How to remember what you learn
An online course aimed at high school and first-year undergraduate students
US$95 / £60 / Є75 / NZ$110+GST / AU$90
Download this document (printable)
The course is run by Dr Fiona McPherson, cognitive psychologist, author of four books on memory & learning (including Effective Notetaking, and Mnemonics for Study), and creator of the long-running and extensive Mempowered website.
The course will include short videos; podcasts, texts and worksheets that can be downloaded; plus guided instruction in mastering the strategies and exercises to practice them.
The course is designed to be taken in the student’s own time, however Dr McPherson will be available to discuss problems and answer questions in forum or by email.
What the course will cover
Basic principles of memory that affect how well you learn.
Strategies for organizing your information to help you understand and remember it.
Strategies for remembering details that need to be remembered exactly.
Strategies to help you revise more effectively.
Unit 1: Basic memory principles
To use study strategies effectively — to know when & how to use which strategy — it helps to have some basic understanding of the principles involved in making them work.
1.1 The 7 basic principles of memory
A quick look at how memory works, and the basic principles that affect which memory strategies are effective and how to use them effectively.
1.2 What working memory is & why it’s critical
Explains what working memory is, how it interacts with your long-term memory, and how your individual working memory capacity affects learning & understanding (and therefore affects how you should approach learning).
1.3 What cognitive load is & how to manage it
What cognitive load is, and how to recognize when it is too high. How building strong networks helps reduce cognitive load; how you can use multiple working memory systems to effectively increase your working memory capacity.
Unit 2: Preparing your mind
Unit 2.1: Priming
Why getting yourself in the right mental space helps you make connections more easily. Priming strategies for use with textbooks, before class, and before tests.
Unit 2.2: Setting & articulating goals
Why the first step in successful learning is working out your goals. Distinguishes between process & outcome goals. How to articulate specific goals.
Unit 2.3: Emotion regulation & attentional control
On how emotions (such as anxiety & stress) can reduce your effective working memory capacity, impacting learning ability and (especially) test performance. How to deal with it, and with problems in concentration.
Unit 3: Organizing selected information for better understanding and remembering
How to organize selected information in a way that makes the connections within the information clear, and makes connections to existing knowledge
3.1 Topical summaries
How to create good sentences & phrases that sum up the essence of a topic. When simple linear summaries are useful, and how to write them.
3.2 Asking questions
How to ask questions that show connections.
3.3 Making comparisons
How to make comparisons that show connections.
3.4 Graphic Organizers
How to create visual outlines to display your information, increasing your ability to make and see connections.
Unit 4: Using mnemonics for better remembering
Which strategies are most appropriate for information that needs to be remembered exactly, and how to use them.
4.1 Simple word mnemonics
This covers simple mnemonics the student will already be familiar with, but shows how to use them more effectively.
4.2 Keyword mnemonic
The keyword mnemonic is the most useful of the mnemonic strategies for study, being well-researched, of proven effectiveness, with wide-reaching applicability, and being relatively easy to master.
4.3 Linking mnemonics
Four linking mnemonics are covered here. These mnemonics are the ones most often used by “memory champions” and offered by those who make extravagant promises about how you can improve your memory. Although they are less widely useful than other simpler strategies, and in general require far more effort to master, a certain basic level of mastery can help you in situations where you are required to memorize ordered lists of items.
4.4 Mnemonics to remember numbers
For those needing to memorize dates and numbers, a coding mnemonic is useful. This mnemonic is also useful for those wishing to extend the pegword mnemonic (one of the linking mnemonics) beyond 12 items. This mnemonic does require more effort to master, and is included for the enthusiast.
4.5 Applying mnemonic strategies successfully
How to recognize when a mnemonic strategy would be useful. How to choose the right mnemonic strategy. How to apply it successfully.
Unit 5: Reviewing for better remembering
Regardless of how you prepare your material for learning, you need to repeat it. Unfortunately, most students revise poorly. This unit covers the best ways to review and revise.
5.1 Retrieval practice
The best way to practice, why it’s effective, how it compares to other common strategies students use, how it applies in different learning situations.
5.2 Spacing & distribution
How to design a revision schedule for maximum learning.
The importance of monitoring; how to do it effectively; what to watch out for.
Exercises & tests to consolidate the material learned, and check understanding. Development of a ‘master strategy’ for individual learning.