it impoves mood and improves perfomance on memory tasks (Smith, 1999).

Tips for older students:

  • Reduce stress levels as stress can have a negative affect on the recall of information (Kirschbaum, Wolf, May, Wippich, and Hallhammer, 1996). This can be done by planning ahead for exams/assignments and leaving enough time to prepare for them.
  • Periods of forgetfullness are more likely to happen in a familiar surrounding (Reason, 1984) so by studying for exams or assignments it is best to do it somewhere that is less familiar, perhaps the library rather than your own living room.
  • Have some alcohol after lectures, Parker et al. (1980) found that consuming 1 ml/kg of alcohol after learning improves recall.
  • If you don’t use it you’ll loose it.Salthouse (2006) highlights the importance of mental activity.
  • Play tetris (or other visual related games) to improve visual attention, this is important as most lectures are presented visually so maintaining visual attention is important.
  • Only use caffeine to improve concentration in lectures that do not require active participantion. Nehlig (2010) found that caffeine only improves concentration when material is presented passively.
  • Drink green tea, it is a good source of l-theanine, this helps to reduce stress and stabalise moods. Owen et al. (2008) found that when ceffeine and l-theanine are combined  it improves the speed and accuracy of their participants.
  • Eat breakfast, it impoves mood and improves perfomance on memory tasks (Smith, 1999).

Although some of the tips are the same I hope I have highlighted the need for students to adapt study techniques and learning to match the needs of their age, especially with the increase of older adults entering into higher eduavtion.

What is memory and how does it work?

Ok, so in my last few blogs I have covered what affects memory and how to boost memory but I have not covered what memory is and how it works. So that is what I will cover in this blog…

What is memory?

Memory is the process by which infromation is encoded, stored and retrieved. Encoding is the process by which information is transferred from the environment into the brain, for eample when you see a picture of an animal you have not seen before and there is a caption telling you what the animal is. This information is being encoded. Storage is the process where information is kept for recall at a later time, so if you were to see the animal without the caption then you will be able to recall what it was called. Retrieval is the actual recall of the infoprmation from short or long term memory.


This is a blobfish.

If you think about all of the worrds you know in all of the different languages you have come into contact with (For me I not only know English fluently but I know words in Welsh, French, Spanish and even a few Polish and Swahili ones too), as well as all of the words we know, we know their meanings, we know directions to places, peoples names and things about them, we know a lot about Psychology (hopefully) and about all of the other subjects we have been taught until out lives now. Memory is a huge store and the amount we can store is constantly being researched and updated. This research by MIT shows just how much the human memory can do http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/vision-memory-0908.html.

How does memory work?

Atkinson & Shiffrin (1968) put forward the Multi-store model of memory.

As you can see from the image above the multi-store model contains three stores; sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory. Sensory memory is when a stimuli is detected by one of the senses, for example, visually. This stores the information only for enough time to interpret the stimuli. If this stimuli is not attended to then it decays straight away, leaving the sensory memory. If the stimuli is attended to then it will enter the short-term memory store. In this store the information if only kept for as long as it is thought about. The capacity of short-term memory is 7+/- 2 items (Miller, 1956). Once something else has been thought about the previous information is lost, that is unless the information is rehersed. If it is rehersed then it will then enter the next store which is long-term memory. From this store information can be retrieved and brought back to the short-term memory store to be used at a later date.

To use this in education the teachers can try to make sure that the students are always paying attention, and by rehersing the information so that it is transferred to long-term memory. The teacher can ask for answers (testing students informally) to go over what they have been studying so that they can prevent the decay of the information (McDaniel, Anderson, Derbish & Morrisette, 2007).

Badelly and Hitch, (1974) put forward the working memory model.

As you can see from the image above this is a more complex model than the mulit-store model of memory (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968). There are three main components of the working memory model; the phonological loop, the visuo-spacial sketchpad and the central executive. The phonological loop is the ‘inner voice’ of a person, this is where information can be rehersed, for example, when you are actively thinking about something or trying to remeber it, like a phone number. Rehersal of the information helps prevent it from immediate decay. The visuo-spacial scratchpad is the ‘inner eye’, this is where visual information from the environment is stored, for example, you may be able to visualise the blobfish you saw earlier in my blog and you may be able to recall certain features that it had. The central executive is the ‘main controller’, this is where all of the information is controlled and information can be passed and retrieved from the other stores. So although the information about the blobfish is stored in your visuo-spacial scratchpad, you need the central executive to select the information and retrieve it for you. In 2000 Baddelly added a fourth component to this model of working memory, he added an episodic buffer. The episodic buffer allows the information on the other stores to be linked together so that we are able to form knowledge bases about the look of an object and the sound, for example, we know what a dog looks like and what it sounds like.

Memory boosting drugs… are they worth the money?

A couple of years ago a new film came out called Limitless, in this film the main character is offered a drug that enables him to use 100% of his brain and by doing this he is very aware if his surroundongs, can recall all of his memories and can learn much faster than before. Before I saw this film I had never even considered that there may be these kinds of things out there but a quick google search shows up all kinds of drugs that claim to boost memory (obviously not to the extent of this film) but they are available to anyone with access to the internet.

For this blog I will only concentrate on the herbal drugs that are out there, this is because herbal drugs are potentially widely available to students and we will find out if they can be beneficial.

From my google search I found a herbal Nootropic drug called Doxiderol. This drug claims to improve memory, enhance focus, increase attention span, generate intense energy and improve the retention of new information. Doxiderol claims to start to work in only 15 minutes and improves both short term and long term memory.

What is in these drugs?

So by now you may be wondering what is in these miracle drugs that can work so fast, well you may be surprised, most of these things you will probably find in your kitchens already! Doxiderol, like many others like it is made up of caffeine, L-Theanine, vitamin B5, citcicoline, vinpocetine, and Acetyl-L-carnitine.

Can these different herbal supplements work?

  • Caffeine – in these drugs caffeine is used to improve the concentration and focus of the person taking the drug. Caffeine is widely available in the form of coffee or in most fizzy drinks such as Coca-cola. Nehlig (2010) found that caffeine only faciltates learning when information is presented passively (think of lectre theatre), and when information is purposely being learned (think of revision) caffeine has been shown to have no effect on learning. Although caffeine can improve concentration and focus at low doses (Nehlig, 2010) it has been shown to cause headaches in young children and adolences when consumed excessively (Hering-Hanit & Gadoth, 2003). Thus possibly having a negative effect on students trying to use it as a stimulant.
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine – in these drugs acetyl-l-carnetine is used as an antioxident as it can pass the blood-brain barrier. In the brain acetyl-l-carnetine has been shown to prevent the deterioration of brain cells (Ishii, Shimpo, Matsuoka & Kinoshita, 2000). A more natural way for a student to obtain acetyl-l-carnitine is to incorporate it into their diet. This can be found in red meats and (for vegetarians) small amounts can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains and eggs.
  • L-theanine – in these drugs L-theanine is used for its capabilities of reducing stress and stabilising moods. It is mainly used as it counters some of the negative effects brought on by the consumption of caffeine. Owen, Parnell, De Bruin & Rycroft (2008) found that when ceffeine and L-theanine are combined it improved the speed and accuracy of their participants. Haskell, Kennedy, Milne, Wesnes & Scholey (1973) studied this combination on headache and fatigue ratings and found that when used together these ratings reduced. Green tea is a good source of L-theanine.
  • Vinpocetine – in these drugs this is described as the viagra for the brain. This is becasue is it a vasodialotor and increases blood flow to the brain. There is not a way to take this naturally in food as it is a plant.
  • Citicoline and vitamin B5 – in these drugs these are used for their effect on the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is involved with the learning and retention of new information, and decreased levels have been found to prevent recall (Kramer et al, 1992). Citicoline increases the levels of choline, which then increases acetylcholine. To do this vitamin B5 is essential as it is used to breakdown the choline into acetylcholine. The best sources of vitamin B5 is liver, bran and sunflower seeds. The best sources for citicoline is beans, meats and eggs.

Is it worth it?

After looking at what is in the natural drugs that claim to improve memory it is not worth buying them (they can be very costly), and it is not worth giving them to students to improve their performance in Education, this is because a lot of what these drugs contain are already present in foods that can be consumed easily. Perhaps these foods could be incorporated in dinners that are offered at the education centres such as schools, colleges etc. to boost the students memories.

Brain Training… does it work?

Last week I blogged about factors that affect memory; age, stress and drugs, and some comments on this blogs noted ways to reduce these factors to remove the effect on memory, so I thought for this week I would move forward on to look at ways of impoving memory.

When I first thought of how to impove memory I thought about these brain training games that are always advertised on televsion, I have to admit that when they first came out I did have one, Dr Kawashima’s brain training for DS, although I do not think it made my memory any better I did improve on the tasks that were set by the game.

The aim of these games such as the ones by Nintendo, Lumosity and other companies are set to improve the working memory. These training games use both verbal and non-verbal tasks such as reasoning and comprehension. But do they work???

So when looking for research in this area I thought with there being such a big market for these kinds of games that I would find a wealth of evidence to support the use of these kinds of games, however when loooking this was not the case, some studies are able to support that these games work for older adults (Smith et al. 2009) and Thorell et al. (2009) show significantly better effects on working memory when used on preschool age children. However, studies have failed to find that these games improve working memory in the general population or that these skills that are trained on the games trasfer to other tasks, even when they are closey related (Owen et al. 2010).

Although the research shows that for people in the general population these games could be a waste of money, they could be useful in pre-schools, as they have been shown to be effective in children this age. Although you may think that this could prove costly, this is not the case, a quick look on the app store shows a lot of free games of this nature, and there a free downloads on the internet too. This could be a fun way for the children to improve their general cognitive functions.


No matter what we are doing in life we are constantly needing to remember information, whether it is remembering how to get back home from a night out or remembering to call someone back, remebering is an important aspect of every day life. However, many different things can affect the amount a person can remember. A persons age can affect memory, stress levels and drug abuse.

Age. So we can all think of a time when an ‘older’ person has forgotton something, for example, where they left the television remote, this is because as we get older recall decreases (Hill et al, 2006). These proceeses start in our 20s and gets worse as we get into our 50s and older. This is because the synapses start to break down and we stop making these connections as easily. One theory of why this happens when we get older is the decrease of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, this neurotransmitter helps with the learning of new information and decreased levels have been seen to prevent the recall of previously learned information (Hasselmo & Bower, 1993).

Stress. When I first enter an exam and look through the paper I often think I know the answers but I just cannot recall them, this happens until I calm down and think, the stress I feel just before an exam hinders my abililty to recall the information, and even hours after the exam I am still remembering things that I could not in an exam. Although most of the research into this area focuses on eye witnesses recall, research finds that hugh stress levels lead to a decraese in the recall of information (Kramer et al, 1992).

Drug abuse. Drug abuse, in particlaur, marijuana abuse has been reported to affect the thinking and the organisation of thoughts of those taking the drug. This is particularly worrying as it is becoming a more popular drug among teens, and these are the years for optimum learning, however, Block et al. (1992) found that marijuana does not cause long term damange to cognitive functioning, it only impairs it when the person is intoxicated. However, Seal et al (2012) found that when the drug was used heavily and frequently (over 15 years) it affects the brains ability to learn and remember, this is worse the younger the abuse starts.

Myths and Misconceptions about teaching

For this weeks blog I thought I would look at Snyders (2006) 6 Myths about teaching. This is an interesting view because there are so many excuses that have allowed the standards of education to remain low.

1. The myth of process.

This is the focus on the jourmey through education rather than the actual learning that should tak eplace.

2. The myth of fun and interesting.

This is the focus that the process should not only teach the child but that the process should be entertaining too.

3. The myth of eclectic instruction.

This is bringing various different materials and techniques together to teach the child.

4. The myth of the good teacher.

This is the focus on the personal qualities of the teacher rather than the focus on the quality of the actual teaching.

5. The myth of the learning style.

This is the foucs that the teacher should focus on each childs individual learning style and match the learning style to suit.

5. The myth of disabilty.

This is the focus on the disability and the low stadards that are then put on the chilkd when the label is applied.

Possible reasons for the failing education system:

  • Teachers have to design their own instuctional programmes
  • Research is often ignored
  • Research is often misunderstood
  • Teachers need to be made more accountable

What did Snyder conclude?

  • Children falling into a ”labelling trap” has serious consequences on their education, particularly when labelled as learning disabled.
  • The child is automatically thought of as failing when it is really the teacher that has failed, not the child.
  • Teaching should be based on science, using teaching methods that are scientifically proven to work.



How to improve recall (blog 2)

We have all experienced enough exams in our academic careers to know that exams are not much more than a test of how much inofrmation can be reacalled within the time set, whether this is in an essay form, SAQs or in the form of multiple choice questions. Although psychologists such as Bucklin, Dickinson and Brethower would argue that when a perosn is fluent in a subject then recall is fast, however, some people do not cope very well when put in a stressful environment such as an exam and this will affect their recall, this is shown by Kramer et al (1991) where higher levels of stress had a negative impact on memory recall.

One way to try and overcome this would be to learn the information in the same room as the exam will be held, or if these two events are not in the same room then an alternative would be to try and revise in the room that the exam will be taken, this is because recall has been shown to increase by up to 15% when the information is recalled in the same environment in which is was learned compared to in an environment where it was not learned (Godden & Baddeley, 1975). An example of this would be that a lot of my learning in first year was in PJ Hall, then I revised in my room at home or halls, then the exam I sat was usually in the cluster spaces, according to the research by Godden & Baddeley (1975) my recall would have been much better if I had learned the information in PJ Hall and been examined in there too, which did happen a lot in second year. To further increase recall of information a more recent study (Baker et al, 2004) found that chewing spearmint gum at the intial learning of information is associated with a higher recall of the information at a later date.