Best Practice

Mnemonics in your lessons: A cautionary overview

Various mnemonic techniques are proposed for use by teachers to help their students retain key information, but how effective are they and which options are the most likely to achieve results? Andrew Jones takes a look

I often wake up in the middle of the night and remember, with some anxiety, something I have forgotten to do. However, I am somewhat reluctant to get out of bed and make a note of this.

As a temporary solution, I throw something from my bedside table, such as a coaster or book, onto the floor and hope that – when I step on it the next morning – my memory will be jogged.

This spontaneous action is essentially a form of mnemonics known as the “method of loci”, which involves remembering items based on their locations. Sometimes called the “memory palace technique”, it is often attributed to the Greek polymath Simonides of Ceos (for an intriguing historical overview, see Kelly, 2013). Of course, it is also synonymous with Sherlock Holmes.

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