Techniques to Increase Memory & Stimulate Deep Cognitive Processes


According to MacLachlan (1986) сited by E. L. Criswell (1989, pp 36-39)  the following instructional techniques can help the teacher teach and the student learn:

Explaining the benefits of the lesson to the student before or at the beginning of the lesson. Memory is increased when the student is paying attention.

That’s logical though sometimes easier said than done.  The authors do not really elaborate on the types of benefits I should emphasize. Drawing on my personal experience, you can motivate students by referring not only to real direct benefits, but also to fake or imaginary ones, especially if you know about your student’s priorities or beliefs to do with what works and what doesn’t in terms of learning, as well as what is good and what is bad in terms of teaching techniques.  In summary, I couldn’t agree more that it is important to motivate students, but there is more to motivation than outlining benefits.

Using the pre-question technique – it is associated with DOUBLE (!) the learning over materials without pre-questions. Presenting partial information as opposed to presenting everything at once. This stimulates curiosity, which triggers deep cognitive processes.

That’s it! I have always wondered why I do not really like it when some of my students have a copy of the teachers’ book.  And I do mean the latter – consulting the answer key is different.  Some TBs tend to contain information that only the most self-disciplined learners benefit from, e.g. sample hidden agendas for both students when pairwork is concerned. The thing is that some learners do not really do the tasks, they read the answers first and screw it all up.  It is frequently essential for foreign language students not to know what exactly it is each of them is to say or ask for the task to help them practise what is intended – reading all about the task may result in it being pointless to do it. There are tasks that you can benefit from if and only if you do them exactly as intended, step-by-step.  I am flabbergasted, honestly – if the statistic is true, and emphasis on components and procedure does make so much difference, then no wonder intended learning outcomes are ever so often so disappointing.  You can’t really do anything to prevent the learner from looking the answers up or reading on without making an effort to do the task by herself when she stumbles upon something while doing her homework, for instance.  It is 99% about learners’ taking or not taking responsibility for their own learning.

Connecting new information thematically to information learned previously, using chronologically ordered narratives to the extent possible. Asking students to draw inferences involving intermediate steps before the entire scenario is presented. The mind tends to neglect component parts when the total picture is presented.

I’d rather say that it is cause and effect that you have to emphasize. Helping learners see patterns and analogies as well as categorize new input is no less if not more important. Deliberately drawing students’ attention to detail to let them verbalize what is the same and what is different along with asking them to speculate and hypothesize is a must-have teaching technique to take on board.

Keeping information flow high to avoid boredom. Boredom is fostered by use of overly familiar words such as cliches and superordinate category nouns (the word car is more apt to bore than Rolls-Royce).

‘Familiarity breeds contempt’, they say:) Now I know why I am a big fan of exhaustive lists and specific examples.

Providing a mnemonic or a visual aid for information that is difficult to integrate with the narrative. Vivid pictures increase memory.

In other words, research has confirmed that ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’.

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By Stacey


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