John Hopkins Research Makes Learning By Heart Faster

This article by Jeff Hadden. He was a delight to read and brought to mind our own recent experience in favor of the effects of memory reconsolidation.

According to research from Johns Hopkins,

If you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row. Why? The most likely cause is reconsolidation, a process where existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge."

Looking back at the CGIE 2017 work with Palomares Spiritual Empowerment Program; (PSEP) we observe the evidence of the memory reconsolidation process benefits and success in memorization as explained below.


The student body and the 5 interns were assigned a passage from Paris Talks on the importance of social justice, to learn, discuss, memorize and recite. The students were composed of a mixture of freshman, soft, and seniors class. At the time all minority students were coping with a new looming crisis. All were deeply concerned and scared about the news of deportation of themselves and their families and the subject of justice and expression of humanity was at the center of their minds. In the exploration of a process to empower and equip them to rise and handle the crisis in the best possible ways we found the passage an empowering message. The students discussed the meaning of the passage and agreed on how it conveys and frames the concerns of their hearts and minds. They felt motivated and excited to memorize it and recite it on special occasions of civil discourse in defense of justice at their school or town halls or places of worship.

Our curriculum team joined our students in memorization of the passage from The Paris Talks of Abdu’l-Baha about Justice. The passage is as follows:

"Each man has been placed in a post of honour, which he must not desert. A humble workman who commits an injustice is as much to blame as a renowned tyrant. Thus we all have our choice between justice and injustice.

I hope that each one of you will become just, and direct your thoughts towards the unity of mankind; that you will never harm your neighbours nor speak ill of any one; that you will respect the rights of all men, and be more concerned for the interests of others than for your own."

The Process

The students wrote the passage on the whiteboard. Then they each took turns reading it aloud a couple of times making sure they understood the meaning of the words.


The next day we visited the passage again. Then we began the step-by-step process of a student volunteer reading the passage out loud and then selecting to erase a word leaving only a line in its place. The next volunteer would read the whole passage aloud making sure to include the erased word and then erase a second word.  As the process of repetition of reading and erasing continued, more and more of the words were replaced by a horizontal line and reconsolidation was taking hold!  The student who had to read the passage had to remember the whole passage from memory while the rest of the class followed with excitement and support.



The elimination process continued until very little was left from the passage and everyone had memorized the passage. Every attempt during the daily 8:00-10:00 am class was a new chance for reconsolidation.


Empowered and assured

The students felt empowered and energized, motivated, gratified, and assured of witnessing their own success and ability to conquer their own selves. Some said they could not believe they had it in them to learn a long passage by memory in such a short time.


Evaluation, self-assessment, and group reflection

Finally, we had a group reflection using the 5 pointed stars to assess and evaluate what they observed, what they thought about their observation, how they felt about it, what they wish and hope to do as a result of this experience, and what plan of action they have to build on their newly learned skill.  One of the students recited the passage from Paris Talks by heart.

The very metaphor of remembering by heart is by itself indicative that our heart is the seat of our consolidated memories. The job of an educator is to make sure our students fill up their hearts with joyous memories.


The importance of joy in learning

Learning takes place in the context of emotions. It is the privilege of the educator to make it a joyous occasion and the learning process uplifts the hearts. Abdu’l-Baha talks about the importance of joy in the process of learning.

"In this world we are influenced by two sentiments, Joy and Pain.

Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings. There is no human being untouched by these two influences; but all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter—the spiritual world bestows only the joy!"

Paris Talks

I feel honored to share this video of our student’s reflections on what they have learned in PSEP and what they appreciate about it.


Instruction for a community fun activity of  Memory Reconsolidation

  • Invite the community to choose a special social justice issue or cause, youth and children included.
  • Share the instruction from John Hopkins research for memory reconsolidation.
  • Allow every teams of two, time to select their special passage from Baha’i prayers or Hidden Words.
  • Remember that one wonderful way of changing a passage to help reconsolidate a memory is putting it into music or a rap with different rhythms.
  • Allow 15 minutes for every team to practice.
  • Share you insights about the process per each person’s experience.
  • Invite parents and comunity to celebrate the outcome of you new learning.
  • Share food to intensify the positive feelings of every one’s accomplishment.


Once the group tasted the sweet flavor of success, participants can now choose another form of memorization activity to test their memory consolidation experience.


They can brainstorm on examples of activities such as memorization of a poem, playing an instrument, memorization of a set of names, addresses, music notes, instruction to build something, and memorization of a story or history.



A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for over 20 years, specializes in using the Bahá’í Teachings to identify theories, techniques, and approaches that produce the best results for her clients. She is the founder and executive director of the Center for Global Integrated Education, a non-profit Bahá’í-inspired educational organization.


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