Verbal Learning: Methods, Types & Processes

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  • 0:04 Definitions, Methods,…
  • 0:36 Serial Learning
  • 1:13 Paired-Associate Learning
  • 2:18 Organizational Processes
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we'll discuss methods and materials used in verbal learning as well as the organizational processes associated with it. We'll also take a look at serial learning and paired-associate learning.

Definitions, Methods, and Materials

Have you ever struggled with memorizing your shopping list? Verbal learning is the process of actively memorizing new material using mental pictures, associations, and other activities. Verbal learning was first studied by Hermann Ebbinghaus, who used lists of nonsense syllables to test recall. Later, Frederic Bartlett refuted Ebbinghaus' beliefs that nonsense syllables had an advantage over using words when testing verbal learning because the use of words adds the element of making a meaningful connection between words. Let's find out more about verbal learning.

Serial Learning

Serial learning is memorizing a list of words in a particular order. Some assessments have been developed to measure serial learning. Typically, people can effectively memorize the words at the beginning and end of the list, but struggle more with remembering words in the center of the list. Recall is more accurate when subjects make associations between the words in the list. An example of serial learning in school is when students are required to learn the Presidents of the United States in order. Recall of the list is more accurate with the names of the Presidents at the beginning of the list (Washington, Adams, Jefferson...) and at the end (Clinton, Bush, Obama...).

Paired-Associate Learning

Another type of verbal learning is paired-associate learning. Paired-associate learning lists a stimulus and response item together, such as can - light. If a person is prompted with the stimulus word, can, they are more likely to be able to remember the response word, light. In a list, the stimulus words cannot be too similar to one another, or it will be more difficult to recall the response item. For example, jar - fork, container - frame are pairs of stimulus words with similar meaning. Relationships between the stimulus and the response can help the memorization process in pairs such as night - moon, day - sun but hurt the ability to memorize the response word in pairs such as star - sun, day - moon.

The connections between the stimulus and response are improved when they are made using multiple modalities. For example, using words, pictures, role-playing, and other activities improves the memory of paired associations. A strong command of language also improves memory. As a person is acquiring a new language, memory may be impaired.

Organizational Processes

When a subject uses organizational processes to memorize new information, they are more likely to recall it. Some organizational processes include associative clustering, categorical clustering, and subjective organization.

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