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AU News

Deep Learning: Beneath the Surface from Memorization to Understanding (part three of a series)

July 24, 2018

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By L. Dianne King, Ph.D., Dean of Student Success, David Larson McPhillips Center for Student Success at Anderson University

The Learning/Memory Process

The chart below gives a simplified explanation of the learning process, from the input (sensory perception) to the output (retrieval). This wouldn’t satisfy a neuroscientist, but it gives us a simple way to understand what happens in the learning process. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, however. This is in reality a complex process, and humans cannot function when it doesn’t work.

As seen in the illustration above, Stage 1 Sensory Perception is where you receive the input, in this case either hearing or seeing the learning material. Note that if you do not read the textbook or do not attend class, you are not getting the Sensory Perception that is required in the first place. You cannot learn material to which you have not been exposed!  

Once you have received the input, giving your attention and exercising your working memory through the process of studying moves you to Stage 2, where the information moves into Long-Term Memory Storage.  This is somewhat akin to moving the information from the “loading dock” into the “warehouse.” It is not likely to go missing once you have the material in long-term memory.  

Now you are ready for Stage 3, which is Retrieval. One point at which students operate in this stage is during a test.  If you have done deep learning, the memory storage is strong and retrieval will be relatively easy. If you have done surface learning, retrieval may be very difficult if not impossible, especially if the professor asks you for more sophisticated answers than simple memorization can provide. Do the work up front that produces deep learning – it has immense benefits in the long run.

Next time: Learning strategies

Read part one of this series here.

Read part two of this series here.

For more information on services available at the David Larson McPhillips Center for Student Success at Anderson University, click here

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