In “Use Personal and Adaptive Learning Tools,” we looked at how to approach a Bible study. In this study we focus on connecting— and that is all about similarities. Understanding the similarities and differences between ideas is critical. Information stored in the brain is locked in a metaphorical file that has a name—without the name, no information.
The human brain retrieves information by differences. It is also a pattern seeker. That’s why there are categories everywhere. Restaurants, for example: Italian, Mexican, Chinese, all-American steakhouse, etc.
The brain stores information by similarities. Looking for similarities in new information and chunking it into categories improves your memory capacity. Connecting even propels the ideas into your long-term memory. Connections lead to greater levels of understanding.
Understanding is the “glue” in the learning process.
- Procedural memory (how) is long-term memory that consists of skills you have learned, e.g., walking, riding a bike, shooting a basketball. In Sabbath School one procedural memory function might be the ability to locate books of the Bible—if they had been previously learned.
- Declarative memory (what) is long-term memory that contains facts, figures, words, and events from your past. Many of these declarative memories are personal, while many are not. Declarative memory comes into play with biblical facts or verses you once learned.
- Working memory is temporary. This brain location has limited space where you can build, take apart, or rework ideas entering your brain for possible long-term storage. But your working memory can handle only a few items at once.
If you “chunk” the information into categories, however, you can increase the number of items your brain can hold in working memory and the chance of storing them in long-term memory—which is what you want! Quickly read through the following list of words. Then cover them up and see how many you remember.
Seven is the maximum that researchers say adults can usually store in their working memory. Because the words are random, you treated each word as a single item. So your working memory just ran out of functional capability.
The good news is that you can increase the number of items within the functional capacity of working memory by using a process called “chunking.” Try memorizing the words again, this time chunked into the following categories:
Was it easier to recall more of the words? For most people, chunking improves recall. Connecting is that place in the learning cycle when the “light” in your brain comes on. You should think of the connecting mind frame as your brain “save all” function key. The connecting mind frame stores important information in a place that will be available as long as you need it.
A Sabbath School facilitator needs to understand that class members who have grown up in the Adventist church may have more “connections” with the lesson than newer believers and guests. So allow time for discussion of varied backgrounds, and honor past experiences. The most important factor isn’t how much one already knows, but how much one wants to learn!
Remember, “He who created the mind and ordained its laws, provided for its development in accordance with them” (Education, p. 41).
W. Eugene Brewer
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists