Unit 3 - Area of Study 2: How do people learn and remember?
Apply biological and psychological explanations for how new information can be learnt and stored in memory, and provide biological, psychological and social explanations of a person’s inability to remember information.
Examples of learning activities
Annotations of practical activities: memory and its reliability
To demonstrate different processes involved in memory and to reflect on the reliability of memory.
While working through the key knowledge related to the process of memory and reliability of memory, the following activities could be completed and reflected upon within the students’ practical logbooks. A number of graded questions could then be set to address these activities.
Teachers should identify and inform students of the relevant key science skills embedded in the task.
- Conduct a demonstration of visual sensory (iconic) memory: Replicate Sperling’s classical experiment related to visual sensory memory and ask students to record their results in their logbook; discuss results in relation to the function, duration and capacity of visual sensory memory.
- Conduct a demonstration of the limited capacity of STM: Read out a set of increasingly longer numbers or words in quick succession and ask students to write down as many as they can remember each time in their logbooks. As the number or word lists get longer and longer (in excess of 5–9 items), the students will struggle to remember the entire list.
- Create a model of the brain: Provide students with a variety of materials (such as play dough, pipe cleaners or lollies) to create a model of the brain that identifies the specific regions of the brain involved in the storage of LTMs (cerebral cortex, hippocampus, amygdala and cerebellum). Students should take a photo of their model to place in their logbook and then annotate a summary of the main functions of each area.
- Conduct a demonstration of recall and recognition: Provide each member of the class with the same word list. Then split the class in half. One half will simply be asked to recall the words by writing them down on a sheet of paper. The other half will be asked to recognise the words from among alternatives. An analysis of the class results could be conducted to compare recall and recognition as methods of retrieving information from memory.
- Conduct a demonstration of relearning: Ask students to complete the same simple maze 5 times (you will need to photocopy it 5 times for each student). These should be kept face down until the student is ready to start each trial. Students then need to record the time it takes them to complete the maze for each trial in their logbook. They could also complete a savings score using their time from the original trial and the 5th trial (which should be the quickest).
- Conduct a demonstration of reconstruction: Read the story ‘War of the Ghosts’, used in Bartlett’s 1932 study on the reconstructive nature of memory. Ask students to then write down their version of the story in their logbooks a few minutes later. Ask volunteers to read out their story and discuss any differences.
- Conduct a comparison of maintenance vs elaborative rehearsal: The same list of words would be used, but one half of the class is given the instruction to simply repeat the words over and over silently in their heads, whereas the other half is asked to create a bizarre or funny story connecting the words together. After two minutes with the list, both halves of the class are asked to then write down as many of the words as they can. Class results could be collated and analysed.
- Conduct a serial position effect experiment: Using a list of 15 words or nonsense syllables, read them aloud and ask the students to write them down immediately in any order. Repeat the same task with a similar list of words or nonsense syllables but ask the students to count backwards from 100 for a minute. Then ask them to write down the words/syllables down. Class results could be collated and placed in a spreadsheet and a graph created to represent both conditions (immediate vs delayed recall). Discussion could involve a comparison of the results in each condition and any evidence for the existence of the primacy and recency effects.
Discussion questions/suggested annotations when writing in logbook
A series of four to six graded questions could be set that address the activities and any data collected in relation to the processes involved in memory and its reliability, for example:
Identify: What were the dependent and independent variables in the comparison of recall and recognition as methods of retrieving information from memory?
Explain: With reference to any data you have collected about the multi-store model of memory (Atkinson-Shiffrin), explain the function, duration and capacity of sensory, STM and LTM. Explain the key findings with reference to the data you gathered on the serial position effect. Choose two specific areas of your brain model and explain how they would interact when storing a long-term memory.
Implications: Discuss how any data you gathered when demonstrating the different methods used to retrieve information from memory (recall, recognition, relearning and reconstruction) could be used in a real world context.
Evaluate: In terms of influencing a person’s ability and inability to remember information, evaluate the maintenance and elaborative methods of rehearsal.
Propose: What further data could be gathered to investigate any processes involved in memory and/or its reliability? Outline a method for further testing.
- These activities could be used to supplement teaching of the key knowledge during normal class time.
- Only two or more of these activities need to be conducted if using this example as the basis of an assessment task.