2. The rationale underlying Timely Reminders

The automaticity of the original learning is one factor which will directly influence the likelihood that generalization will occur, this is true for factual information, vocabulary or skills. If a fact is not securely held in the automatic long-term memory of the learner, then it may not be recalled in stressful situations or when there is an increased load on the processing capacity. The fact may not literally be forgotten, but it may be forgotten in the sense that it cannot be recalled at a particular time. The way to achieve this level of automaticity of recall involves good teaching in the first instance but also, once the information is known, it involves the use of reviewing (Buzan 1996) to ensure that the information is recalled with ease. Once information has been transferred to long-term memory it is technically never lost; however, the information may not be able to be recalled on demand. Reviewing information at certain intervals ensures that recall is more likely and much easier. This is not the same as ‘over learning’, although both aim to ensure that information can be recalled from the long-term memory.

The reviewing process is more complex and relies on the principle that it is better to review or go over a piece of information or skill, while it is still easily recalled, rather than allowing it to be forgotten. Once forgotten, it requires considerable effort to relearn the information and may be demoralizing for all parties concerned.

A review can be a self-test, a test by another person, a prompt by another person which should elicit the required skill/fact/information or simply looking over the work again. The review can be oral or written depending on what is more appropriate and the time available. If reviewing languages or spellings, writing the answer may be useful to reinforce or develop the correct kinaesthetic pattern of the word.

In the reviewing process information should be reviewed 5 minutes after it was properly learned. This test after 5 minutes accomplishes two things. Firstly, it checks whether the skill or information was really learned or whether the teaching/learning method needs to be altered. Secondly, it increases the chance of remembering the information for about a day.

The intervals at which subsequent reviews should be performed are:

  • the next day
  • 2 days later
  • 1 week later
  • 1 month later
  • 3 months later
  • 6 months later
  • 1 year later

Many people like to add 2 weeks later to the system as well – you can experiment to see whether it is helpful to you. Once this process has been completed, information is transferred into automatic long-term memory.

This process of reviewing takes considerable organization and takes time. It should be used on a daily basis for 10 to 25 minutes. It helps improve memory recall of important work. It is used to ensure that key facts, new vocabulary or concepts are able to be recalled efficiently and effectively.

It is possible to organize this reviewing process manually and many people have done this successfully for a number of years. However, as this process of reviewing takes considerable organization CALSC has produced this computer program to organize what needs to be reviewed each day.

The program is available in two versions: Time to Revise is for KS1- KS3 and Timely Reminders is for KS4 and adults. When the computer is turned on Time to Revise or Timely Reminders will remind the learner of the work which needs attention on that day. It allows anyone whether a pupil/student/adult learner or parent/teacher/tutor/ lecturer/therapist to enter an unlimited number of facts, statements, questions and answers of any type. The old adage of “a little and often” is supported by all the research on learning and is especially true for the revision of large quantities of information that is difficult to remember.

The program can be used in conjunction with a person's preferred learning style, e.g. notes, keyword cards or Mind Maps®. The creative use of it rests with the user. It has been used successfully for a very wide range of subjects including language learning, accountancy, law, literacy, definitions, science formulae, dates, places, vocabulary building, spellings and even remembering people’s names.

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