Ever wonder why you can go over a book again and again and still be completely lost when tested on what you read? It may be because you haven’t practiced remembering.

The traditional view of knowledge is that it is acquired and stored in the brain to be retrieved later. The acquisition and the storage is meant to be the difficult part. Once the knowledge is in the brain, yes we may forget it over time, but it has been transferred successfully and the learning process is complete.

To that end, educators develop many different methods to help students acquire that knowledge. Some people take new facts or concepts in best by listening to an informal lecture. Others learn best when they read or when they have a visual picture. Still others learn best when they have a chance to manipulate the concept in order to completely understand it. Schools try to incorporate many different techniques to get students to download the concepts they’re trying to learn.

Some research, however, suggests that successful learning is more complicated than attaining information. The brain also needs practice in calling up the information at will. Students can go over a text, or understand and manipulate information as much as they need to, but in order to have learned something successfully, they need to have the information at the ready. A recent study followed two groups of students. They both learned something from a text.

One group made diagrams about the concepts and associations in the text, as a way of more firmly encoding information. The other group simply put the text away and tried recalling the concepts that they had just looked over.

Both groups did equally well on a test given immediately after their study period. However, when they returned a week later, the group that practiced remembering did much better than the one that had used the extra time to re-learn. Perhaps, just like the body, the mind has to practice moves over and over again to become good at them, even when it’s only recollecting memories.

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