Types of memory

Memory can be classified in various ways. 

The simplest and most commonly referred-to classification is related to duration.  Short-term memory is usually defined as lasting 20 seconds and somewhat longer if information is "chunked" or rehearsed.  Long-term memory is encoded information which is stored in various parts of the brain and has the potential to stay vital for a lifetime.

Another classification of memory is based on the manner of encoding and retrieving the information.  For teaching purposes, this is a more relevant and useful classification in planning learning experiences.  Memories can be Explicit or Implicit.  Explicit memory is formed by purposeful activities and through effort, such as study or directly instructed lessons.  Implicit memory is gained automatically through experiences, practice, and reflexes.

Teachers can enhance learning by making the most of activities and experiences that will organize information in such a way that students' brains are able to process information and store memories constantly without being overwhelmed.  Other factors, including diet, sleep, exercise, hormones, physical condition, and mental condition can affect memory storage. 

To learn more about memory and the recent research on this topic, check out the book Great Memory in the Special Education section of our catalog.


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