Developing Depth of Processing

Once a student determines that information is important to remember or think about, he/she must process it appropriately. Students must constantly adjust the degree to which they think about different information, processing more important information on a deeper level than they do less important information. If information does not sink in deeply enough, understanding and remembering are apt to be incomplete. On the other hand, when students think too deeply about specific information, they may try to take in each little detail, and may work or think too slowly.

Students who are effective at controlling how deeply they process information are often able to move easily between the "big picture" and supporting details, and to file the more important information in memory without excessive repetition.

Here are some strategies for developing depth of processing.

Helpful Hints

  • Repeat directions as needed, and ask students to repeat explanations and instructions or put them into their own words.  
  • Write important information on the board so that students may refer to it whenever necessary.  
  • Request that students paraphrase information, make predictions, and draw inferences at key points during a lesson.  
  • Ask other students to paraphrase or summarize important information during a lesson, and ask the student in focus if he/she has anything to add, or if s/he agrees or disagrees with the statements. NOTE: Carefully consider students’ feelings when you do this. Avoid situations that will cause embarrassment or make a student feel inadequate. Only question children that you feel are likely to succeed at this task.  
  • Pace your instruction to facilitate comprehension, for example, pause for students to take meaningful notes.
  • Teach students how to use active listening skills. For example, introduce a self-monitoring technique for active listening, such as FACT (Focus attention-Ask yourself questions-Connect ideas-Try to picture important ideas) (Houghton Mifflin, 1986).  
  • Provide direction instruction in memory strategies, creating memory pathways (or connections) that are relatively strong. One such strategy might be to draw a storyboard or series of illustrations showing important information from a lecture or text.  
  • Encourage students to use processing strategies, for example, actively visualizing while they read stories, historical accounts, math and science problems, etc.  
  • Impose time limits to ensure that students adequately process information, for example have them take notes on a lecture for at least 15 minutes but no more than 25 minutes.