When designing your learning and teaching experiences, keep these general principles in mind:
- First activate an existing schema THEN add new information to it. Or create a new schema to join to previous schemas.
- Reduce extraneous information while learning.
- Make sure information is presented in the best way cognitively.
- Give many opportunities to practise (repetition = automation).
When you repeat something over and over again, it becomes automated and you don’t have to use active working memory resources. Students should do the same – they can clear their working memory by practising so many times they don’t have to think at all about that particular part of solving the problem. They will already have it automated and can do it without thinking.
How to activate existing schema to add to our long-term memory?
If you use something frequently in your long-term memory it stays near to the surface and you will recall it quickly. For example, your favourite song is usually close to the surface because you like it and it is something you relate to, so you will remember that song quickly. An old song however will take you a while to remember.
For students, you want the information that is important to them to be close to the surface so they can activate an existing schema.
- If it is new information, try to relate it to something students have worked on previously.
- If it is something students worked on the week before, provide a review first to activate those existing schemas. This uses fewer of the students' cognitive resources as the details are close to the surface.