Information Processing and Memory

Information Processing and Memory

Submitted by:  Andrea Cox

Ch. 4 Information Processing, Memory, and Problem Solving



Information Processing

 Information processing focuses on how information is acquired, stored and used.  The most common version information processing model is the multistore model.  The three main components of this model are sensory register, working memory (focus of attention & short-term store) and long-time memory (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  Sensory register acquires information through the senses (seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling).  Attention acts as a door that controls what information is allowed into working memory (short-term memory).  Working memory is where information from the senses is processed at a particular moment.  Working memory is also where thinking occurs (Bergin & Bergin 2012).  The executive function works with attention and working memory to control the brains information processing.  Long-term memory is where knowledge or permanent information is stored.

 Students process information at different rates.  It is common for a classroom to be quite diversified regarding how students process and retain information being taught.  Several techniques that can prevent over loading of working memory and executive load are as follows:  1) maintain a speed that allows students fully process information, 2) reduce as many distractions as possible in the classroom, 3) increase expertise of students (the more automatic processing frees working memory), 4) provide external storage (notes, write instructions on board, etc.), and 5) use small chunks to teach information (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).




 Two types of memories are verbatim and fuzzy traces.  Verbatim traces are the memories that can be recalled accurately and in detail.  Fuzzy traces are when the gist of the information is remembered.  Memory errors can take place for a variety of reasons.  Emotional experiences can greatly influence accuracy of memories (Boat, Connell & Warner, 2009).  Time can decay a memory, as well as retrieval failure when information cannot be retrieved when needed.  New knowledge can interfere at times with old knowledge, which can make accurate retrieval difficult.  False memories are memories that never happened and can be considered intelligent errors (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). 

 Teachers utilize various memory strategies when introducing and reviewing information taught in the classroom.  One strategy that involves rehearsal is round-robin.  Students who are learning the scientific method work in groups to repeat the steps of the scientific method in order.  Organizing information using graphic organizers (Venn diagrams, t-charts, etc.) can also help students remember information.  Having students elaborate on information being taught can be quite effective in regards to retention of information.  An example of elaboration would be when students are learning which axis is x and y, they use the saying “y” to the sky to remember that the y axis is vertical. 

Additional strategies that can be used to improve memory (1-6, Cherry, 2009) (7-9, Bergin & Bergin, 2012)…

  1. Avoid cramming by establishing regular study sessions.
  2. Structure and organize the information you are studying.
  3. Utilize mnemonic devices to remember information.
  4. Connect new information to things you already know.
  5. Visualize concepts to improve memory and recall.
  6. Teach new concepts to another person.
  7. Test or quiz frequently.
  8. Use cumulative tests so that students are more likely to integrate new material with old.
  9. Provide immediate feedback after tests or models of an ideal response. 

 Utilizing strategies designed to improve and enhance memory will result in increased academic success.  Teachers need to model and scaffold these skills for the students consistently throughout the school year.




 Bergin, C. A., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Information Processing, Memory and Problem Solving. Child and adolescent development in your classroom (pp. 127 – 148). Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

 Connell, M. E., Boat, T. F., & Warner, K. E. (2009). Perspectives from Developmental Neuroscience.Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people progress and possibilities(pp. 132 – 133). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

 AS. (n.d.).  Psychology4A. Retrieved September 8, 2013, from

 Cherry, K. (n.d.). Improving Memory – Top 10 Tips for Improving Memory.  Psychology – Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. Retrieved September 8, 2013, from


Discussion Questions: 

  1. What are a few strategies you have used in the classroom to address students who process information at different rates?
  2. Have you used differentiated instruction and do you find that it successfully meets the needs of the students in your classroom?
  3. Select three memory strategies listed above and discuss how you would use them in the classroom.
  4. When is it appropriate to expect the students to know information in full detail and to know the general gist of the information? 



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14 Responses to Information Processing and Memory

  1. anonymous50 says:

    When is it appropriate to expect the students to know information in full detail and to know the general gist of the information?

    Ideally, I would, of course, prefer that my students always know information in the fullest detail, but in reality, I reluctantly acknowledge the impossibility of such a lofty goal. Depending on the subject, getting a working grasp (the ‘gist’) suffices, as in vocabulary, for instance. Is it necessary that my students be able to quote the dictionary definition of “hirsute”? No, but understanding the ‘gist’ of the definition (which should include the part of speech) allows them to use it appropriately in a sentence, as in, “The hirsute primordial man danced before the flames in Buck’s dream,” (an actual sentence from a 7th grade student on a Call of the Wild short answer test). In grammar, it might not be necessary for students to be able to recite a list of the 101 most frequently used prepositions, but having at least once attempted to memorize even segments of that list (along with learning the rules that govern their use) gives students a ‘gist’ of the kinds of words that can be used as prepositions, which aids them in constructing meaningful, syntactically correct sentences. Likewise, in literature it might not be necessary (outside of a literary terms quiz) to be able to define “motif” and “symbol” verbatim, but understanding the ‘gist’ of a “symbol” as an object, person, idea, or really anything, that is used to represent something else and a “motif” as recurring objects, concepts, or structures (which can include symbols) within a literary work helps students to distinguish between the two and identify each appropriately. However, in each instance, the students first have to learn the definitions in full detail, commit them to working memory, practice and then utilize them in a meaningful ways that employ executive functions (memorizing, organizing, deciding when to apply them to tasks, etc.), and then, perhaps, they retain the ‘gist’ for future application.

  2. Katie Williams says:

    Have you used differentiated instruction and do you find that it successfully meets the needs of the students in your classroom?

    Teaching at a high poverty elementary school means differentiating instruction for every child, every day. Currently, we are differentiating spelling lists for our students which corresponds with the current lesson they are on is SRA. Reading is differentiated by using small groups and individual instruction to meet student needs. When I conference with my students, I am constantly taking notes so I can use that information to tailor instruction to that students or groups students who are in need of the same strategy lesson. Differentiated math instruction is current practice as well. Much like reading groups, math small groups are ability based in order to tailor instruction for students. Because I teach in a 1:1 iPad school, technology is also used to differentiate instruction for students. I have seen mixed results from differentiating instruction. Most of the students benefit greatly from the differentiated instruction; once it “clicks” they begin to move pretty fast. For example, 1 of my students last year had differentiated phonics instruction and went from reading on a 0.5 reading level to a 1.7 reading level in 3 months. On the other hand, some students do not see dramatic results. I believe attention may play a significant role in the lack of results I get from some students when the instruction is differentiated.

  3. Leslie says:

    Have you used differentiated instruction and do you find that it successfully meets the needs of the students in your classroom?

    My school really pushes for teachers to use differentiated instruction in each classroom. I have used it for several years and have had great results with my students. The main problem I see is that differentiated instruction is a lot of work for teachers. For example, after I give a math pre-test, I base my instruction on how each individual student did. I put them in small groups, work with them individually and have adult volunteers work with them. I give groups different assignments and activities to do based on what they need. The students that meet the objective at the beginning of the unit will get enrichment activities to challenge them. Some students get more practice to help them meet the objective while some will have to have re-teach assignments. This takes a lot of extra time and commitment but I feel like it helps each child be successful.
    We also use stations in my classroom while I work with small groups. I put different activities in each station that all students can independently complete. The activities vary in difficulty and are on different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. This lets the students learn how it is easiest for them and it helps them to be successful. I have seen the benefits of differentiated instruction shine through all of the hard work that it takes to successfully utilize it.

  4. Michelle Peterson says:

    2.Have you used differentiated instruction and do you find that it successfully meets the needs of the students in your classroom?

    Yes, I have used differentiated instruction for everything in my classroom. My Master’s degree is in Differentiated Instruction. While I was in the program, I learned the importance of meeting kids needs where they are. That doesn’t mean taht we do not teach grade level concepts to students or that we overload them… it means we find unique ways to teach those same grade level concepts in a way that the students may connect with. For example, if the concept is addition, some kids learn better by seeing the model in front of them and watching the process and some kids learn better by using concrete examples such as adding groups of counters.

    I have found that differentiated Instruction does meet the needs of my students if I am using it correctly. There is a lot of preparation when planning for multiple levels of students, but if we are truly educating the child to maximum potential, I believe it is essential.

  5. Amanda Morris says:

    Have you used differentiated instruction and do you find that it successfully meets the needs of the students in your classroom?

    I have used differentiated instruction in a lot of my teaching and I have found that it is fairly successful in meeting the needs of the students in my classroom. Last year we began differentiated instruction in math where the students did a quick check and were grouped based on that quick check right then. They were grouped differently everyday which was a lot of work and difficult at first but the students got the routine down and did fairly well. I guess my only complaint was that the low students needed more support/help and once they were sent away from me they didn’t have that. I saw teachers spend most of the group time with the low group and then the medium/high groups didn’t get the support they needed. The other drawback would be that it is a lot of work for the teacher, when I think demands on teachers are continuously increasing. For my SPED students, differentiated instruction was used in every subject. For others, just reading and math. I would like to see differentiated instruction used in other subjects for more than just SPED students.

  6. Jimmie Jo says:

    Have you used differentiated instruction and do you find that it successfully meets the needs of the students in your classroom?

    I use differentiated instruction in both Reading and Writing. In Reading, I have small reading groups that are based on reading levels or skills that small groups of children need to learn or practice. I also use reading boxes with “just right” reading books from which children read at the level at which they can read independently. While student are reading from their boxes, I meet individually with different children every day to better meet their needs. Meeting children where they are and scaffolding instruction has been very effective in my classroom. I have been able to move children forward at a much quicker pace. I also use this strategy in writing. Students write on their own topics in Writer’s Workshop. I meet with different students daily. In our conferences, we discuss how to improve their writing. I have been looking at differentiating my spelling program. I am curious if anyone has used or had success with a program such as “Words Their Way.”

    Select 3 memory strategies listed above and discuss how you would use them in the classroom.

    1-Organizing information using graphic organizers: I use graphic organizers in every subject. I enjoy making anchor charts to organize the information that I am presenting in order to make it easier to review the information that I want them to know. My first graders become very used to making t-charts and venn diagrams.

    2-Elaboration Strategy-In Reading, I use this strategy when learning the sounds of different “hunks and chunks”. For example, for the “ou” chunk we would chant “o-u says /ou/ as in o-u-t, o-u-t BEE GET OUT!”

    3-Visualize concepts to improve memory and recall-I use this strategy when learning new vocabulary words. Students work together with a partner to come up with a picture or action that will help their classmates remember what the vocabulary word means.

  7. Nicole Gaffney says:

    Have you used differentiated instruction and do you find that it successfully meets the needs of the students in your classroom?

    I am also a strong believer in using differentiated instruction in everything I do in my Kindergarten classroom. My children come from many different backgrounds and have a wide range of prior knowledge. I differentiate my conferences with my students during reading and writing time. For math, I have assign small during the independent work time and allow them to practice the strategy in different ways. It is the only way I know to teach and I agree with Michelle- when I use it correctly, it works for my students!

    The biggest area of success I have seen is in my Word Work block. Jimmie Jo- I use Words Their Way and really like it. It is a great program and there are many different ways to implement it to fit the needs of your students. After reflecting on my love for this program, I have realized the reason I like it so much, other than the fact that it works for my kids, is that it allows for differentiated instruction to come easily. The work is already made so I just figure out where my kids need to be and then they all do the same thing everyday, but with different sets of “word sorts”. I have some children who work on beginning sounds all year, while others are working on long vowel patterns. I have seen a lot of improvement in their reading and writing over the course of the year that I can contribute to this program. Also, it is a great way for me to easily differentiate my Word Work instruction.

  8. Janet says:

    1. What are a few strategies you have used in the classroom to address students who process information at different rates?

    As a special educator, I have worked with students who demonstrate a slower processing speed and I have learned there are several things that can be done to help the student be successul in the classroom. The following are possible strategies I would implement for a student demonstrating difficulty in this area:
    1. Provide the student with notes or guided notes (notes with missing words), so the student can focus on the teacher while he/she gives instruction.
    2. Write important information on the board while the teacher is lecturing to help the student focus on the important points of the lecture.
    3. Provide the student with the question prior to being asked, so they have time to think about their response.
    4. Make sure there is adequate “wait time” after a question is posed to the student, so often if there is a pause, we tend to want to answer the question for them.
    5. If there are still some students struggling with a concept, allowing them the opportunity to discuss/explain with their shoulder partners. This doesn’t take much time, but allows for the students to have a better understanding of the material.
    6. Breaking down large multi-step assignments into manageable chunks, so the students have a better understanding of what is expected of them at specific stages of the assignment.

  9. Karen says:

    I find that I am constantly using differentiated instruction in physical education. My students come to me with many different physical ability levels. If we are working on a sport there are some students who have been practicing skills for it since they could walk and others that have never heard of it. The students who are more skilled may spend more of their time working on strategy and learning to analyze their performance. While the students who are just learning the basics spend more time on small sided games that focus on specific skills and rules of the game. We do have times that students are mixed, this is a time for the skilled students to coach the other students and for the other students to learn from their peers in a real setting. Those that need differentiation change from unit to unit and even from PE to health. In health I have to differentiate based on more academic considerations. This might mean different worksheets or different projects or different group activities. I have seen differentiated instruction do wonders with both physical and academic skills. Children have different ways of learning and different areas of strengths, it is important for us to work with them to help them reach their fullest potential. Education is not a one size fits all.
    ~Karen S.

  10. Drew Ibendahl says:

    Select 3 memory strategies listed above and discuss how you would use them in the classroom.
    1. Utilize mnemonic devices to remember information.
    When I use mnemonic devices in my classes, I provide my students with an example and then I have them come up with their own device. We discuss the purpose of mnemonic devices and what makes a device practical and logical. I challenge my students to create devices personal to them and their lives. If students have difficulty creating their own, they simple use the classroom example or an example from another student and make a small change. I’ve found this gives students a sense of ownership in their learning.

    2.Connect new information to things you already know.
    At the beginning of the year, I introduce mind maps with my students, and we try to use these across the curriculum. Initially, we create many of the mind maps as a class and I facilitate the discussions, challenging my students to stretch their minds to make deep connections within the content area, but also across different areas. As the year progresses, students begin to take more of the leadership role in the mind maps, often working with partners or in small groups, as I walk the room discussing the connections groups are creating. Students will then share their connections with the class or other groups, allowing students to create new connections or discuss similar connections they have made.

    3. Visualize concepts to improve memory and recall.
    The mind maps my students have created often serve as great visualizations to help recall information and improve their memory of concepts of ideas. Although not always conducive for all topics, mind maps allow students to create better images, often their own drawings to represent topics or ideas. In my classroom, we create posters for different topics or ideas and refer to the posters when we review those topics. I have some store-bought posters in my room, but I try to cover my walls with posters my students have made as we progress through the year and the curriculum.

  11. Sinclair says:

    4. When is it appropriate to expect the students to know information in full detail and to know the general gist of the information?

    Generally, only the most important concepts must be known in full detail, while with others it is all right if the student knows the generalities of the concept. A medical student for example would be expected to know precisely the side effects of a particular prescription drug, while a law student would only be expected to know in general terms the ramifications of a certain action (such as a contract dispute). In either case, the ability to seek clarification and further information is important. An example would be an accountant. They know exactly, in full detail, what to do in many instances, but have the ability through training and experience to explore a definite answer for other things (such as a tax regulation) without having the answer in full detail in long-term memory. With young students, an example could be the multiplication tables. Knowing the gist of them would do no good if they were not memorized correctly for recall when a calculator is not available or if they lacked the ability to work out the problem.

  12. Brooke says:

    I loved your list of strategies to use in the classroom to help facilitate memory. I have found that while implementing some of these strategies, I am differentiating some of my instruction without even thinking too much about it.
    1.) Avoid cramming by establishing regular study sessions… I like to keep a large calendar of events posted where the students can see and I always ask the students to use their planners regularly so due dates do not sneak up. I also really like to model chunking of some of those long-term larger assignments that may take place over a whole unit or quarter. Reminding students and having “check-in” dates where you do not necessarily collect points or grade, but rather assess progress I have found helps students avoid the cramming feeling. We all know that a project or assignment thrown together at the last minute is not one that is well thought out.
    2.) Utilize mnemonic devices to remember information: It is not shocking that grammar is not most students favorite topic to review in an ELA class. Some of the rules are tedious and nit-picky and I like to teach the students some mnemoics to help remember things. For example, we use FANBOYS to remember coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or yet, so).
    3.) Structure and organize the information you are studying: I mentioned in my reflection this week that I think a lot about the way I present the information to students. I have found that some students really benefit from graphic organizers that help them organize information on notes. I also keep large anchor charts posted of the information we learn in class for students to use as a quick reference around the room.

  13. Autumn says:

    Select 3 memory strategies listed above and discuss how you would use them in the classroom.

    1. Teach new concepts to another person.
    I find this strategy to be mutually beneficial. First, the children who are instructing the other students in the concept are being confronted with questions, affording them the opportunity to critically examine/defend their ideas and recognize possible flaws or gaps in their own learning (or memory). Each student is constantly evaluating their understanding of the material through meaningful reflection. Additionally, as this is a collaborative enterprise, the students are in a position to learn important life skills, such as working together and respecting each other’s opinions. If implemented successfully, students gradually begin to see themselves as an integral part of the learning process and will seek one another out for assistance instead of constantly relying on adult support. This strategy lends itself to an inordinate number of possibilities, including the management of literature circles, mathematical exercises, and projects involving scientific reasoning.

    2. Test or quiz frequently.
    I think that frequent assessment is critical for determining which intervention strategies would be most appropriate for the children. I echo the conclusions of researchers that clamor for more student engagement and high frequency exposure. Once a child has had several opportunities for meaningful practice (resulting in automaticity), he or she will be in a better position to free up his/her working memory to assimilate new concepts.
    One of the down sides of our constructivist math program is its heavy emphasis on conceptual learning at the cost of memorization. This has tragically resulted in reduced automaticity with simple math facts. Consequently, our children can explain why 5X5 equals 25, but take a great deal of time to come up with the product on their own in a timely manner. Absent this fundamental skill, the students find themselves severely crippled when moving on to advanced math. (Imagine trying to perform complex division or fraction operations without knowing your multiplication tables… It is truly torturous for them.)

    3. Provide immediate feedback after tests or models of an ideal response.
    I provide immediate feedback as much as possible. For math, this is obviously much easier, as exams take less time to grade. For writing, however, this can be a bit of a challenge. Reading and scoring each paper takes a great deal of time, so it is not always possible for me to get back to the students right away. However, I do make it a point to conference with the children at least twice a month concerning their writing progress. I think that this helps their memory as well, as one-on-one time with the teacher adds a novelty to the experience (as opposed to just receiving their paper with the assigned grade posted on it).

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