Understanding how the brain processes information

I struggle with retention and focus when I read instructional text books with unfamiliar material. I usually find myself drifting and often must read the material several times.  I do not retain much of what I read and I am not able to recall the information or use in any way.  I must say though, that I did learn that if I read out-loud to myself, take notes or hi-lite as I read, I am better able to absorb the information. I also struggle when I attempt to memorize information for a test. I realized that the information is only committed to short term memory.  One week later I am not able to recall much of of what I’ve learned, much less how to apply it if I need it.  I have always considered myself an auditory learner, because I must hear it, see it and experience it to absorb it. Clearly, I have found ways to encode the information to help my learning, but an effective instructional designer with an understanding of the information learning process, would have allowed me the opportunity to store and retrieve the information with images, video, or even an application assignment. Take for instance this class, most of my learning occurs through the discussion, media and my own research.  I now understand that brain function and an understanding of the cognitive information processing play important roles in the learning process.  For various reasons there could be interferences when people attempt to access information in memory (Anderson, 1990).  It is difficult to recall information that was poorly encoded in the first place. According to the text, when information enters working memory, it is usually retained through activities such as, rehearsal and pairing with related information in long term memory where it is encoded for storage.  When the information is encoded it becomes meaningful and organized by its content and cross referenced with related content (Ormrod, Schumk, Gredker 2008).  My struggles are possibly due to a failure to elaborate by making attempts to connect to the information or make it meaningful.  My lack of focus and retention could also be the result of limited paths in which the information was presented.

According to Byrnes (2001), information must be presented in ways so that students make connections. The writer also stated that, newly acquired information must be processed in meaningful ways. An instructional designer who understands the information processing theories is able to focus on how student handle environmental issues, how they encode information, relate to it, retrieve it and make it meaningful. (Shull 1986).  The instructional designer must understand how students learn and how the brain process information in order to effectively develop and present instruction to facilitate student learning. 

Lana Ludovico                        

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