What every teacher needs to know about memory

World-renowned memory researchers Robert and Elizabeth Bjork explain how to match teaching to what we know about how memory works, and why linking learning to a student's interests and group work is key

Tes Editorial

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“People still hold on to a lot of misconceptions [about memory],” states professor Elizabeth Bjork.


Together with her husband, professor Robert Bjork, she runs the Bjork Learning and Forgetting Lab at the University of California. Their work around desirable difficulties and retrieval practice has transformed classrooms around the world and in the latest Tes Podagogy podcast they talk about how elements of their research can be used to improve memory techniques for studying. 

“Beyond an early point in your life, all new learning is a matter of linking it up and relating it to what you already know,” says Robert Bjork. “If you are a teacher, all the kids are going to come in with very different backgrounds of what they already know and don’t know – that can be an important guide as to how to individualise learning… one thing that characterises a lot of gifted teachers is that they can understand what things the students are interested in and what the students’ background is – they can take new material and relate it to that.”

Elizabeth adds: “What is it that the kids are caring about now in culture, how can I relate this better to the other things they are doing outside the classroom? This is a challenge – how do we find a way to reach all of our students?”

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They also talk about the importance of not writing off group work as a teaching technique, the complexity in getting desirable difficulties right and their latest work on pre-testing.

You can listen for free by downloading the podcast from iTunes or listening below.


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