In his book “Why Don’t Children Like School”, psychologist Daniel Willingham says that understanding is memory in disguise. Although this seems the exact opposite of the widely adopted strategy of making information memorable by making it understandable, his point is that memory and understanding are a pidgeon pair. Both are necessary for learning – memory improves as understanding improves, and understanding improves as memorizing improves. Any teaching strategy that neglects the role that memory plays in understanding is likely to be one where the students find conceptual understanding of the topic elusive.
Yup – I’m saying sometimes memorizing is an essential part of understanding, and sometimes it needs to come before you can understand enough to learn.
Yup – I know that’s not what they teach in teaching college, but then they don’t teach much cognitive science in teaching college either. Sure, plenty of Piaget, Vygostkty, Bruner and Gardner, but only a smattering of neurones and synapses.
Here it is – the crash course in cognitive science – a.k.a. “Your Memory, and Why It’s Important to Know More About It”.
Message understood doesn’t always mean message is remembered.
The brain apparently handles understanding (processing information) and memorizing (storing information) in totally different ways. Although (fortunately) it doesn’t happen very often, it is possible to have brain damage which makes it impossible to create new memories. Such an individual is able to reason and understand using any knowledge from memories acquired prior to the injury, but is unable to create new memories. Any newly acquired knowledge obtained from logical reasoning and understanding of already known information will not be remembered for more than a few minutes.
The long and the short of memories
Most theories about how brains think, reason, calculate and memorize involve the concept of two types of memory – working memory (sometimes referred to as short-term memory) and long-term memory. Although not yet fully understood, current theories about the interaction of these two memory types can help in the creation and design of more effective learning experiences for students, particularly those students with learning difficulties. Read more