Every once in a while a class has the opportunity of going on a field trip. A field trip’s purpose is to expand learning that the students are already learning about. A teacher can expand on what the students saw by incorporating new learning into current lesson plans. Upon returning from a field trip, students are usually excited about what has transpired during the trip. Having the students complete a paper, right after returning if time permits, explaining what they thought to be interesting will give them something constructive to do. Also letting the students pick the topic of what they are interested in, will give them an opportunity to explain about something that they paid attention to.
According to Smith Kosslyn, the amount of attention given to information when presented is very important (2007). When children are interested in a subject, they are more likely to pay more attention to that information relating to that subject. Getting children outside of the normal classroom environment will also give them an opportunity to become more interested in the information. Letting the students pick a topic they were interested in will give them an opportunity to write about something that they paid attention to. The more attention is given to information, the more memory is stored. Encoding is “the various processes by which information is transformed into a memory representation” (p.202). Giving students memories on a field trip will help them to “encode” more information, and therefore create meaningful learning.
According to the Center for Advancement in Teaching in order to create long-term memory, a student needs to have a working memory first (Everson & Hammer, 2005). Information is brought in by sensory memory that gets transferred to working memory. Then the working memory gradually becomes long-term memory. Periodically, the long-term memory needs to be pulled out into working memory in order for the information to stay as long-term memory (2005). A student’s chance at creating a working memory is increased when they are able to elaborate on what they have learned. Elaboration is when information is interpreted, connected to other information, and then is thought about over and over (Smith & Kosslyn, 2007).
An article from Barbara Knowlton and Larry Squire raises the question of what kind of memory supports category level knowledge (1993). It seems that category knowledge is entered through sensory memory. The different pieces of information are represented by some form of memory that later becomes long-term memory (Smith & Kosslyn, 2007). These representations are gradually turned into categorical knowledge. Every piece of information is put into a category that has similar traits, but not all the same traits (2007). Long-term memory can turn into meaningful learning that can be used to apply in life. By having students elaborate on what they have learned on a field trip, they are using their working memory. The information can be applied to long-term memory by representing a memory.
Smith and Kosslyn also talk about strategies that increase meaningful learning. The generation effect is the concept that “you are more likely to remember the information you retrieve or generate than information that you simply receive” (2007, p.209). Using flashcards is a good example of using the generation effect of remembering information. Having a student generate information through writing an assignment is also a good example. The more a student generates information in the mind, the more they are likely to remember that information.
Barbara J. Knowlton, Larry R. Squire (Dec 10, 1993). The learning of categories: parallel brain systems for item memory and category knowledge. Science, 262, n5140. p.1747(3). Information retrieved December 14, 2008, from Expanded Academic ASAP via Gale:
Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Bart Everson, Elliott Hammer, 2005. Information retrieved December 13, 2008 from http://cat.xula.edu/thinker/memory/longterm/.
Edward E. Smith, Stephen M. Kosslyn (2007). Cognitive Psychology Mind and Brain. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.