Episode 60 How to Structure Units Based on How Students Learn

Every day, students get exposed to an immense amount of new information that they must store in their memory. This memory becomes their foundation in answering unit tests and activities for their learning. However, after class or a test, a lot of students struggle to retain what they learned, resulting in poor academic performance. Fortunately, there are various techniques you can adopt to improve the long-term memory of students.

This episode tackles how you can structure units based on student learning. You will learn why the goal is to foster students’ long-term instead of short-term memory. You will also learn how to apply the strategies in improving the ‘recall process’ of your students’ memory using the ‘3 in 24 principle’.

Stay tuned to the episode for unit-building strategies you can incorporate to improve students’ long-term memory.

Here are the three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Discover the differences between the three types of memory.
  2. Learn how you can incorporate long-term memory enhancement strategies in your units.
  3. What is the 3 in 24 principle?

Video show

Show Notes

Episode Highlights

3 Different Types of Memory

  • The three different types of memory are: sensory, working and long-term memory.
  • Sensory memory includes everything we see and hear through our senses. These are very short, and our brain can filter out most of this information.
  • Working memory processes the things to which you pay attention.
  • Engage your students’ working memory when teaching by repeating yourself, slowing down and spelling it out, pausing for students to engage or using specific phrases.
  • You can help students move information from the working memory to long-term memory by linking new ideas with the information they have already processed. 

Improving the Recall Process of Long-Term Memory

  • The long-term memory has infinite capacity, but it can be difficult during the ‘recall process’ to retrieve those.
  • We can improve this recall by repeated practice of pulling out long-term memory information over and over again. By doing so, you can strengthen the neural pathways, enabling you to pull data out faster and easier.
  • It’s best to tell your students that they are successful because they put in an effort, not because they’re smart or gifted. Doing so would focus their attention on putting effort.
  • Teachers can also incorporate practice tests to get information into students’ long-term memories.

Short-Term Memory vs Long-Term Memory

  • It is attainable by merely reading a text or information over and over again before a five-minute-laters test.
  • However, doing this strategy would result in a poor performance a week later compared to a student who studied multiple tests.
  • Tests force students to process recall information in the long term.
  • Spaced repetition is about getting exposed to an idea initially and recalling it within a certain period. Spaced repetition helps students remember information before they store away and forget it.

3 in 24 Principle

  • The 3 in 24 principle states that three exposures to information within 24 hours help students develop their ability to remember it.
  • The first exposure involves learning the information in class.
  • The second includes writing a summary or flashcard as a part of the study.
  • Lastly, the third exposure is when they apply the information in a practice exam or mini-essay.
  • The sleep between the second and third exposure helps students store that information into long-term memory. For best results, you can incorporate the 3 in 24 principle with spaced repetition after that.

5 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

‘Having this long-term storage also means that if it’s not all stored well and filed correctly, it can be hard to actually pull that information back out later. And that’s that recall process that we actually need to work on a lot more with a long-term memory because that’s the bit that’s difficult with our long-term memory things, and so essentially, what we need to do is build that highway’.

‘Tell your students that they are successful because they put in such a great effort, not because they’re smart, or just because they’re gifted. And what that does is it actually focuses the attention then on their effort’.

‘When we’re talking about shifting things from working memory into long-term memory, the more effort the more processing and the more time that they spend working on coding that information, the better they’re going to be’.

‘So you want them to actually be constantly recalling it. It helps develop those pathways through that information that has been coded into long-term memory’.

‘Practicing that recall helps it to be able to be recalled longer term’.


  • Effective Teaching Podcast Episode 44 — 5 Ways to Move Ideas into Long-Term Memory
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  1. Pauline Condon

    This was great PD Dan. It was well presented, easy to follow and simple to use. The information presented was a great reminder to what we need to be focusing on – the learning and not the content.

    1. Daniel Jackson Post author

      Thanks heaps Pauline. I am so glad you enjoyed it. It is fantastic to get such positive feedback so quickly.

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