The Learning Brain – Chapter 8

Torkel Klingberg*. (2013). The Learning Brain: Memory and Brain Development in Children. New York. Oxford University Press. [Translation: Neil Betteridge].

Extremely stressful events (e.g. life and death moments) have resulted in precise and deeply imprinted memories.

  • Does this mean that surprise or sudden tests have their place in education?

In the case of working (short term) memory, excess stress beyond a certain ideal point causes unsuccessful recall – such as during a blanking out in an examination. (Research on US skydiver deaths (1990s) returned one reason as ‘no pull’. The inference or guess was that the skydiver experienced a ‘mental block’ such that he failed to use the reserve parachute.)

On a related note, long term incessant (‘chronic’) stress was found to cause poor working memory. On persistent childhood stress (the author focused on poverty; there are others stress factors like school performance, and friends/family according to Erica Frydenberg at the University of Melbourne – 2008; in Chapter 2 cancer treatment is described as negatively affecting working memory), the restoration process is unclear. [Shorter term exposure to constant stress however allowed for rehabilitation. This was concluded from two studies: one on mice, the other on students].

*Author details from Psychology Today (no date) and company Cogmed (no date). [On p. 121 of the book, he states that he acted concurrently as a consultant for Cogmed].

Organising Tips

Are you tired of doing last minute work?

If your answer is yes, here are 3 crucial tips/methods that would help you .

Firstly, Agenda booklets (Planners) are my best friend. Keeping one of those is a great start to being organised, especially if you are one of those forgetful people like myself. Agendas come in a variety of sizes, colours, textures and layouts. There are monthly layout, weekly, or even both to choose from. What I usually do is that I will jot down the homework or the things I need to complete by the next school day/tuition lesson. If I don’t have an Agenda with me, sticky notes are used as temporary subsitutes.

Secondly, I keep all my class handouts, homework and notes in separate plastic files to further organise them. For instance, I have a blue file for Science tuition, pink for Mother Tongue and so on. For school, I find it is easier to carry a general file to store all subject paperwork rather than having 8 files for each. (This would be extremely bulky!)

Thirdly, I do regular checks on my files and agendas to make sure I have completed everything before I go for school/tuition classes. I will check the school timetable every night before the next school day to pack my textbooks, homework for next day’s classes. I seldom do my homework at the last minute unless it has really slipped my mind or something important cropped up. There was once I completed an essay but I failed to email it to my teacher and was unfortunately penalised. The solution to the problem is to constantly write everything and I mean every little detail required by the teacher in order to avoid trouble. For example, when teachers instruct us to bring textbooks for the next lesson, I will write it down even though it seems like the most basic thing to do. However small the material to bring or the task to do, I habitually jot it down so that I will avoid forgetting what is required.

Of course the above methods might not be foolproof but they do minimise the chances of forgetting things. I must be totally honest with you. I used to be guilty of being the ‘last minute’ type of student where I did everything the night before the given deadline. I believed that I had the luxury of doing my homework during the holidays, but I ended up with only a few hours left before school reopening to complete the mountain’s worth of holiday assignments. As a result, I did not get enough sleep and the quality of the work I produced was not to my fullest potential. After entering secondary school, I learnt not to repeat my mistakes and instead better organised my time for both school and tuition work.

Hope all this information will help you breeze through the school years!

Author: TSH (Jan 2017)

[with structural editing by CWL]