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  • Forgetting to Remember

    Posted on February 14th, 2014 sarahann No comments

    During class last week, one student made a point that I think warrants further investigation. We were discussing the merits and drawbacks of Langers’s teaching myths, specifically the that it might be a myth that forgetting is a problem. Our colleague commented that forgetting can be an opportunity to refresh or reset one’s memory, and may lead to better understanding in the long run.

    We’ve probably all had some experience along the following lines: You’re in school, and the teacher asks a question. You rack your brain. You should know this. You do know this. But it’s just not there. When the teacher finally (mercifully) supplies the answer, you mentally kick yourself. And you never, ever forget it again.

    Now, admittedly, being traumatized into remembrance is probably not the best way to learn. However, forgetting doesn’t have to be traumatizing, as long as it is handled gently in the classroom. Also, new research is showing that, without forgetting, we wouldn’t be able to learn new things.

    So, if you don’t know the answer, “fuggedaboutit”!


    2 responses to “Forgetting to Remember” RSS icon

    • I think what’s most important is knowing how to arrive at the right answer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the situation you described. It’s awful!

    • I know that for me, admitting I’ve forgotten (or that I’ve only partially remembered) and then learning it again is much better for remembering it in the future. It’s uncomfortable to get asked challenging questions that we don’t know the answers to, like in prelims or after giving a conference talk. I’m sure at one time, I knew the answers. But admitting to myself that I have a crappy memory about certain things and vowing to look up the answer as soon as I can is vital to learning and applying knowledge to research (and life). These skills need to be taught more in the classroom. Students should be practicing looking up information that they have forgotten in order to remember it better the next time.

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