Can we really learn from our mistakes? If so, how does that actually happen? Knowledge and education has helped create connections with everything that we see in society. We call these connections that have formed our memories, both good and bad. Psychologists have researched and gathered information on the creation or formation of memories and learned behaviors. Furthermore, psychologists have provided ample information on how memories can affect the education of students or people looking to learn something new.
Therefore, it is through the increase attention to the ways the mind is able to obtain memories and information that can essentially help us decrease our mistakes. Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin developed a three-step model that details on how the brain is able to process and develop memories. All memories are created through the fleeting sensory memory before it is encoded into a short-term memory so that it can be continually rehearsed before it is translated into a long-term memory (Meyers, 2011).
Basically Atkinson and Shiffrin’s theory is based on the idea that the mind can only retain information that is consciously received; however the modified version offered by Meyers (2011) presents a much different idea. According to Meyers the mind still translates incoming information into a sensory memory (Meyers 2011). The second step to this modified version still claims the encoding of the sensory memory into a working memory. This working memory concentrates on the encoding and active processing of current immediate stimuli (Meyers, 2011).
Over time the information is rehearsed and turned into a long-term memory. The great thing about the working memory concept is that it associates new and old information and solves problems so that we are able to handle all situations that we engage in. So what factors and behaviors increase memory retention? To begin most information is encountered and retained through the act of rehearsing, or conscious repetition (Meyers, 2011).
Techniques and habits that have been proven to be successful through research has shown that prolonged exposure to the spacing effect, self-assessment, and serial position effect increases the individual’s ability to retain information much better than a person cramming last minute (Meyers, 2011). By providing a proper methodical and organized way to engage in new information a person gives the mind enough time to recall the information consistently for several years. Aside from rehearsing our mids are able to respond to encoding through multiple ways.
Practicing the ability to form mental pictures, or imagery, helps build the minds ability to associate pictures and words (Meyers, 2011). A foundational element used from the beginning of time. Young children usually point to items in a home or outside and name the item they see according to what the teachers or parents say. Imagery is used by mnemonic devices in order to develop the retention and recall of memorized information via passages or speeches used by some of the best public platform speakers (Meyers, 2011).
Through the use of imagery and mnemonic devices our minds are able to form a meaning to what we are trying to convey and ultimately we are able to organize and catalogue what we have learned within our memory. Understanding what factors and behaviors gives into the creation of our memory we as people and students are able to understand how teachers and psychologists are able to train our minds for further retention and absorption of information. Often at times failure seems to be the very thing that we learn from. It is from our parents and grandparents that we have heard the old trite adage “We learn from experience. It wasn’t until psychologists and educators came together to propose the testing effect. The “test effect” is essentially a well-established psychological phenomenon that proves that testing students on previously absorbed information allows for them to increase their retention of material opposed to the continual studying of materials (Roedlger III & Finn, 2010). Henry Roedlger III and Bridgid Finn quote several studies from several psychologists in which state, “students who make an unsuccessful attempt to answer a test question before receiving the correct answers remember the material better than if they simply study the information. (Roedlger III & Finn, 2010) This “testing effect” logic help students retain information in the pretesting stage by making them mentally engage in the attempt to answer the question by increasing the memorization of the information provided. Furthermore, the challenges presented to the students increase their focus, reduce their fear and engage their minds on a deeper level so that retention is at a maximum. Teachers, psychologists, and other professionals have all tried their best to figure out the best methods for learning and retention. By far the best ould be known by the acronym SQ3R, also known as Survey, Question, Read, Rehearse, Review, is the five step plan that is known to increase the learning and retention for all in a controlled manner opposed to short term cramming session. With this method one can easily correct previous damaging studying habits with ones that are positive and more beneficial. By surveying the current study material by scanning headings and make note of how the chapter is organized can organize the way the mind is able to map out the best way to handle the new incoming information (Meyers, 2011).
After surveying the information the student must form their own questions to answer based on the heading or preview question this can be as simple as, “How can I most effectively and efficiently master the information in this book? ” (Meyers, 2011) By using a slow and methodical approach to the reading the chapter the student will find the answer to their question and maximize the retention of information. Engaging in active reading means that the student must also take notes and ask additional questions that will help with the learning process (Meyers, 2011).
Each step that the student takes increases his or her information flow after the active reading has taken place it is best that the person rehearses the information that they have learned in order to engage the memory (Meyers, 2011). Anything that causes an issue during the rehearsal of information the person must review the information so that they are able to recall at a later time (Meyers, 2011). The final step in the plan is the review all information read and gathered during the first four steps, paying particular attention to the way the chapter is organized (Meyers, 2011).
The SQ3R method is particularly adaptable and useful in the pretesting stage. According to research done by Henry L Roedlger III and Bridgid Finn (2010) in the article The Pulses of Getting it Wrong states that students who memorized questions from the test but failed to get the correct answer had a higher chance of passing the same question on the real test. So to increase material retention the student can easily focus on the questions given on the pretest as their guide to the information needed.
Once the questions are in hand the student can locate the chapter, read the information, and return to the question and recall the proper information (Roedlger III & Finn, 2010). It is suggested that the student should return to the question every few days in order to drum up a recall on the answers, by doing so the student will have learned the material in a methodical and slow manner (Roedlger III & Finn, 2010). By practicing a simplified adaptable version of SQ3R the student or person will be able to recall the same information long after the course has ended.
Our ability to increase the retention of new materials via SQ3R, testing effect or the varied ways that we naturally gather information infinitely increases our ability to formulate new memories. Educators and psychologists have devised new ways that help students increase their learning potentials both in and out of the classrooms. By setting a firm and steady memory creating foundation, the newly acquired learning retention potentials extends throughout the person’s life.
Thus by increasing focus, research and installation of modified or new techniques by psychologists prove that we are able to learn from our mistakes or mistakes of others by creating memories that become a point of reference. All point of references, or memories, that we personally return to in time of inflection or reflection in order to gain information or advice as to why we should learn from the mistakes that we have made. References Finn, H. R. (2010, March/April). The Pluses of Getting it Wrong. Scientific American Mind, pp. 38-41. Meyers, D. (2011). Exploring Psychology. Holland: Worth Publishers.