Encoding and Retrieval
Background Information on Encoding and Retrieval
Encoding and retrieval are intricately linked to memory. They refer to the processes of moving information to and from short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM), respectively. The relationship between memory and the processes of encoding and retrieving is illustrated by the information processing model shown below.
Encoding involves linking new information to existing knowledge in order to make the new information more meaningful. The quality of this process is related to the degree with which new information can be integrated or assimilated with existing knowledge. Much encoding involves labeling thoughts with words, but pictorial or other forms may be used as well. Students should be directed during the encoding process to insure that accurate information is moved to LTM.
A different view of encoding is espoused by some researchers. According to Herrmann, Raybeck and Gutman (1993, p. 13), "registration in an incidental memory task is called encoding." In other words, encoding involves the unintentional storage of information in long-term memory. They label intentional registration "learning".
Retrieval involves drawing on existing knowledge. It forms the basis for all new knowledge. Retrieval of prior knowledge during learning directly affects the amount of new information that can be processed. At-risk students often have low funds of previous knowledge, hampering retrieval and, therefore, the learning process.
A distinction between retrieval and realizing, again based on the issue of intentionality, is made by some authors. "In an intentional memory task, remembering is deliberately influenced by directing attention to certain contents in the working memory. This type of remembering is called retrieval. Retrieval may be conceived as realizing plus emergence produced by intentional manipulations" (Herrmann, Raybeck and Gutman, 1993, p.13-14). Unintentional remembering is referred to as realizing. "Retrieval is more likely to result in [remembering] useful information than realizing since retrieval deliberately goes after certain memories whereas realizing occurs without a purpose" (Herrmann, Raybeck and Gutman, 1993, p. 14).
For more information about the relationship between encoding, retrieval and memory, see the Memory page in the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
Purposes of Encoding and Retrieval Strategies
The purpose of encoding strategies is to improve one's ability to transfer information from short-term memory (STM) to long-term memory (LTM). These strategies involve the development of schemes or networks in order to move information into LTM.
The purpose of retrieval strategies is to improve one's ability to transfer information from long-term memory back to short-term memory.
Advantages of Encoding and Retrieval Strategies
Academically, encoding and retrieval strategies influence one's ability to perform well when evaluated by instructors. Though testing is the most common form of evaluation, and encoding and retrieval strategies have the greatest impact on a student's performance on examinations, evaluation may take the form of class participation and group activities as well.
In addition, encoding and retrieval strategies may improve one's ability to remember information from reading assignments. Effective comprehension and retention of reading materials is vital for class participation, taking exams, and other tasks.
Individuals sometimes have relatively low funds of previous knowledge stored in their memories with which new information may be linked. Therefore, encoding and retrieval strategies may help to compensate for this deficiency.
The following encoding and retrieval strategies are described in this page.
Strategies described in the Memory page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack are also relevant for individuals who want to improve their encoding and retrieval skills.