Why Do Students Forget

Learning and memory are inseparable concepts of the education process around which there have been lots of discussions, a number of researches have been conducted and various strategies have been suggested to improve memory and retentions of the necessary information.

The vast majority of students class themselves as “I forget everything” and complaint about poor learning skills, as well as inadequate memory performance, especially when it comes to exams. Why do students forget learned information? How to reduce the amount of fading memories? What are the learning strategies that can help students increase their performance at college and university? Get to know below.

It would be logical to start with the explanations of how our memory actually works. Memories are mental records that are formed from receiving information through our senses, converting it into pulses called neurons, which communicate with each other, and providing connections, called long-term potentiation, with the help of which our memories are stored for a longer time.

To make it clearer, let’s compare our brain with a limited in space hard drive. Not to litter your hard drive and to store on it only up-to-date information, you have to regularly structure, reorganize, filter and delete its content so that there is space for new important upcoming information. Our brain functions similarly. It protects us from being overloaded with a huge amount of irrelevant information sorting it to the short-term memory and dismissing it, if not using and repeating, or transferring the data to the long-term memory storage. To store, manage and retrieve necessary information for a longer period of time, we should stimulate strengthening synapses activity, which can be achieved by repeated signal communication, or in other words, transmission between two neurons.

Unfortunately, there are number of reasons why students forget learned information. Mental and physical problems, stress, depression, isolation are what causes the brain to forget, hence make our memories vaguer and more faded. Among the variety of conducted researches, the one made by a German professor Hermann Ebbinghaus, who researched memory, is really impressive. He proved that during one hour after learning something new we forget a half of the received information and one day later we can hardly retrieve 30% of the learned material. Don’t despair, though! There are always ways of how to remember something you just forgot for everyone who wants to improve learning skills and memory including “I forget things easily” students.

Among effective memory strategies for students, there is stress-free environment, “digestible” chunks of information, meaningful content, appeal to senses, spaced repetition, clear explanation, and others.

List of the Most Effective Strategies

  1. Stress-free environment method of learning is quite multi-sided. On the one side, it can mean the insertion of physical activities, energizers, short breath sessions and other stress-relieving exercises during the class. On the other side, it may incorporate practicing frequent tests aimed at reviewing the information and improving the students’ performance during exams. Creating close to exams conditions during the regular classes, when students’ performance isn’t assessed, will help them to get accustomed to the specific character of individual work during semester exams and they won’t seem as stressful and scary as they usually do.
  2. “Digestible” chunks of information method while learning a new or revising an old topic also has its advantages. Current researches suggest the idea of learning such an amount of information that can be processed by our brain, hence be retained in our memory when needed. The preferable and maximum amount of information suggested for learning shouldn’t exceed four chunks of information a time.
  3. Meaningful content. Encouraging students figuring out the main points and ideas of the content will bring a much more positive result than forcing them to memorize the order of the words. There will be no use from a crammed material, as students won’t be able to connect and apply their knowledge when necessary. As a teacher, you have to train students to analyze new information and let them practice and remember your training so that it turns into a habit in the future.
  4. Appeal to senses. The memorizing process starts with perceiving information with the help of all the senses we have. For this reason, it is crucial to apply as many senses as possible to make a lesson memorable. Present information in all possible ways from reading to listening, from visualizing to mimicking, from drawing to touching.
  5. Space Repetition strategy determines a student’s ability to transfer important information from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. There exists even the pattern of repetitions, which assists us in holding information for a longer period of time. To store and use your knowledge, stick to the following 4-stage repetition pattern: 1) repeat the learned material in 20-30 minutes after you’ve perceived it for the first time; 2) repeat it in one day after you’ve perceived the material for the first time; 3) repeat it in 2-3 weeks after you’ve perceived the material for the first time; 4) repeat it in 2-4 months after you’ve perceived the material for the first time.
  6. Explanation belongs to the list of effective strategies to improve memory and retention that help students. The best way to strengthen student’s knowledge is to let him or her explain a concept in his or her own words. Motivate students to retell chapters of their favorite books or paraphrase the ideas and thoughts of great philosophers. True comprehension is what really matters and stimulates active learning and brainwork of each and every student.  

Even though our memory is under the threat of being impaired by different factors and the work of our brain is created in a way it is prone to forgetting pieces of information we don’t use often or repeat regularly, there still exist methods and strategies to help students learn and retrieve the data demonstrating their knowledge all year round. Try these simple strategies to see them work.