Processing New Information and the Long-Term Memory

Without formal processing strategies, content can be forgotten

Learning isn’t just about memorization of facts and critical information; it involves the retention of information for later use and transferring knowledge to the long‐term memory. After all, you’re not just teaching content—you’re teaching students to think more deeply, even when you’re introducing brand new content.

All of this takes encoding. To keep the information in their working memory, students must rehearse it, gradually moving it into their long-term memory. Rehearse the information to keep it in the working memory. Otherwise, they may forget it.

Design Question 2 of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model provides strategies for teachers to help students process new information. Here’s where we can clearly see the interconnectedness of elements like previewing, identifying critical content, chunking content into digestible bites, and organizing students to interact with new content.

The Working Memory

A student’s brain functions are affected by the capacity of his or her working memory. The working memory encompasses several key functions, one of which is the central executive, which determines the learner’s response to stimuli.

New information enters the brain as sensory stimuli. The student’s working memory processes the stimuli, storing it in his or her short‐term memory, but can gradually encode it into the long‐term memory. To encourage this process, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Select strategies that enable students to actively process new information.
  • Use strategies appropriate for students’ needs and ability levels.
  • Group students so they can collaborate in active processing.
  • Gradually release knowledge acquisition to learners.

 

Concept attainment requires students to attach prior learning to a new concept, building on what they already know. Give them activities that involve:

 

Monitoring for the Desired Effect

As you monitor for desired effects, have students demonstrate that they’re effectively processing the new information. You might ask them to:

  • Explain what they just learned
  • Volunteer predictions
  • Ask clarification questions
  • Draw conclusions about the content
  • Summarize or restate the new information

 

Want more tips and recommendations on instructional techniques that help students process new information? Check out Processing New Information: Classroom Techniques to Help Students Engage With Content, now available at the Learning Sciences bookstore!

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