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Teaching Skills Teaching Skills > How to Teach > Theory of Learning Series > Part 8 Information Retention
Summary: Understanding and familarisation helps us to retain information

Information Retention

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We have talked in this series so far about confronting, evaluating and then either rejecting or accepting information on a given subject. We have also looked at two aspects of how we retain information once we have accepted it as useful.

In part 4 of this series we looked at how mental processing is essential to ensure storage of information in medium-term memory.

In part 5 we discussed the process of assimilation whereby new data is associated with parts of the subject we already have a strong familiarity with.

There is a sense in which every new part of a subject we learn has to make a journey through the stages of being: confronted, evaluated, mentally processed, remembered, assimilated and connected with what we know already. What if we left things there? Would we still have that information to hand in 10 years time? Probably not! Because we still have a couple more steps to go before we attain the goal.

The goal is to KNOW the information. When you know something you no longer have to remember it. You just know it!

A great example of a piece of information we know is our own name. Unless we have had far too much to drink, we don't normally have to think too hard when someone asks 'Who are you?'!

Two things help us get to know a piece of information:

Firstly the process of FAMILIARIZATION. This means frequent use. Put the information to use mentally and physically. Talk about it. Write it. Draw it. Do it. Often.

Secondly the process of UNDERSTANDING. Research the piece of information. Learn its origins. Find out about its structure. See if it belongs to a class or group. Get to know everything you can about it.

Familiarization and understanding are almost always gradual processes. They generally take time. At a certain point along the way the information has become so familiar and our understanding of it so deep that we could safely say we know that now.

At that point we are home and dry and we will never lose our understanding of that part of the subject regardless of whether we continue to work with it or not.

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Related Pages
.   How learning got a bad name for itself
.   Motivation Moves Mountains
.   Contact with the Subject
.   Mental Processing
.   Assimilating
.   Relative Importance
.   Information Overwhelm
.   Making and Breaking habits
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