If you are a teacher, what do you know about memory and how does it influence the way you teach?
If somebody tells you that the ideas in this book are nothing new, they are probably right.
My tenth book is outside of my comfort zone, covering a topic I have become deeply fascinated with. As I work through the final edits, I thought I would share a snippet from the introduction to provide some context, explaining why I have attempted to write a book on such a challenging topic.
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Introducing Guide to Memory
You and I are not the first people to have ever wanted to discuss how we learn and how the brain operates. In fact, neuroscience has been developing as a field of study for over 2,500 years. In the 5th Century BC, while his contemporaries believed the brain resided in the heart, Hippocrates argued his case for the brain being the centre of both thinking and feeling: ‘
“And [humans] ought to know that from nothing else but (from the brain) come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and what are fair, what are bad and what are good […] And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us […] All these things we endure from the brain.” (Hippocrates, quoted in Adams, 1868)
At some point in our lives, we are all curious about what makes us remember. We make sweeping accusations about why we remember our ‘times tables’ or why we ‘didn’t learn it that way when we were at school’.
We have selective memories. We forget and we are influenced. Our memory fabricates our experiences – something called Fuzzy Trace Theory, which proposes false memories are possible because each of our memories are stored as multiple fragments, recombined in ways that never actually happened (Shaw, 2016).
I wonder about the things people do that make them an expert in their field or societal perceptions of what makes somebody ‘clever’. And we question the times we forget something because we have too many things to do and we become stressed and anxious.
Until recently, memory, and more specifically the brain, was an area I had never become familiar with as a teacher. Despite a very comprehensive teacher training background, covering psychology, child development, subject knowledge and behaviour management, a deeper understanding of the brain and how it works was one aspect of my training that I’d never had.
Behind the research …
My new book unpicks my journey, learning more about cognitive neuroscience, making a slight transition into cognitive neuropsychology, unpicking parts of the brain and what happens anatomically in the brain when we learn something new. Inside you will find 10 chapters each with a) an explainer, b) a practical idea, c) a worked example and d) a blank template for you to adapt.
Throughout this process, I have continued to ask myself: How does this information help teachers, and how will it improve the way we teach? I hope you find my research inspiring and challenging, and that it takes your interest in cognitive science, one step further.
Understanding how we learn is a journey that everybody should undertake, whether a student, educator or a parent.