If teaching were the same as telling, we would all be so smart we could hardly stand ourselves!! 

Information processing (I-P) theory is a well documented theory about how people learn. Understanding a little about the theory can help you improve your teaching strategies.

If you want to be a good teacher

I-P theory uses the human brain as a model for learning.

Figure 3 shows a representative information processing model. I-P theory postulates that there are three memory systems: sensory memory, short term (or working) memory, and long-term memory. The human mind takes in information from the environment (it attends or focuses), performs operations to change the form and content of the information (it organizes the information in some logical way), and stores the information in the long-term memory so that it can later be retrieved when it is needed.

Fig 3. The I-P Theory Model for Learning

The short-term, or working, memory has a very limited capacity. Information is held there for just a few seconds. Because of this, and the limited capacity of the working memory, information must be chunked into groups for it to be meaningful. Since only a few chunks of information can be held in the short-term memory at any one time, ideas must be organized into meaningful units.

Chunking information for learning

In summary, processing information involves gathering information by attending to it and representing the information in the short-term memory — which is called organizing and encoding. Holding the information or transferring it to the long-term memory lets you store it until you need to retrieve it. Understanding these processes and memory structures can help instructors prepare and present instructional materials more effectively.

For more about using the information processing approach in the classroom, go to Educational Psychology Interactive or Theories Used in IS Research.


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