8.1a: What you will learn
2-3 minutes (5 minutes with video)
- Look over the statements covered in this Block.
- Watch the video, which introduces what you will learn in this Block and why it is important.
- Take your reflections, and any questions you have, to discuss in your first mentor session.
In this Block, you will learn the following:
|2.1 Learning involves a lasting change in pupils’ capabilities or understanding.|
|2.2 Prior knowledge plays an important role in how pupils learn; committing some key facts to their long-term memory is likely to help pupils learn more complex ideas.|
|2.3 An important factor in learning is memory, which can be thought of as comprising two elements: working memory and long-term memory.|
|2.5 Long-term memory can be considered as a store of knowledge that changes as pupils learn by integrating new ideas with existing knowledge.|
|2.7 Regular purposeful practice of what has previously been taught can help consolidate material and help pupils remember what they have learned.|
|2.8 Requiring pupils to retrieve information from memory, and spacing practice so that pupils revisit ideas after a gap are also likely to strengthen recall.|
|Learn how to|
|Increase likelihood of material being retained, by:|
|2h Balancing exposition, repetition, practice and retrieval of critical knowledge and skills.|
|2i Planning regular review and practice of key ideas and concepts over time.|
|2j Designing practice, generation and retrieval tasks that provide just enough support so that pupils experience a high success rate when attempting challenging work.|
|2k Increasing challenge with practice and retrieval as knowledge becomes more secure (e.g. by removing scaffolding, lengthening spacing or introducing interacting elements).|
8.1b: Video introduction to the Block
2-3 minutes (5 minutes with 8.1a)
- Watch the video.
- The video outlines what you will cover in this Block.
It’s one thing for pupils to recall the content they have just encountered during a lesson, and quite another for them to be able to recall and use it weeks or even months later.
This is important in all sorts of ways. As we have seen, knowledge and expertise accumulate, with new information linking to and reinforcing what we knew already. Poor recall may well indicate that this is not happening. While as an adult you may not remember everything that you were taught in school, much of it will be helping to support the knowledge you currently have and use. And not unimportantly for schools, pupils’ knowledge is tested at various points in their education to see what they have learned. If everything goes in one ear and out the other, neither the pupil nor the school will get the formal recognition of their successes, and all that this brings.
In Block 2, you explored how pupils learn; how the working memory can become overloaded and how we as teachers can use our understanding of how children learn to design instruction and tasks which support pupils when learning new material. Hopefully, you have been using many of the techniques over the past year, such as introducing new material in small steps and providing worked examples, and have seen the benefit of these in helping pupils to learn better.
This Block builds directly on Block 2. We are now considering how we can make new learning ‘stick’ over time so that pupils remember what they have been taught.
This is relevant at all phases and in all subjects.
In Early Years, you need pupils to be able to remember certain things, such as which hook to put their coats on to avoid chaos at pick-up time! They will also be developing some of the fundamental knowledge and know-how that they need for success at school and throughout their lives.
In Primary and Secondary, as you plan to teach more complex ideas or concepts you will be building on previously taught material. Again, all new learning is based on prior knowledge. Pupils connect new ideas into existing schemata in their long-term memory. The better pupils remember something, the more easily they will be able to grasp new ideas.
The point about not remembering everything we encounter at school is of course important: there is always going to be an element of decay in our memories. This comes down to two main factors; storage strength – how well did you embed the learning in your long-term memory? And retrieval strength – how often you have accessed the memory over time? At some point, knowledge will fade if it is not useful to you or used by you.
Although there is a level of responsibility which lies with your pupils – Did they spend any time revising in advance of the test? Did they actively think about which hook to put their coat onto? – as the teacher you also have responsibility to plan how you will support pupils to retain information over time.
Education researchers have identified some effective ways teachers can help pupils to do this. For example:
- Making sure pupils encounter new material more than once and at spaced intervals
- Incorporating tasks which require pupils to actively retrieve information from their memory
- Providing opportunity to practise new material, ideally with feedback.
The added benefit of planning activities like these into your lessons – and making the reason clear to pupils – is that it demonstrates which study approaches work best. As pupils get older, and do more independent study, they will be using techniques which are shown to be effective as opposed to less effective techniques such as highlighting text or passively re-reading pages of notes.
Remember, it is not just about the exam at the end of the year. You are setting pupils up for a lifetime of learning. In Early Years and Primary you are teaching pupils the foundational skills which they need to access all subjects and disciplines such as reading and writing. At Secondary level, perhaps pupils will choose to continue studying your subject at Key Stage Four, college or university and the knowledge you help them to retain now will form the basis of even more rewarding learning to come.