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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, The Science of Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds and we’ve activated our working memory networks using our frontal lobes to build knowledge for the first time. But this new learning is easy to lose and it requires effort to access it and use it. That demanding processing that requires all of that effort is occupying our limited working memory capacity. It’s keeping our working memory networks too busy to take on any new learning. We need to free these up if we’re going to learn more. Fortunately, practice and applying our fresh learning in different ways helps consolidation. This consolidation means the knowledge not only becomes more permanent, but accessing it becomes easier, quicker, less conscious, and more automatic.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds With practice, we see activity shifting away from our frontal working memory regions to those more involved with automatic processing. Consolidation helps free up those working memory networks, so they are ready to be occupied by new information, enabling us to move on with our learning. By the end of this week, you’ll be able to justify how your teaching approaches best support consolidation, that long term retention of new understanding. This is particularly important for those teaching to linear exam models, where students are assessed on their learning a significant period of time after being exposed to new content.

When does consolidation take place?

This week we will look at:

  • Why practice and rehearsal of freshly-learnt knowledge causes it to become automatically accessible. This frees up the brain’s limited capacity to pay conscious attention, and so be ready for further learning.
  • How questioning, applying knowledge in new situations, discussing it with others or expressing it in new forms all consolidate our learning through helping us to store it in different ways – making it easier to recall and apply it.
  • Why sleep plays an important role in the processes that consolidate our learning. A good night’s sleep helps attend to today’s learning but also makes yesterday’s learning more permanent.

We start this week by introducing two concepts which we’ll refer to throughout the week: daily review and working memory.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre