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.

24 thoughts on “Synthesis blog

  1. You listed ‘drinking alcohol’ as a tip to improve the memory of younger students, you may want to revise that or perhaps define ages for ‘young’ and ‘old’ students! 🙂 I think that the relationship between memory and alcohol consumption is slightly more complex, otherwise British universities would constantly produce individuals with eidetic memories. Indeed, research demonstrates that abusing alcohol can result in a loss of memory (White, 2003).
    I think more advice can be handed to students regarding breaks. We all need them at some point, should we pre decide these or take them at our discretion? Research by Beeftink et al (2008) demonstrated that taking breaks at your own discretion results in increased problem solving ability.
    Some of these points may seem obvious, but if I had a list of them I’d probably be more productive. Even simples things like eating breakfast can be easily overlooked (It’s 3pm and I’m yet to eat, thanks for reminding me!).
    Beeftink et al (2008) – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400410802391314
    White (2003) – http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm

  2. Your blog topic, however broad, will always be helpful I think! We all wish for better memories at one point or another, so the tips you list are useful 🙂
    I have found a couple of other tips too, so I thought I’d add them here.
    The first is to listen to Mozart’s music. I’m sure you will have heard the common belief that playing Mozart’s music to an unborn child in the womb will make your baby smarter, however true this actually is or not I’m not sure! But Blumberg, Hahm and Spero (n.d.) found that an individual’s neural connections which are involved in memory are strengthened when ‘listening to Mozart during the encoding period’. So this is good news for all classical music lovers.
    Another, perhaps more obvious, tip is to get a good night’s sleep. I wrote a blog on this, but to save time (and space!) I’ll just quickly mention that sleep not only enhances recall (Born, 1997), but it was also demonstrated that different phases of sleep benefit different types of memory.
    I think that any tips with research to back them up, however ridiculous they may sound, might be worth giving a shot 🙂

    References:
    – Music and memory an electrophysiological study. (Blumberg, Hahm & Spero, n.d.)
    – Effects of early and late nocturnal sleep on declarative and procedural memory. (Born, 1997)

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  4. I think, although your topic is very broad, to techniques you have mentioned allows us all some hints and tips, which is good as none of them are too exhaustive and can easily applied. However, I’m going to pick up on the fact you mentioned, with both ages of students that future planning is important. Myself, and I’m hoping like other too, I set out a revision timetable and never stick to it. But when the used of spacing over a long period of time, allows for numerous attempts of retrieval enhances our long-term retention (Cull, 2000), whether the spacing for retrieval is of equal length or over an expanding length (Karpicke, & Roediger, 2007). So for this to take place, as you said, planning ahead is essential.

    Cull, W. L. (2000). Untangling the benefits of multiple study opportunities and repeated testing for cued recall. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14(3), 215-235.

    Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2007). Expanding retrieval practice promotes short-term retention, but equally spaced retrieval enhances long-term retention. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY LEARNING MEMORY AND COGNITION, 33(4), 704. Retrieved from http://learninglab.psych.purdue.edu/downloads/2007_Karpicke_Roediger_JEPLMC.pdf

  5. I think it is a good idea to divide the research into tips for younger students and tips for older students, because when I’ve looked into research into improving memory, a lot of it seemed to be focused purely on high school age children. There isn’t a lot of research into improving memory for adults (and obviously, a lot of students are adults. Not just mature students, but higher education in general!) or very young children.
    Just to pick up on the tip you mentioned about rewarding students; I think that using rewards could really benefit children’s memory in a roundabout way! If you can get young children to learn to do their work, then when they reach an age where they become more independent and responsible for their own work, they will be more likely to take the initiative to do well. In my synthesis blog, I reached the conclusion that there is only so much teachers can do to make students learn/remember information and most of it has to be down to the student making the choice to learn/revise! And I think reinforcement is a good way of doing that.
    Teachers can use shaping (Miltenberger, 2008) to get children to start to show working behaviours. They can reward novel behaviours which are closer to what they want out of the child (e.g. reward the child for showing an interest in a task when the end goal is to get them to complete it), when the child continuously does that, stop rewarding it and reward new behaviours which are closer to the behaviour you want (e.g. reward the child for working on a task for a set period of time). Continue this until the child is continuously showing the behaviour you want (E.g. completing tasks). This is how Skinner (1938) got the rat to press the lever to get food in the Skinner’s Box experiment. Shaping could also be successfully used to teach children working behaviours; Bandura and McDonald (1963) successfully taught children moral judgements using shaping.
    I think if students learn working behaviours earlier on, they will be more inclined to use the tips you have recommended at any later point in their life.

  6. I thought i’d comment by adding to your list of (very interesting) tips. I’ve found research that suggests level of aerobic fitness can influence memory (Blumenthal & madden, 1988/ref 1). More specifically, the higher a participants level of fitness was , the quicker he/she was able to complete a memory search task. This has interesting implications for us as students, as memory search tasks and multiple choice exams are not all that different. So logically, if being fitter helps you to complete a memory search task then surely it would also improve our performance on multiple choice exams?
    With this in mind perhaps we should be spending more time at the gym. Word on the grapevine is there are some health benefits to exercise as well..

    References:
    1. http://psycnet.apa.org/?fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/0882-7974.3.3.280

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  8. Another good tip that I have found is to use a technique known as spacing, this is where information is studied repeatidly but with large time gaps in between (great if you are very busy with different topics to revise). Kornell (2009) looked into if cramming or spacing was more effective for learning and found that spacing was the more effective technique.

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