How do we know if a student really knows something? The only real way to know is to ask the student to answer questions about the material (1) some time after the initial learning (at least 24 hours), (2) without the student having the opportunity to go back and re-study the material. If he can answer the questions under these conditions, we can feel confident that he has actually stored the material in long-term memory.
But it’s not always that simple. There are three main stages of learning: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. And performance problems can crop up at any of these stages. This means that a student may actually have encoded and consolidated the material into long-term memory, but may have trouble accessing (retrieving) the material at the appropriate time.
Problems with retrieval can occur due to reasons that make sense to us, such as when the student attempts to retrieve the material in a context far different from that in which it was learned (meaning that contextual cues that may have helped are nonexistent) or due to stress caused by the testing situation (test anxiety). Other times, there’s no reason that is How to construct great arguments readily apparent for the failure to recall the information. The student may know that she knows the answer, but just can’t seem to bring it to mind.
And this is where a good mnemonic is worth the effort put into its creation. If the student had created a mnemonic, all he has to do is recall the mnemonic, and the blockage usually disappears like magic. The mnemonic acts as a “handle” by which the student can pull the needed information out of long-term memory and into conscious, working memory so it can be used.
More Complex Material Needs More Complex Mnemonics