What College Teachers Should Know About Memory: A Perspective From Cognitive Psychology

Michelle D. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Cognitive psychology has much to contribute to our understanding of the best ways to promote learning and memory in the college classroom. However, cognitive theory has evolved considerably in recent decades, and it is important for instructors to have an up-to-date understanding of these theories, particularly those—such as memory theories—that bear directly on how students absorb new information. This article offers a non-technical overview of major theoretical ideas on memory, geared to instructors who want to optimize their teaching to take advantage of the way human memory works. Relevant theories of short-term and working memory are reviewed, with particular attention to how these have been refined and changed in recent years. Long-term memory is also discussed, with emphasis on the concept that human memory is an adaptation shaped by natural selection, an idea that instructors can use to create more memorable learning experiences. Lastly, the article presents a set of predictions regarding future trends in teaching-related cognitive theory; these include an increasing emphasis on the role of attention in memory, new understanding of the limitations of working memory, de-emphasis on perceptual learning styles and increased emphasis on frequent testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-122
Number of pages6
JournalCollege Teaching
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011


  • cognition
  • current developments
  • educational theory
  • memory
  • theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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