3.14…wait what’s the rest??

Posted by Glen, Uncategorized on Feb 18, 2016

Memory is incredibly important in any situation, you nor i would be here had we not remembered to do something in some place at some point leading us here.

So why are we looking at memory I hear you ask?

Well the answer becomes clear by looking at the article by Wilingham, in my opinion I feel that Wilingham is able to capture a link between those who remember and those who understand, arguing that you or I are far more likely to remember if we have a greater understanding of the concept.

Brilliant! This makes it easy for us as teachers then! Just follow the lesson ideas set out by Meyer and make them interesting! Or follow Skemps ideas and promote relational understanding, and students will get that Pythagoras theorem down in no time! (It may have come to your attention, this appears to be somewhat sarcastic about all of this, well it’s more questioning scepticism instead)

Its no surprise this area has in some way or form been addressed before, Willingham’s argument is based around psychological ideas of grouping and the working memory model that present the groundwork for modern day psychology, so why am I being sceptical I hear you ask? The answer is simple. I don’t think the problem is from remembering facts.

Maths in my opinion isn’t a subject where students should be forced to remember facts and figures, this isn’t a history lesson. Now yes I accept unequivocally that students obviously have to remember the important things in mathematics, the fundamentals as it were, but if you teach a student like Meyer or Skemp advise arguably your students are more likely to enjoy the subject and therefore remember it far more effectively?

While challenging professional work is not effective, perhaps identifying flaws within the research might be more appropriate, so therefore coming from a psychological background, one has to question the ecological validity of the investigation, laboratory studies, or studies with extraneous variables meticulously controlled limit the likelihood for the study to be applied to the real world. What if a student was going through difficult times at home? Would he or she therefore be less likely to remember, regardless of how insightful/amazing the lesson would be because of distraction? Can we also apply the same attitudes to SEN students? Where the video and Willingham argue the brain is adaptable to the situation, does that apply to those with learning difficulties or those with mental health issues?

While ive spent the majority of this think piece berating Willingham and the video by questioning their research and ideas, it highlights again a losing battle in education today, another ring teachers have to jump through to perform to the excellent standard expected from them. As a student my maths lessons were far more based around theory, over application and I feel this problem still occurs in education today, it’s only through using maths students can see its relevance in the real world and therefore would be more likely to remember it.

well that’s how I remember it anyway.


  1. pepsmccrea
    19 February 2016

    Interesting analysis. Do you feel like you’ve changed your mind as a result of the evidence presented? How much trust do we put on Willingham’s work vs Meyer/Skemps? Which has more evidence to support it? Lots of great questions arising here.

  2. Dom
    21 February 2016

    Glen, I like your questions about SEN students and learning disabilities. As I have been working for years with autistic people I can see your point. Maybe, these are exceptions to what the author was trying to convey. In the case of learning disabilities there are barriers to learning, but I believe we can still capitalize on the ideas presented by Willingham. For instance, interestingly enough, I have noticed that the people I work with are more likely to remember things if you explain the reason why, and also quite often they are the first to ask why.

  3. Senay
    21 February 2016

    Nothing wrong with a bit of scepticism. Maybe we should be looking more at the critiques of the research we are looking at to see whether these ideas are credible. The SEN point is interesting (I have some experience in a SEN college). In some ways the techniques the teacher employs have to be even more balanced and targeted. This having been said I think overall the same principles apply. I do not want to sound too idealistic but I believe that anybody can learn anything (at some level) if taught in the correct way.

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