Schema & repetition: a helping hand for our working memories

This is great video that gives some really useful tips on assisting working memory in learners’ through schema and repetition. As a designer interested in designing for e-learning, I need to think about how well I guide the cognitive process in students through design and that included activities are consistent with how students learn and most importantly, they support learning retention and knowledge transfer. I need to take a learner-centric approach – not technology-centric.

Published on 13 Mar 13, 2013 by SPND423

One of the most interesting parts of this video is the section by Dr John J. Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, Affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Author of ‘Brain Rules’

He makes important points that I need to bear in mind during my practical work regarding schema. Schema is prior knowledge based upon peoples life experiences such as their favourite things, their lifestyle, behaviour, culture and learning style (how they process information) etc. In short, using prior knowledge to construct long-term memory. Schema helps to determine whether information being perceived is also being learnt. Schema offers a mental framework that gives order to thoughts on aspects of everyday life and the world. A successful blend between schema and working memory will ensure that learning is more permanent.

Which leads me on to the second most interesting part of this video:  repetition. There are limits to how much the working memory can hold and a designer of e-Learning needs to help prevent cognitive overload. As well as segmentation of data assisting with working memory (learn in bite-size chunks – break key data up), it is clear that repetition is key to data retention. It is interesting to note that humans can hold up to 7 items in the working memory for up to 30 seconds, if repeated within this 30 seconds then the learner will hold on to the data for a further 2 hours and needs to be repeated for a 2nd time within this time period. The data will disappear permanently if not repeated within the 2 hours.

Singing facts to aid data retention is another simple tool that could be employed using simple rhythms. We are all familiar with this technique – any one of us can recall the colours of the rainbow through the repetitive verse taught to us at infant school ‘The Colours of the Rainbow’. Whilst this might only apply to simple verses, I think it would be worth exploring this further in my design work. I will look at adding music along with repetitive simple songs to assist with data retention.

An additional thought that I had here is that I could also design a short e-learning program that assessed schema by constructing questions that assess individual prior knowledge before a student embarked upon a learning program and then the program could adapt it’s presentation style etc. to match.

Going forward I will incorporate these learning points into my designs.





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