Monthly Archives: May 2021

Teaching Retention

Teaching retention has become a thing in the UK educational sector, especially since we are dependent on exams to assess students.

I have read about interleaving, spaced learning and retrieval practice. All are good techniques for delivering the facts of your subject to students in a format that will assist retention. But few have talked about teaching actual memory skills like those used by modern memory athletes.

And this is exactly what used to happen. The Ancients used to teach memory skills along with other skills.

“Memory training was considered a centrepiece of classical education in the language arts, on par with grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Students were taught not just what to remember, but how to remember it.” — FOER, J. (2011) “Moonwalking with Einstein” p.95.

The Ancients had to do this because writing things down was very expensive. Their writing technology was limited to papyrus scrolls, carved stone or wax tablets. These days in affluent countries we have easy access to paper, pens, pencils, computers and mobile phones. So the need for memory skills has declined, excepting in one regard the need to memorise facts for exams.

We know how to deliver content in a format that helps us retain information, but we are not directly teaching students how to memorise data.

Teaching memory skills is a thing. Memory Sport has “memory championships”, in which “memory athletes” compete for prizes. They learn ancient techniques to memorise random words, poems, card order of shuffled card packs etc.

Teaching memory skills would count as a transferable skill, another goal of modern education.