Memorizing still has it place in the Classroom

Science, Technology, Education, Research

I recently read an article on Faculty focus, called Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science, By Michelle Miller. I loved this article and I think it deserved a spot on my blog.  New or old, what instructor couldn’t use an idea, (or two), on helping their students with memorizing materials.  We try are best to teach learner centred instructing; always engaging our students with different teaching strategies and learning styles, but the bottom line is you are always going to have some sort of memorization in learning. In this article Miller (2014) says it best with “….there is more to learning than regurgitating facts on an exam, memorization is an important route to building content knowledge and expertise.”

This article spoke to me as an instructor and as a mom! Once I became a mom I felt like my brain had no more room for extra information.  My brain was trying so hard to remember when I last feed the baby? Or changed his diaper? I couldn’t remember when I last had something to eat!  You become a mom and that seem to take over your brain for a few years. It’s funny how my brain decided for me what I was going to remember from the moment my child was born. I went to the recovery room after I delivered and I had no pain. My husband came in and said so are you ready to have 3 more kids and he laughed! I was like sure! I can’t wait! And the smile vanished from his face. He thought he was being so funny, he knew I always wanted a big family and he figured after what I just went through there was no way I was going to want any more kids. Well believe it or not, but the minute I had my baby I forgot about all about the labour, delivery and the pain. All I saw was the beautiful little baby and my brain decided that was all I was going to remember for the next year.

On the instructor side of things, I am mainly a clinical instructor, in the Certified Dental Assisting department, at Okanagan College. You would think in clinic, there wouldn’t be much memorizing but that couldn’t be more farther from the truth. Early on in our program we introduce our students to a course on facial anatomy. This is a big course, it covers facial bones, muscles, sinuses, nerves, salivary glands and the list goes on. It is the foundation to the rest of the courses in our program. We can’t move on to placing fissure sealants if our students don’t know what and where a fissure is on the tooth?

Our memory systems evolved to be picky about what we remember, selecting the information that is most relevant to our goals and discarding the rest (M. Miller, 2014).

This especially true with adult learners, they need to know the relevance of what they are learning and why they need to know this material. I also continue to work in private practice as CDA, so my students are constantly asking me, do I really need to know this? Do you use this in your office? Good questions, do I use the name of every bone in your face every day in my office?  Or did I memorize half of them last night, so I can teach you today? I would love to tell them the truth, they aren’t going to use every single name, of every muscle or bone on a regular bases.   But how would that help them? They would just give up on trying right then and there. Instead we like to show them how it is relevant in what we our teaching.

Our students first learn anatomy in the classroom and then they are able to test their skills early on in clinic. We work through them slowly, introducing small areas of the face to memorize first. We may start with the nerves first, learning the names and where they are located. Then the following week, breaking it down into what nerveS anesthetizes what teeth. This is where I get to step in. Once they have the basic breakdown of the nerves I get to help them with facial landmarks and locating them intraorally. So although memorization is still an important part for our students learning we are incorporating in hands on, visual learning in a clinical setting.

*I included a separate post with a small abstract and link to this article on my blog for future references. I highly recommend everyone takes some time to read her article. Miller has some helpful tips on memorization.


Miller, M. (2014) Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science. Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s