This week, learning about Short-Term Memory from Brain Rules preloaded me with great information and terminology used in chapter 10 of Brain Matters. I was able to make many connections with the examples that Wolfe mentions in the chapter of declarative memory and procedural memory. He spoke about the difference between the two and how they are stored and retrieved, but what I was really hoping Wolfe would cover in this chapter was those who claim they have a bad memory.
Wolfe states, “Our ability to remember is essentially a process of reconstruction or reactivation (Wolfe 152)”. I currently have a student in my class that claims he is unable to remember activities, events, information, or any type of instruction because he has a “bad memory”. I know there are several adults that can relate to this student in my class. Feeling as though they don’t have a great memory. I also understand that memories are strengthened by experiences as well as revisiting, replaying and rehearsing those experiences, events, and information. But what is happening inside the brain when even though those pieces are being revisited but the connections are still not becoming stronger? Has damage been done to the hippocampal structure that helps move these experiences into short or long-term memory? Can damage be restored, or those abilities be strengthened somehow?
After looking deeper into my question and doing additional research, my question has turned to an unexpected direction. In chapter 8 of Brain Matters it states, “If little Jack seems extremely forgetful, it may not be that he cannot remember facts or events. It may be that he finds it hard to keep in mind simultaneously the instructions to do several tasks at once (Bass 115).” What if the problem isn’t damage to his hippocampus or any other part of the brain responsible for storing memories. What if the issue he feels is a “bad memory” really is his inability to do or focus on more than on task at a time (which many adults aren’t able to do either). This week we spent a great deal of discussion on the fact that the brain is never truly “multitasking” it is simply just the brain transitioning its focus from one task to another. So maybe the issue isn’t a bad or weak memory, rather it is the fact that his brain takes longer to switch from one task to another. Making him frustrated and feeling incapable of remembering. I feel like the first few months of school I am so focused on getting my students into the routine of fast transitions. We practice practice practice. Now I know that no matter how much we practice it will still take some of my students a longer amount of time to be ready for the next instruction or activity. Now that there are more possible answers to my question I will be much more aware of this issue, allowing plenty of time to switch tasks for those students that really need it.
Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.152). Arlington, VA: ASCD.
Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., & Gallese, V. (2008). The jossey-bass reader on the brain and learning. (1st ed., pp. 115). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.