How students learn

Information processing


The information processing theory focuses on the idea that humans process the information they receive from the environment, in the manner of a computer, rather than merely responding to stimuli.  

The student's brain brings information in, manipulates it, and stores it ready for future use – this is the learning aspect. 

In information processing theory, as the student takes in information, that information is first briefly stored as sensory storage; then moved to the short term or working memory;  and then either forgotten or transferred to the long term memory, as:

  • semantic memories (concepts and general information);
  • procedural memories (processes); and
  • images. 

This theory addresses how as children grow, their brains likewise mature, leading to advances in their ability to process and respond to the information they received through their senses. The theory emphasizes a continuous pattern of development.

The transference of information to the long term memory is important, as information cannot rest in the short term memory (the short term memory can only hold seven pieces of information at a time). An overload in the short term memory can result in cognitive overload.

Teachers can help students who are suffering from information overload by letting students know what are the critical elements of the information; in other words, prioritizing the information.  

Make sure you have the students’ attention, and help students to make connections between new material and what they already know.

Provide for repetition and review of information, present material in a very clear manner, and focus on the meaning of information (OLTC, 1996).

Helping students memorise - Tips from cignitive science