How memory affects learning

Memory plays a vital role in studying. Many think their memory is like a library where information is stored and easily accessed when needed. However, this belief can hinder effective learning. 

Learning is a life skill 
Learning is a lifelong necessity beyond the classroom. As sports and hobbies grow more complex, and career demands increase, understanding what effective learning and how memory works is essential. Students who master these skills are better equipped for both school and the workforce.

The environment, working memory and long-term memory 
The main ideas that students need to know when it comes to memory is how memory is structured and how forgetting happens (and how to overcome it!).

The human memory system is made up of the environment, working memory, and long-term memory.

The environment is the external world, it’s where textbooks, teachers, classmates, and Google live. The environment provides new information, which is then processed in working memory.

Working memory is the place where we do our thinking. However, working memory is limited and we need to pay close attention to be able to learn new information. Once something is learned, it’s important to keep revising it regularly to strengthen the memory and counteract forgetting. 

In our long term memory, information learned and stored there is not static. It’s often quite fragile, and the neural pathways representing that memory will degrade over time unless we reactivate them. 

Attention is crucial to learning 
Attention is key during class and when studying. During class, students should listen actively and think deeply to link new knowledge to previously learned skills, ideally including short activities to re-check for understanding. This process maximises learning.
Tips for helping your son focus while studying: 

  • Provide a distraction-free study environment 
  • Encourage him to pay attention during explanations 
  • Congratulate him for staying focused during study sessions 
  • Encourage him to revisit key ideas regularly 
  • Model focused attention in your own work 


Download our free guide: Memory and Effect Learning (PDF)

 Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

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