The following insight came from my podcast interview with Lauren Waldman, where she talked about how to encode memories how to teach someone how to learn.
It’s been spoken so often that we’re working on a model that’s 120 years old. Those misconceptions of using the classroom setting or looking at learning as a content dump are getting everything you need into the brain to try to get it out. But you can’t just force things in there and rely on rote memorization, which is how we typically all grew up in an educational system. One big misconception is in the actual process of how we learn as humans that’s been less spoken about because we didn’t know as much as we know now, and we fell into a behavioral pattern of how things were done for the last 100 years.
So you want to teach yourself to learn? You have to start without a foundational knowledge of the thing that’s doing the learning in the brain to understand the operational system itself. Because it’s not just about the learning process, it’s about the memory process; how are we encoding memories so that we can then retrieve them and transfer them into whatever skill or ability we’re trying to do. So I think we only say, usually, half of the process is like, how do you learn? Well, it’s not just how you learn. It’s how you learn and can remember to use it later.
There’s so much complexity to the process itself. The myth of memory encoding is that it happens in this one part of the brain, and you just hit record, and everything’s great; you can get it back later. But it’s so much more complicated than that because memories are stored not in one place in the brain but in multiple areas in the brain. You have to look at the fact that there are different types of memories and those stored in different places. So it’s a lot more complicated and complex.
On a foundational model level, though, you’re looking at a three-step process: encode, store, and retrieve. The encoding process is when you’re doing that focused learning; when that information comes in through all the senses, it does take that intention and focus. The storage process that is helping the brain take it from that working memory. Then we got to get into long-term memory; that’s where we will retrieve from eventually.
Where we typically fail is in the rehearsal on the practice in between. I’m sure all of us in high school, we’d sit there and cram. And you then recognized that maybe we could retrieve some of that to pass a test. But we couldn’t remember anything. So the process wasn’t followed as far as how this needed to take it in. So then you’ve got that storage process, then you’ve got to go to the retrieval process. So if you haven’t started effectively, then you can’t retrieve it. Or maybe you have stored, but perhaps you’re creating false memories. So you’re not retrieving what it was you thought you’re learning.
So, again, the foundational model is: encode, store, and retrieve. That is how we can design learning. It’s challenging, but it’s so rewarding.