Stages of Memory Encoding Storage and Retrieval

Memory is the term given to the structures and processes involved in the storage and subsequent retrieval of information.

Memory is essential to all our lives. Without a memory of the past we cannot operate in the present or think about the future.  We would not be able to remember what we did yesterday, what we have done today or what we plan to do tomorrow.  Without memory we could not learn anything.

Memory is involved in processing vast amounts of information. This information takes many different forms, e.g. images, sounds or meaning.

For psychologists the term memory covers three important aspects of information processing:

stages of memory


1. Memory Encoding

When information comes into our memory system (from sensory input), it needs to be changed into a form that the system can cope with, so that it can be stored.  Think of this as similar to changing your money into a different currency when you travel from one country to another.  For example, a word which is seen (in a book) may be stored if it is changed (encoded) into a sound or a meaning (i.e. semantic processing).

There are three main ways in which information can be encoded (changed):

1. Visual (picture)

2. Acoustic (sound)

3. Semantic (meaning)

For example, how do you remember a telephone number you have looked up in the phone book?  If you can see it then you are using visual coding, but if you are repeating it to yourself you are using acoustic coding (by sound).

Evidence suggests that this is the principle coding system in short term memory (STM) is acoustic coding.  When a person is presented with a list of numbers and letters, they will try to hold them in STM by rehearsing them (verbally).  Rehearsal is a verbal process regardless of whether the list of items is presented acoustically (someone reads them out), or visually (on a sheet of paper).

The principle encoding system in long term memory (LTM) appears to be semantic coding (by meaning).  However, information in LTM can also be coded both visually and acoustically.

2. Memory Storage

This concerns the nature of memory stores, i.e. where the information is stored, how long the memory lasts for (duration), how much can be stored at any time (capacity) and what kind of information is held.  The way we store information affects the way we retrieve it.  There has been a significant amount of research regarding the differences between Short Term Memory (STM ) and Long Term Memory (LTM).

Most adults can store between 5 and 9 items in their short-term memory.  Miller (1956) put this idea forward and he called it the magic number 7.  He though that short-term memory capacity was 7 (plus or minus 2) items because it only had a certain number of “slots” in which items could be stored.

However, Miller didn’t specify the amount of information that can be held in each slot.  Indeed, if we can “chunk” information together we can store a lot more information in our short-term memory.  In contrast the capacity of LTM is thought to be unlimited.

Information can only be stored for a brief duration in STM (0-30 seconds), but LTM can last a lifetime.

3. Memory Retrieval

This refers to getting information out storage.  If we can’t remember something, it may be because we are unable to retrieve it.  When we are asked to retrieve something from memory, the differences between STM and LTM become very clear.

STM is stored and retrieved sequentially.  For example, if a group of participants are given a list of words to remember, and then asked to recall the fourth word on the list, participants go through the list in the order they heard it in order to retrieve the information.

LTM is stored and retrieved by association.  This is why you can remember what you went upstairs for if you go back to the room where you first thought about it.

Organizing information can help aid retrieval.  You can organize information in sequences (such as alphabetically, by size or by time).  Imagine a patient being discharged from hospital whose treatment involved taking various pills at various times, changing their dressing and doing exercises.  If the doctor gives these instructions in the order which they must be carried out throughout the day (i.e. in sequence of time), this will help the patient remember them.

Criticisms of Memory Experiments

A large part of the research on memory is based on experiments conducted in laboratories.  Those who take part in the experiments – the participants – are asked to perform tasks such as recalling lists of words and numbers.  Both the setting – the laboratory – and the tasks are a long way from everyday life.  In many cases, the setting is artificial and the tasks fairly meaningless.  Does this matter?

Psychologists use the term ecological validity to refer to the extent to which the findings of research studies can be generalized to other settings.  An experiment has high ecological validity if its findings can be generalized, that is applied or extended, to settings outside the laboratory.

It is often assumed that if an experiment is realistic or true-to-life, then there is a greater likelihood that its findings can be generalized.  If it is not realistic (if the laboratory setting and the tasks are artificial) then there is less likelihood that the findings can be generalized.  In this case, the experiment will have low ecological validity.

Many experiments designed to investigate memory have been criticized for having low ecological validity.  First, the laboratory is an artificial situation.  People are removed from their normal social settings and asked to take part in a psychological experiment.  They are directed by an ‘experimenter’ and may be placed in the company of complete strangers.  For many people, this is a brand new experience, far removed from their everyday lives.  Will this setting affect their actions, will they behave normally?

Often, the tasks participants are asked to perform can appear artificial and meaningless.  Few, if any, people would attempt to memorize and recall a list of unconnected words in their daily lives.  And it is not clear how tasks such as this relate to the use of memory in everyday life.  The artificiality of many experiments has led some researchers to question whether their findings can be generalized to real life.  As a result, many memory experiments have been criticized for having low ecological validity.


Matlin, M. W. (2005). Cognition. Crawfordsville: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63 (2): 81–97.

Sternberg, R. J. (1999). Cognitive psychology (2 nd ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.



Stages of Memory: Encoding, Storage and Retrieval


  1. Evidence of reliability of the article

The article that I have chosen for my PIDP 3100 Assignment 3 is entitled Stages of Memory: Encoding, Storage and Retrieval by author Saul McLeod and was published to his website in 2013. McLeod provides a detailed background of his education and experience which I found to lead credibility to his article. He also notes that he receives 3,000,000 visitors to his site and there are several discussion threads on his website where people are providing feedback, thanks and opinions about his articles. Also, McLeod provides links to the sources that he quotes in his article and I reviewed them and found them to be accurate and relevant.

McLeod notes that his intended audience is A-level psychology students from the UK, but that he is starting to write articles for a broader audience. McLeod notes that he now has a lot of visitors from the US visiting his site.

For these reasons, I believe that this is a reliable article to reference for this assignment.

  1. Summarize the principle or principles described in the article

“Memory is essential to all our lives. Without a memory of the past we cannot operate in the present or think about the future… Without memory we could not learn anything” (McLeod, 2013, para. 2). The principle of this article is that we are presented with a multitude of information in various formats and that our brain processes and retains this information using different means. Broken down to its simplest terms, the stages for memory are: encoding, storage, retrieval.



McLeod uses an excellent example of why our memory must encode messages: “when information comes into our memory system (from sensory input), it needs to be changed into a form that the system can cope with, so that it can be stored.  Think of this as similar to changing your money into a different currency when you travel from one country to another” (McLeod, 2013, para. 5). The Human Memory notes that “encoding is the crucial first step to creating a new memory” (Mastin, n.d., para 1). In other words, if we are unable to encode what we see, experience, taste or feel, then we will not create a memory of it.

There are three main ways that a memory can be encoded: visual (picture), acoustic (sound) or semantic (meaning). McLeod indicates that acoustic and visual are the principle encoding methods of short-term memory storage and semantic appears to be the principle encoding method for long-term memory storage.

Short-term memory (STM) storage is defined as “a system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Short-term memory is involved in the selection, initiation, and termination of information-processing functions such as encoding, storing, and retrieving data” (, n.d., para 1).

Long-term memory (LTM) “refers to the storage of information over an extended period. If you can remember something that happened more than just a few moment ago whether it occurred just hours ago or decades earlier, then it is a long-term memory” (Cherry, 2016, para. 1).



McLeod notes that “the way we store information affects the way we retrieve it” (McLeod, 2013, para. 10). This relates to STM and LTM storage (referenced above). Previous studies conducted by American psychologist George Miller (1956) indicated that perhaps adults could only store 5-7 pieces of information in our STM. However, McLeod notes that there was no reference to the amount of each piece of information and that we may be able to store more information if we use “chunking”. Chunking “is a term referring to the process of taking individual pieces of information (chunks) and grouping them into larger units. By grouping each piece into a large whole, you can improve the amount of information you can remember” (Cherry, 2016, para. 2). STM is believed to only last about 30 seconds while LTM can last a lifetime.



 McLeod notes that there is a distinct difference between STM and LTM which becomes very clear during the retrieval stage. STM is generally recalled sequentially. In other words, “if a group of participants are given a list of words to remember, and then asked to recall the fourth word on the list, participants go through the list in the order they heard it in order to retrieve the information” (McLeod, 2013, para 15). However, LTM storage is retrieved by association. “This is why you can remember what you went upstairs for if you go back to the room where you first thought about it” (McLeod, 2013, para. 16).

McLeod notes that organizing information is the best way to aid in its retrieval. You can organize things sequentially, by chunking it, or by associating it to something else.



McLeod looks at various experiments that have been conducted in relation to memory and their flaws. Generally, these experiments take place in laboratories, however their outcomes are generalized. Meaning that if all things remained the same in a true-to-life scenario, then the same outcome would be expected. Often, however, participants are removed from their usual surroundings and are then asked to perform tasks. Is it logical to expect them to have the same reactions or outcomes if they were in their familiar surroundings? Furthermore, McLeod notes that the people in these studies are often asked to remember items that they would never try to remember in the first place (random unrelated items in a specific order). McLeod concludes that “the artificiality of many experiments has led some researchers to question whether their findings can be generalized to real life.  As a result, many memory experiments have been criticized for having low ecological validity” (McLeod, 2013, para. 22).


  1. Describe the applicability of the principle to your practice.

 As wonderful as sailing is, it is also an extremely frustrating sport for some people. Every little piece of equipment has a specific name. “No, that is not a rope. It is a halyard. No, that is not a bumper. It is a fender.” I am constantly correcting my students on the terminology that they use on the boats in an effort to teach them the traditional methods of sailing.

Most people would consider me a purist when it comes to sailing. I do not really know how to use a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit on a boat, but I can plot a course on a chart faster than you can yell “gybe”! I take pride in knowing some of the more traditional methods of sailing and I try to impart those on my students. This is where memory plays a big role.

I generally use chunking for my students when I am teaching. I have acronyms, synonyms, and songs to help everyone remember bits and pieces. But, not everyone learns the same way, and so it is important for me to be aware of how memory and retention work. This is why I chose this article. For example, the safety gear required on a vessel between 8-10 m uses the acronym FLAPMESH (flares, light, anchor, PFD, manual bailer, extinguisher, sound signaling device, heaving line). Whenever I teach students about their safety gear, I use this acronym as a method to help them remember the specific items that are required. However, I also provide them with a copy of the Safe Boating Guide which contains illustrations and more written material that they can memorize if they wish.

I also use visual cues and stories for students when we are out on the boats. On the foresail, you have two pieces of yarn called ticklers. When the sail is perfect, the ticklers are happy and they leave the sail alone (they fly straight back). When you are too close to the wind, the tickler closest to you starts to dance as it wants to be back with its partner. When you are too far from the wind, the tickler behind the sail starts to dance as now he wants to be back with his partner. Keeping your ticklers happy is important in making sure that you are on your proper heading and sailing the boat in the most efficient manner.

One of the most trying lessons for students is usually the Crew Overboard (COB) procedure. This is a very high stress time for people. If someone has fallen off of your boat it is possible that they are injured, unconscious, or unable to swim. For a COB maneuver, I teach a simple method called the “Triangle” method. I first introduce this method to the students on a whiteboard or chalkboard where I show them all the various points of sail and how to complete the triangle method the exact same way every time. In this case, I am using repetition to help the students memorize this method. Regardless of which point of sail you are on and which tack, you always move to a beam reach. From there you count 10 seconds and tack to a broad reach. When the person in the water is abeam, you luff the foresail and approach them to leeward. You have your ladder down, boathook out, heaving line ready and then you luff your mainsail. Voila! You’ve recovered them safely!

Obviously, these lessons are more complicated in real life, but having the students associate, repeat or use acronyms to recall information greatly enhances their success in the course. I also use flashcards for terminology and I have a set of drawings with fill in the blanks for boat parts and rigging which the students also enjoy. I usually provide these as alternative learning means for the students for evening or weekend work outside of the classroom.

Overall, the article that I used has helped me to understand the basic elements of memory retention and recall. The idea of organizing information is of interest to me and I will work to organize my course lectures into more practical groupings of information for the students so they can retain it better and recall it more readily. As always, I will endeavor to introduce and utilize different methods of retention for the students to they can learn in whichever way suits them best.



Author Unknown. (n.d.). Definition of Short-Term Memory. Retrieved from

Cherry, K. (2016). What is Long-Term Memory? Retrieved from

Cherry, K. (2016). What is Chunking and How Can It Improve Your Memory? Retrieved from

Mastin, L. (n.d.). Memory Encoding. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A. (2013). Stages of Memory – Encoding Storage and Retrieval. Retrieved from

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63 (2): 81–97.



Trends in Adult Education – Post 3 “Aha” Moment

Well I don’t think it will be a surprised to anyone to know that my “aha” moment was with the gender equality trend. Specifically, the neutral language. However, there was a quote in my article that I have not discussed yet that hit home for me. “A study carried out in the UK found that the gender of teachers had very little effect on the performance of either boys or girls” (OECD, 2014, p. 5). I wonder if this holds true for adult students?

As I often find myself being challenged as a female sailing instructor, I have just assumed that this is due to the fact that older students are used to seeing male instructors. As noted in my previous post I do not take this personally, but I view it as a challenge to better my teaching. However, do they get more or less out of my classes because I am a female? I have had sailing schools approach me with requests to teach for them specifically because I am female and they want to broaden their sailing student market and get more women involved in the sport. Maybe in this case using gender neutral language is not enough? Maybe having a same-sex instructor would bring more out of the female students?

I myself have decided to offer a Women in Wind sailing series this summer for women-only sailors here in Nelson. I know there is a market out there for it as I have specifically been asked to run it. But why? Why can we not have both sexes working together being taught by whichever sex but with the same outcome?

Well, now I know that I will have to keep digging further into this trend to see if I can make heads or tails of it. I am glad that I chose this trend to look at as it has really caused me to reflect on something that I have always known is there, but I’m not quite sure why it is there or if it will ever go away.

In the meantime, I will keep sailing along…


Photo credit:


OECD (n.d.) Trends Shaping Education 2015 Spotlight 7, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from:

Trends in Adult Education – Post 2 Implications

Alright, time to dive deeper into the two trends Andrea and I are focussing on: gender equality and gamification in the classroom.


Photo credit:

Gender Equality

“Education plays an important role in ensuring that women and men have the same opportunities in their personal and professional lives, through formal schooling, shaping attitudes and transforming behaviours” (OECD, n.d., para. 1).

Unfortunately, I learned about professional gender inequality when I was 16 and discovered that I was making less money than my younger, inexperienced, male counterpart. I was told that is just the way it is. Well that answer was not good enough for me so I approached my boss with a list of reasons outlining why I deserved more money and I was eventually granted the same salary as my male counterpart (not the salary that I actually deserved mind you).

This article indicates that inequalities are not part of who we are, they are taught to us through society and the perceived roles that men and women should perform.

“Flabbi and Tejada (2012) find that gender differences in field of study are not strongly related to expectations about labour market outcomes, as measure by wages and occupational segregation. They argue that girls and boys make different choices for a number of reasons, such as the historical predominance of men in manual occupations, potentially innate preferences, thinking of future family obligations, as well as stereotypical expectations at home and amongst peers and teachers.” (OECD, 2015 p. 8)

As you are aware, I am a female sailing instructor. Sailing is predominantly a male-dominated sport. I have been to yacht clubs that still have separate male and female entrances or rooms that are for the “men of the club” only. Interestingly, I have never viewed this as a personal attack. I have always thought it was “interesting” and that it then became a challenge for me to break through the gender barriers. So far I have managed to do so quite successfully and I am proud of my sailing achievements and my instructional abilities.


Photo credit:

One of my goals as an instructor is to make sailing accessible to whomever wants to try it. At the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, where I coached in 1997, I even went so far as to re-rig an entire boat for a little boy who had no hands and no feet as I was determined to have him experience the thrill of sailing on his own. I still have his personal thank you note in my drawer as a reminder that anyone can do anything with the right amount of help.

A big area of discussion for Andrea and I was the use of gender-neutral language. The definition of “gender” seems to be evolving on a daily basis. It used to just include male or female sex. However, now there are over 30 different names for people who identify themselves in different ways2. Andrea and I spent a lot of time discussing the different gender identities that we may encounter throughout our teaching and noted that we must keep our teaching language as neutral as possible.

My article notes that “Performance differences are driven by the fact that schools and societies foster different levels of self-confidence, motivation and interests for different subject areas among boys and girls […] these stereotypical differences can be overcome” (OECD, 2015). A way to overcome these stereotypical differences is to change our language. A big area for me to work on is ensuring that my courses are gender neutral and that the language that I use is also gender neutral. Now, if you have ever sailed before you know that sailing has a language of its own, so this part should not be too hard for me! However, ensuring that my students have equal opportunities to perform equal tasks (raising sails, weighing anchor, helming, navigating), can sometimes be tricky depending on my crew. This is especially a tricky area when I have a couple on board as they tend to gravitate towards their traditional spousal roles (the wife will make lunches in the galley while the husband helms and manages the sails). This may be the best division of labour on the boat, but I always make sure each person is adequately trained in every aspect of sailing a boat. You never know who may fall overboard!

Andrea shared with me an evaluation tool (questionnaire) where a teacher can check to see if their course is gender neutral ( As I work my way through the PIDP I plan to use this tool to make sure that my sailing courses remain gender neutral and accessible to all.


Photo credit: EdTechReview


I have been really intrigued about gamification and how to apply it to my sailing courses. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of apps or games out there designed specifically for sailing. Since reading this article I have managed to find a couple, however they are quite basic and I’m not sure I would recommend them to my students for learning.

However, I think there is definitely a way that I can include some form of gamification in my classroom. The idea of a jeopardy game is always a good way to go. Most students really enjoy this format and I could easily break down my lessons into different pieces (sailing terms, navigational aids, emergency situations, etc.).

I am glad that Andrea chose this trend as I think it is one that many teachers need to be aware of as it is not going anywhere anytime soon! In fact, the use of virtual reality and simulators would be ideal for sailing students and I could see this type of instruction taking off in the near future (such as with pilots).

Overall, there is a need for me to stay abreast of the changes in these two trends in adult education. As noted above, gender equality seems to be changing on a daily basis. Similarly, technology is an ever-evolving field as well. As I move through improving my teaching strategies I intend to stay well versed in any changes in these trends.




OECD (n.d.) Trends Shaping Education 2015 Spotlight 7, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from:

  1. Comprehensive List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions. Retrieved from:


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Analysis of Gamification in Education

Gamification refers to the application of game dynamics, mechanics, and frameworks into non-game settings. Many educators have attempted, with varying degrees or success, to effectively utilize game dynamics to increase student motivation and achievement in the classroom. […]
Scott, A. and Neustaedter, C. Analysis of Gamification in Education. School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University.

All About Me


My name is Penny and I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend and adult educator. I have a passion for sharing my knowledge of all things related to sailing and I have been teaching adults this beautiful sport for over 20 years now.

I was born in Montreal and have been sailing since the ripe ol’ age of 6 months (or so I am told!). I was tucked under my mom’s arm and we sailed out into the bay at our cottage in Metis-sur-Mer. I have been hooked ever since.


After completing a BA in Spanish and a BA in Translation at the University of Ottawa, I worked for the Federal Government for 10 years before deciding to seek a simpler family life in the Kootenays. We relocated our family to Nelson over 2 years ago now, and we have not looked back!


I currently work at Selkirk College in Nelson and I am working on my BC Provincial Instructor Diploma Program so I can move into a full-time career of being an adult educator. I envision myself teaching language courses (French, English or Spanish), but who knows where this journey may take me!


My family is my biggest pride and joy and my main focus out here in the Kootenays is to teach our girls as much as I can about Canada and what our wonderful country has to offer. I also plan on getting them out on the water as often as possible!


My heart belongs to my cottage on the St Lawrence River… but if I cannot live out there, Nelson is the next best thing.

I hope you enjoy my blog posts as I work my way through my PIDP certification and I will upload as many sailing resources and tips as I can! Enjoy!

Trends Shaping Education 2015 Spotlight

Over the past decades, societies in the OECD have made considerable progress in terms of gender equality.  Education plays an important role in ensuring that women and men have the same opportunities in their personal and professional lives, through formal schooling, shaping attitudes and transforming behaviours. […]

Burns, T. (2013) OECD: Trends Shaping Education 2015. OECD Publishing.

Trends in Adult Education – Post 1 Trends: Gamification & Gender Equality

For my BC Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) Assignment #2, my partner Andrea and I have to discuss two trends in adult education. I have chosen to look at gender equality.

Gender Equality

marie_imageImage source: Marie Images

Gender equality [n]:Gender equality does not imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment” (Cambridge English Dictionary).

The article that I have chosen Trends Shaping Education 2015 – Gender Equality highlights that there are “gender stereotypes that still influence children in their perception of which subjects they should find interesting and in which areas and activities they might excel” (OECD, 2015, p. 10). The fact is, our society has a perception of which roles men and women should perform and this in turn has entered our educational system and it causes children to determine at a fairly young age which disciplines they think are acceptable for them to pursue regardless of their individual strengths and interests.

I am by no means a feminist. I consider myself to be an individualist. An individualist is “a person who is independent and self-reliant” (Oxford Dictionary).  If you believe that you are going to be good at something or that you want to pursue something, do it!

As a sailing instructor, I have worked with many adults over the years and I have noticed slight differences between the learning styles and approaches of men and women. Men tend to be more confident and hands-on on the boat, while women tend to sit back and be more analytical. I have often wondered, is this due to self-confidence? Perceived physical strength? Societal gender roles? I look forward to diving further into this educational trend…



 Image source:

Andrea has chosen to look at game-based learning and how games can be incorporated into a learning environment.  Andrea’s article is entitled Analysis of Gamification in Education. You can find Andrea’s blog at

Gamification [n]: “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

The introduction of games to the learning environment is a way to diversify the method of delivery and a way to potentially increase student engagement. Gaming offers a safe environment for students to “fail” and “incorporating this ‘freedom to fail’ into classroom design is noted to be an effective dynamic in increasing student engagement” (Stott, p. 1). I found this aspect of gaming very interesting, as often the fear of failure is what holds most of us back. Also, gaming introduces ongoing feedback and self-assessments as the student can clearly see their progress as they complete tasks in the game.

Gamification is a new area to me in the world of sailing and I intent to explore this trend further through my students. I have begun to look for possible apps and online games that could help me with my sailing instruction and provide my students with some alternative learning resources.


Cambridge Business English Dictionary. (2017). Gender Equality. Cambridge University Press.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2017). Gamification.

OECD (n.d.). Trends Shaping Education 2015 Spotlight 7, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from:

Oxford Dictionary. (2017). Individualist.

Stott, A & Neustaedter, C. (n.d.) Analysis of Gamification in Education Retrieved from: