Pre-Course Student Development Reflection

Psychologists provide some insight to understand the development of humans. Educators can take advantage of psychological research by analyzing how human development impacts student’s learning. Through my undergraduate psychology courses I have learned about several developmental influences on students and humans in general. In this reflection, I will focus on three which I am most familiar with, they include schema theory, types of memories and the Atkinson-Shiffrin modal model of memory.

First, through my introductory Psychology course, I learned about schema theory (Riordan, 2014). This theory claims that ideas and theories are formed by an individual’s experiences and then are adjusted when new information is presented. For example, children develop a theory, If i pull this string, the attached toy will follow. Other things that have string like qualities (such as the tail of a cat) could also be pulled with the hopes of the cat moving in the desired direction. However, the child may soon learn that the cat does not like their tail being pulled in a direction and may hiss or scratch at the child. New schema was then developed for the child. They have learned that string like objects will only move in my direction if they are not alive. Schema based learning can be extended to a secondary classroom when students learn about topics over a long period of time. They will need to continually add new concepts to their pool of current knowledge and develop a more rounded view of the topics.

Next, in a cognitive psychology course (Hyman, 2014), I learned about the various forms of memory systems and techniques. With many classroom demonstrations,  we covered the distinct differences between semantic and episodic. In class, we discussed how students tend to remember episodic experiences better than semantic knowledge. Because the human brain prefers events over pure knowledge, we are inherently better at retaining knowledge based in concrete examples rather than intangible ideas or feelings. (Hyman, 2014) Relating this back to teaching, students are more likely to remember an event that was engaging rather than a concept read and memorized for exam purposes. Helping students create episodic memories in the classroom can help increase their understanding and development in subject content.

Finally, the Atkinson-Shiffrin modal model of memory (1968) prescribes and outline of how humans interpret events and store them in their memories. Human’s use their senses (e.g. sight, sound, touch, smell) to intake new memories in the sensory memory. Then, some, but not all, information from the sensory memory is transferred to the short term memory store. Within the next few seconds, our brains transition the short term memory into the long term memory where information is stored indefinitely. Many arguments surround the retrieval of long term memories or the validity of this model, but that is outside the scope of this topic. One agreed upon element is rehearsal increases the ability to retrieve information (Atkinson-Shiffrin 1968). Rehearsal in the classroom can come in many forms, testing encourages rehearsal to increase the ability to retrieve information in a stressful situation. Additionally, simply reviewing ideas within a classroom can help student dedicate the semantic knowledge into their long term memory for easy retrieval. While this ideas of the modal model sound complex, the process is surprisingly natural for humans. (Hyman, 2014)

Developing understanding for how the brain is able to acquire new information in the form of memory helps educators understand how to best assist students. In line with the HOPE standards, by better understanding how humans learn, educators can honor student diversity and development (H1) as well as provide efficient access to content material to encourage subject understanding (H2).


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