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King's Hedges Educational Federation

Excellence, achieved through care, creativity and challenge.

King's Hedges Educational Federation

Excellence, achieved through care, creativity and challenge.

Memory and Learning 

‘Learning can be defined as an alteration in long-term memory - If nothing has altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learned.’

(Ofsted, 2021; drawn from Kirschner, Sweller, Clark, 2006)


 The University of Bedfordshire invited us to join them in a research project that would lead to the generation of a ‘priming tool kit’. This upskilled and increased the knowledge of the participating teachers in year 4. They learnt about the science of ‘priming’ and created a plan to implement the theory into classroom practice. They trialled spacing the learning to secure it in long-term memory for writing. The University of Bedfordshire gathered the results and created a toolkit for use in the classroom.


Why is strong memory formation important?

  • If remembering knowledge is important to learning then stable long term memory is important.
  • We currently spend a lot of time conditioning memories to help learning.
  • We could potentially reduce the amount of time we spend conditioning memories if we form stronger memories in the first place.


The Priming Project

  • ‘What effect does controlling the practice of ‘priming’ have on both retrieval ability and the wider learning experience of a range of primary and secondary school age students?’

Key points

  • Aim to form stronger memories from the beginning to reduce the amount of time needed for learning.
  • Build stronger memories by teaching and revisiting at key times – activation, reactivation and stabilisation.
  • Any recall expectations must start with a warm reactivation of the memory. Not cold recall.
  • Memory is not formed in a one off event.


Implementing the findings


‘Geog Your Memory’ Project


  • Intent - To improve recall of substantive and disciplinary knowledge throughout the school through short sessions over a half term.


  • Purpose - Feedback from pupil questionnaires in Autumn 2022 indicate lack of confidence in use of geographical vocabulary e.g. local area, city, country, region, county, continent. When asked, many muddled up the terminology and/or could not locate exactly where on a map. Retention of knowledge was not consistent.


  • The 6 week project would provide teachers with a 15-20min slot (during class assembly time) to jog memory on locational knowledge previously taught, and time to spend building this locational knowledge through map skills to give it purpose: seeing different types of maps, how to use them, how to read them and why they are purposeful.


  • Apply the theory of Priming by intentionally planning for memory formation, reactivation and then stabilisation of the memory for geographical knowledge.


Intended Impact:


1) to build locational knowledge of the local area, UK and the Wider World.


2) to build confidence and experience in map work so that when pupils come across different types of maps in future Geography lessons, they feel more confident in approaching tasks, lessening cognitive overload of new information on a new place, new human / physical process to understand and how to find these using maps.


Staff Survey


  • Marco, A., Meharena, H.S., Dileep, V. et al. Mapping the epigenomic and transcriptomic interplay during memory formation and recall in the hippocampal engram ensemble. Natural Neuroscience 23, pp. 1606–1617 (2020).
  • Priming – The Neuroscience of memory formation. A toolkit for helping schools use the science of priming in their teaching. Dr James Shea & Dr Gareth Bates.