School Teacher Career Development

Education Administrators Associates
Consultation and Resource for Educators
Education Administrators Associates was initiated by Dr. John Brownridge, an educator and school principal with extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of Education, and experience in both North America and the United Kingdom. EAA's objective is to offer resource, assistance, and consultation to professional educators in the English-speaking world. 

A variety of issues of interest and concern to educators will be presented and considered in this blog on a weekly basis. All educators, whether teachers, administrators or consultants, are invited to comment on the Contacts Page.

None of us can be experts in every field. Yet, as teachers we are expected to be knowledgeable on a whole range of topics, especially those that relate directly or indirectly to education. The parents of our students frequently have questions and concerns about curriculum, special programs, and new innovations they have heard about through news media. Our colleagues, friends and acquaintances may seek explanations and definitions. It is in our own interest to have a cursory knowledge of issues outside our areas of expertise, and to be capable of providing some insight into a variety of educational topics.

This weekly blog will explore many educational topics. Please check in on a regular basis, and do feel free to submit your comments and questions on the Contacts Page. As teachers, we have a wealth of experience to share.

This Week
Cue-Dependent Memory Recall

Cognitive psychology is concerned with all aspects of intellectual functioning including the neural processes involved in learning, understanding, and remembering. Several cognitive theories have been developed by psychologists to explain and clarify the factors involved in the learning process, and the main purpose of these research projects has been to assist educators in developing better teaching methods. The results have been generally productive because, as all educators are aware, the success of any pedagogical technique depends upon its relation to the manner in which students learn. 

One of the principal factors involved in the learning process is the phenomenon of retrieval failure otherwise known simply as forgetting. Why and how learners are unable to recall certain memories could be accounted for by a number of cognitive theories, but most psychologists claim that certain stimuli or cues are required for most people to remember past events. These essential cues are not random or arbitrary. They are the stimuli that were present at the time the memories were encoded, and without them, those memories cannot usually be recalled. Psychologists distinguish between two types of stimuli required for cue-dependent memory recall – those that are state dependent and those that are context dependent.

State-dependent cues are those that relate to a person’s state of mind or well being at the time of memory encoding. Mental states such as being excited, happy, sad, in love, or in a grieving process become entangled with the event itself, and if the same emotional states are recreated in the future, it is more likely that memories of the event will be retrieved. Many educators try to create excitement and extraordinary interest in their students, for example, in order to encode memories more deeply and permanently. This may involve a centralized activity such as horseback riding or skiing which is then used as a theme for writing or reading. Students are able to easily recall the activity later when reminded of the excitement they felt, and because of that they will remember the new vocabulary and factual information associated with it.

Context-dependent cues are those that relate to the environment or physical situation at the time of the original event or activity. Students who have learned certain scientific or mathematical material in a well equipped laboratory, for example, will tend to do far better on an exam if the exam is conducted in their original learning environment. Whether the memory is pleasing or not is usually irrelevant. But environmental factors such as extreme heat or cold during a series of events that took place during work or play will act as a stimulus in the future when those activities are recalled.

Some memories cannot be recalled at all and psychologists are not always able to explain why this is so. Indeed, attempts to stimulate memory recall can sometimes be counterproductive as, for example, when patients are encouraged to remember traumatic events of childhood. Some prominent cases have caused controversy and disagreement among professionals because it is not always clear that the memories invoked are genuine. Court cases involving childhood abuse, for example, have sometimes heard presentations about past events that were later shown to be false memories. This is a serious matter as innocent defendants were wrongly convicted and cognitive psychologists were urged to take greater responsibility for their theories.
John Brownridge

Next Week

Standards of Evaluation in Education