LEARING AND MEMORY
What's the Matter With Martha's Memory?
Martha is a delightful child. She gets along well with her peers and has a great sense of humor. She really enjoys playing soccer and plays the game well. She would like to take piano lessons, but her schoolwork takes up so much time there is none left for lessons or the practice it would take to play well. While Martha has never been a particularly strong student, she liked school until last year. Last year her grades began declining, and this year they are no better. It seems that no matter how much she studies for tests, she still performs poorly on them. She is beginning to study less and less, and her parents and teachers have told her that she is just not putting out enough effort. They don't seem to understand that regardless of how much effort or time she spends studying, Martha still receives poor test scores. The only reason she is passing some of her classes is because of her grades on homework and quizzes. When Martha takes tests, she can't remember what she studied the night before. She can produce good ideas for creative writing, but she often forgets to use correct punctuation and capitalization when she writes. She has trouble remembering the steps in math problems even though she seems to understand the concepts. Martha also has a hard time remembering what she has just read and also the directions her teachers give orally in class. Martha and her parents are very perplexed about her memory problems. They say that she is able to remember tiny details about things that happened when she was a very young child such as the color of the tie Uncle Joe wore last Thanksgiving. She is the family storyteller because she can always remember what happened during family vacations and during other family events. Martha's parents and teachers don't seem to know how to help her. They tell her to do things such as rewriting her class notes and making cards with her vocabulary words and their definitions to use when she is studying for tests. She uses these strategies, but they are not helping her remember information when taking tests. On the other hand, when her teachers ask her questions in class about topics they have taught, it seems that she understands the concepts because she is able to respond correctly to many questions. Martha is becoming more and more upset by her poor test scores, and she is beginning to stop trying. WHY IS MEMORY IMPORTANT?
Try to imagine life without memories. We would have no identity. We would ask the same questions over and over because we would not be able to remember the answers to them. We would live forever in the present moment and have no recollection of our pasts, including people and experiences that are important to us, and no anticipation of the future. WHAT IS MEMORY?
During the 1960's, a number of models that attempted to explain the workings and interactions of memory processes and systems were proposed by experts in the field. One model proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) has been nicknamed the "Modal Memory Model" because it was typical of others and was probably one of the most influential (Baddeley, 1998). The model of memory that will be presented in this article is representative of current models; however, the focus of the discussion will be how memory processes and systems relate to performance in the educational arena. The latter is derived from the author's clinical experience in assessing and working with children who have varying profiles of memory strengths and weaknesses, as well as working with parents and teachers of children who have problems in school. Memory is generally defined as the processes of encoding, storing and retrieving information. These three processes interact with different memory systems. The memory systems that appear to be most important in the educational area are short-term memory, working memory and long-term memory. Memory is thought to begin with the...
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