Dance, Drama and Performance and Memory / Recall Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email

Paired Associate Learning

Paired Associate Learning (PAL), or flash cards, is a good strategy to use when a subject requires the memorisation and understanding of large amounts of factual material such as various vocabulary words, terms and definitions.

PAL involves the pairing or connection made by the student between a known or unknown stimulus and a known or unknown response. For example, in Economics, the word for buyer is consumer. Buyer is the known stimulus that must be linked to the unknown vocabulary word, consumer. Often both the stimulus and the response are unknown. For example, in art history, students must learn what the word chiaroscuro means. Since chiaroscuro is a word most students have never encountered, both the word (stimulus) and its definition (response) must be learned. The use of Paired Associate (PA) cards is an efficient and effective method of learning this sort of factual material.

The process of using PA cards involves two steps:

  • The development of cards according to your personal learning style.
  • The use of the cards over a period of time for practice and rehearsal
How to Develop Cards

Don’t be discouraged if your first response from the student to the suggestion of making PA cards is a negative one. Many students already feel overloaded by all the demands of Higher Education courses, and they are hesitant to make a commitment to learning a strategy that involves extra work. The use of PAL does require students to prepare cards throughout the semester rather than cramming all of the studying into the night before an exam. On the other hand, students who use PA cards may suffer from far less stress and anxiety before exams because they feel better prepared and more confident.

Students should be encouraged to make cards that are based on their individual learning strengths and weaknesses. For example, auditory learners might develop cards that rhyme ~ the stimulus and the response, visual learners may prefer to use drawings to represent information.

Once the students have developed a style for card making, they should find that they are able to produce effective cards rapidly. They may also find that making cards also gives them proof of studying and a feeling that they are making real progress with their learning.

Using PA Cards to Learn

The second step of PAL is learning the material on the cards. Once the student has developed a group of cards, they can use them to quiz themselves on a regular basis by looking only at one side of the card and trying to remember the proper response. Alternatively, the students can look at the response and try to recall the stimulus.