The best list of research links – brilliant!

The go-bag

Here, the #CogSciSci community has brought together a whole bunch of blogs, articles and research to help you answer the question “Why are you doing that?” This is far from an exhaustive list but instead aims to find writings that give a good rationale behind the choice explanation of particular areas of cognitive science and how they can be applied to the classroom.

The idea started with this blog by A Common Biologist, looking at ways cognitive science mutates in schools. It’s important to realise that two very different areas of research impact upon the classroom: education research and cognitive science research. Education research takes place in the classroom, with well-designed studies having large sample sizes and well designed control groups to monitor the effect of any intervention. The results from education research tend to be quite hazy, owing to the difficulty in isolating a cause for a particular effect once in the classroom environment. Cognitive science research, on the other hand, is laboratory based, giving researchers a considerable amount of control over the subjects (their environment, their attention etc.) and so teaches us a considerable amount about how we learn. The downside is that results from cognitive science studies will always require a certain amount of interpretation before they are used in a classroom setting.

Here, the ideas of cognitive science are introduced, and teachers/educators then go on to explain how they are using some of these findings within their classroom, altering their practice to become more ‘research-informed’. This list is far from exhaustive and both Adam Boxer and Craig Barton have excellent research lists with their own commentaries.

If you have any questions that you want answered please send them to cogscisci@gmail.com.


THE BASICS OF COGNITIVE SCIENCE AND MEMORY

“How do our brains work?” answered by Efrat Furst.

“What are all these fancy terms to do with memory that you keep using?” answered by Elizabeth and Robert Bjork whilst discussing how desirable difficulties can improve learning.

“What on earth is working memory?” answered by Professor Susan Gathercole and Dr Tracy Alloway, discussing what it is, its limitations, how it changes and how you can support students to learn in spite of their limited working memories.

“What is a schema?” answered by Greg Ashman.

“Do students remember what they learn in school?” answered by Daniel Willingham, drawing on education research and cognitive science to explain why our memory is an incredible but fallible resource.

“Why do students forget things?” answered by Jemma Sherwood who discusses how to design lessons with memory in mind.

“What is the ‘forgetting curve’?” answered by Durrington Research School.

“Is forgetting a vital part of remembering?” answered by Dalmeet Singh Chawla who interviews a range of researchers from neurobiology who point out that if we remembered everything, our brains would be far more inefficient.

“What will improve a student’s memory?” answered by Daniel Willingham, giving examples of methods that work and those that don’t when helping students commit ideas to memory.

“How does research into our memories affect teaching?” answered by Craig Barton, whose commentary on memory research (particularly that of Elizabeth and Robert Bjork) shows that memory lies at the heart of retrieval, interleaving and spacing.

“What are neuromyths?” answered by Thomas Moran, listing the 10 most common misconceptions about the brain. Do we only use 10% of it? Do we have preferred learning styles? Is your mental capacity something you are born with? No, to all of the above.

Remember also that we have an entire module on the basics of cognitive science here.


COGNITIVE LOAD THEORY AND LEARNING

“Can somebody explain simply how cognitive load theory applies to the classroom?” answered by Adam Boxer, who simplifies the theory for practical usage by teachers.

“How can I take into account cognitive load theory in the classroom?” answered by Blake Harvard, who introduces the idea of ‘element interactivity’ as a consideration for when trying to manage the cognitive load.

“What is the difference between learning and performance?” and “What is a desirable difficulty” both answered by Nick Soderstrom. The learning vs. performance argument is a crucial one for teachers to understand and has huge implications for how we assess the ‘understanding’ of students within a lesson.

“Aren’t cognitive load theory and the idea of desirable difficulties diametrically opposite?” answered by Blake Harvard, who tries to reconcile the need for simplifying (from cognitive load theory) and the need to challenge students (from desirable difficulties). A fascinating insight into how to understand ideas from cognitive science when they initially seem to point in opposite directions.

“Why are some things easy to learn and others are so hard?” answered by Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner, looking at David Geary’s work into biologically primary and secondary knowledge, an idea that aims to explain why we can learn to understand facial expressions much more easily than we can understand chemistry.

“Why can we learn some things naturally from our environment but need instruction to understand others?” answered by David Didau, again looking at Geary’s work, but thinking about the relationship to explicit instruction and discovery learning. Why do we discover the talent for speech, but discovery approaches to reading are less effective?

“Why do students think they understand, when they don’t?” answered by Daniel Willingham, demonstrating why ‘familiarity fools our mind into thinking we know more than we do’.

“Why do they seem so confident they’re right, but they’re wrong?” answered by Kendra Cherry, exploring the Dunning-Kruger effect.


SPACING, INTERLEAVING AND RETRIEVAL PRACTICE: THE BASICS

“What is spacing?” answered by Daniel Willingham.

“What’s the difference between spacing, interleaving and retrieval? Are they desirable difficulties?” answered by Nick Soderstrom.

“What is retrieval practice?” answered by Efrat Furst.

Remember that we have an entire module on retrieval practice here.


KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERT TEACHING

“Can’t they just google it?” E.D. Hirsch explains why knowledge is a cornerstone of our understanding of the world.

“Why is knowledge important?” answered by Daniel Willingham, who shows how ‘knowledge brings more knowledge’.

“Why does everyone keep talking about Rosenshine?” answered by Tom Sherrington, who explores why the principles in Barak Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’ are so useful in the classroom.

“What are Rosenshine’s principles?” answered by Mark Enser.

“Can’t we just teach skills?” No, explains David Didau.

“Can’t we just teach skills (number 2)?” Daniel Willingham explains why comprehension can’t be taught as a skill in isolation as it relies on knowledge of the subject matter that you’re reading about.


WITHIN THE CLASSROOM:

PLANNING AND INTERVENTIONS

“Why don’t you have a lesson plan?” answered by Bob Pritchard, who uses cognitive science as the basis to explain why he plans for a longer period of time than simply one lesson (and hence doesn’t have a lesson plan: here are some examples of when he probably did have one…).

“What interventions can I use to help those struggling students?” answered by Ruth Walker, who argues that we shouldn’t focus on interventions to specific groups but instead on the overall quality of teaching to all students.

“How can cognitive science help in the planning of the curriculum?” answered by Ruth Walker, drawing together ideas about schema, memory, hinterland and the true meaning of interleaving to create a better curriculum.

“Can you give me an example of interleaving within the curriculum?” answered by Ian Taylor, who uses ‘teaching by contrast’ as a way of ensuring the links are made between ideas within a topic instead of teaching each idea in a single lesson.

“What is mastery learning? And what isn’t mastery learning?” answered by Daisy Christodoulou.

DIRECT INSTRUCTION VS. DISCOVERY

“Why aren’t they discovering this for themselves?” answered by Paul Kirschner, John Sweller and Richard Clark in one of the must-read papers for understanding one of the fiercest arguments in education.

“Why are you explaining the concept rather than letting them do problem-solving?” answered by Greg Ashman, whose research indicates novices perform better when explicitly taught in the first instance. This study contrasts the predictions of cognitive load theory and productive failure.

SLOP (Shed Loads Of Practice) AND THE EFFECT OF SUCCESS ON MOTIVATION

“Why are they doing SLOP (shed loads of practice) in your lessons?” answered by the learning scientists, who link to and comment on the best ideas about what deliberate practice is and why it is so powerful.

“I don’t like the idea of SLOP, convince me otherwise,” answered by Niki Kaiser who uses her own experiences to show how she came around to the idea of giving students extensive practice.

“Why is practice so important?” answered by Daniel Willingham, discussing the balance between ‘practice makes perfect’ and student motivation.

“Why does success lead to motivation and not the other way around?” answered by Carl Hendrick, giving a motivational background as to why SLOP is effective for all students.

“How can reducing the cognitive load lead to more motivated students?” answered by Greg Ashman who uses cognitive load theory to help students see that is is the ‘process of getting better at something that is motivating’.

“Is interleaved practice better than blocked practice (in maths)?” answered by Doug Rohrer, Robert Dedrick and Pooja Agarwal, exploring the differences between giving practice in distinct blocks (as would be common practice in a curriculum split into defined topics per lesson) and interleaving practice within a mathematics setting.

“How big should spacing gaps be?” answered by Damian Benney, who shares his practice in planning spaced homework, giving reasoning behind his choice of gaps.

Remember we have an entire module on designing practice sets here.

PRACTICALS

“How can I reduce the cognitive load of practical sessions?” answered by Adam Boxer, introducing the idea of the slow practical, a crucial read for new science teachers.

“Isn’t real science like discovery learning?” answered by Bill Wilkinson, drawing on his research experience to explain why ‘real scientists’ aren’t doing discovery as might be assumed.

ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING

“Why aren’t you doing more AfL?” David Didau explains why we should be cautious about AfL given the issues with performance vs. learning.

“How should I be using AfL (assessment for learning) in the classroom” a symposium of ideas from Adam Boxer, Ruth Walker, Niki Kaiser, Deep Ghataura, Ben Rogers, Matt Perks and Dylan Wiliam.

“How can I use multiple choice questions in the classroom?” answered by Blake Harvard, giving a guide to best practice in creating MCQs.

BOOKLETS AND VISUALISERS

“Why would you want to use booklets?” answered by Adam Boxer, giving reasons behind his choice to move to a booklet model that come from cognitive science and the need to reduce teacher workload.

“But really, why would you want to use booklets?” answered by a guest post on Adam Robbins’ blog, with a very useful set of responses to the possible questions from sceptical colleagues.

“How did you write that booklet?” answered by Ruth Walker. It’s best for her to answer it since we’re probably using her ones anyway.

“Why are you using a visualiser? Isn’t that from the 90’s?” answered in a twitter thread by Mark Wilkinson, giving a whole heap of suggestions for how to use a visualiser.

“How can I use a visualiser with a class? What on earth does Show-Call mean?” an example of Courtney Betar from TLAC. The TLAC website has a huge amount of video evidence of great techniques to try in the classroom.

“Why are you using a visualiser and a booklet?” answered by Ben Newmark, bringing together the benefits of booklets and visualisers (in a post that surprisingly doesn’t demonstrate his incredible handwriting).

COMPLETION PROBLEMS, WORKED EXAMPLES, NON-EXAMPLES

“I know they reduce the cognitive load but aren’t completion problems a bit easy?” answered by Ben Rogers, who gives examples of how completion problems can be used as scaffolding to reduce the cognitive load and get students to focus on the subject matter at hand.

“Which is better: problem-solving or worked examples?” answered by Greg Ashman, in a post that attempts to resolve the conflict that exists between desirable difficulties and cognitive load theory.

“What is a non-example?” answered by Ben Rogers.

CALCULATIONS

“Why do you think practice supports the lower attaining students?” answered by Adam Robbins, who explores how he uses SLOP calculation sheets to ensure opportunities for success for all learners.

“How do you teach the use of equations?” answered by Pritesh Raichura, giving a scaffolding method to ensure all students can be successful in performing calculations.

“Why did you design your calculation sheet like that?” answered by Tom Millichamp, going into detail about each of his choices that he makes when creating a resource.

DUAL CODING

“What on earth is dual coding?” explained by Rufus Johnstone.

“How can I use dual coding in science? Isn’t it just pictures?” answered by Pritesh Raichura, who gives simple, implementable examples of what dual coding truly is within the science classroom.

“Can I see more examples of dual coding please?” Gethyn Jones shows how he uses dual coding (and always has done) to teach SUVAT in Physics, as it’s a topic that naturally lends itself to dual coding, rather than it needing to be shoe-horned in.

“How can I change the layout of materials to ease cognitive load?” answered by Ben Rogers, who has excellent posts on the layout of materialson the drawing of diagrams in science, and a post full of examples.

THE TESTING EFFECT

What is the testing effect?” answered by Efrat Furst.

“Doesn’t all this testing just stress students out?” Blake Harvard explains why testing actually reduces test stress.

KNOWLEDGE ORGANISERS

“How can I use knowledge organisers?” answered by the Learning Scientists.

“Can you give an example of using knowledge organisers?” answered by Adam Robbins, who kindly answers the question and gives out his knowledge organisers for science.

“When shouldn’t I use knowledge organisers?” answered by Kris Boulton, writing why they are less applicable to maths (and arguing they often shouldn’t be called knowledge organisers at all).

“What are some of the limitations of knowledge organisers?” answered by Helen Skelton, who uses the idea of schemas to show where knowledge organisers can fit into teaching.

DIFFERENTIATION

“Why aren’t you differentiating?” answered by a guest post on Adam Boxer’s blog that should really make you think about why you’re asked to print off three different coloured worksheets.

“Why aren’t you differentiating by task?” answered by Greg Ashman, who looks at TALIS data which seems to show a negative correlation between differentiation and maths scores.

WRITING AND STORY-TELLING

“Why are they doing so much writing in your classroom?” answered by Pritesh Raichura, Ben Rogers, Ruth Walker, Tarjinder Gill, Jasper Green and Judith Hochman in the Writing in Science Symposium, an amazing collection of works on why writing should play a crucial role in the classroom.

“How can student writing help me to learn more about what they’ve learned?” answered by Tom Millichamp, who uses ideas from The Writing Revolution to delve into student understanding.

“Why would story telling help students retain more information?” answered by Ven Popov, explaining why research scientists are wary of story telling in their writing but why they shouldn’t be.

“How can I introduce stories to the classroom?” answered by Bill Wilkinson with a link to the #sciencestories project to encourage story-telling in the classroom.

COMPETITION AND GAMES

“Why isn’t competition always a good thing?” answered by Adam Boxer, discussing the notion that ‘boys will like it if you make it a competition’.

“Why aren’t you playing more games?” answered by Mark Enser, showing how inequality might be increased in the name of engagement.


OUTSIDE OF A LESSON:

MARKING

“What does a sensible marking policy look like?” answered by Adam Boxer by giving out his department’s marking policy.

“Why are we marking?” answered by Gethyn Jones, clarifying the difference between feedback and marking and which is useful for students.

“What is whole-class feedback?” answered by Andrew Percival.

“How can I make whole-class feedback fit with my school’s marking policy?” answered by Ruth Walker who shows how her marking can tick a lot of the boxes that a school’s typical marking policy would have.

“Why aren’t books a good proxy for learning?” answered by Sarah Barker, who points out the issue with book scrutinies.

DATA AND TARGET GRADES

“What is my data showing me: progress or attainment or something else?” answered by Matthew Benyohai who shows the stupidity behind colourful trackers and why he uses bee-swarm plots instead.

“How should I be using assessment data?” answered in many blogs by Matthew Benyohai.

“What should I be doing with target grades?” answered by Ben Newmark, who explains why they don’t help the learning process.

“I need more convincing on this target grades thing, can you give me anything else to read?” Adam Robbins kindly obliges.

“What should I do after a mock exam?” answered by Adam Boxer, using a bit of assessment theory and knowledge of schema to rethink the post-exam strategy.

HOMEWORK

“Why aren’t you setting more projects?” answered by Adam Boxer, arguing through an example that grand projects only act to highlight inequality.

“Does flipped learning ever work?” answered by Bill Wilkinson, who uses some of the cognitive science basics to make flipped learning work for him and his students.

STUDYING AND REVISION

“How can I explain to students how to study?” answered by an article in Scientific American, explaining the basics behind retrieval, interleaving, spacing and elaboration, as well as what no to do.


MISCELLANEOUS OTHER QUESTIONS

“Why do you have your windows open?” answered by Jess Staufenberg.

Threshold Concepts

Great blog from Class Teaching – Last week I was leading a training session for trainee science teachers, looking at the EEF ‘Improving Secondary Science’ guidance report – this is a great resource for science teachers and one that I would strongly recommend.  There is a section in the report on the importance of ‘threshold concepts’ in science teaching.  A threshold concept is described below:

“A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress. As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view. This transformation may be sudden or it may be protracted over a considerable period of time, with the transition to understanding proving troublesome. Such a transformed view or landscape may represent how people ‘think’ in a particular discipline, or how they perceive, apprehend, or experience particular phenomena within that discipline (or more generally).” (Meyer and Land, 2003).

In the guidance report, threshold concepts are described as likely to be:

  • Transformative – they result in a change in perception of a subject and may involve a shift in values or attitudes.
  • Irreversible – the resulting change is unlikely to be forgotten.
  • Integrative – they ‘expose a previously hidden interrelatedness’ between other concepts within the discipline.
  • Potentially troublesome – we may have difficulty coping with then new perspective that is offered.

Once we start thinking about the idea of threshold concepts, it seems likely that this also applies to our understanding of teaching.  From a purely personal point of view, I would say that during the years I have been engaging with research evidence, I have come across some ideas that have irreversibly transformed my view of teaching.  Some of these have been troublesome and they definitely all interrelate.  For example:

“Memory is the residue of thought” from Daniel Willingham

New learning should be tethered to existing knowledge

“Feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor” from Dylan Wiliam

“Learning is a change in long term memory” from Paul Kirschner & John Sweller

Fully guided instruction is more successful than minimal guidance from Clark, Kirschner & Sweller – more here.

These 5 ideas have definitely changed the way I teach and the way I lead teaching and learning.  This made me then ask the good people of twitter about the ‘threshold concepts’ that have transformed how they think about teaching.  This got a great response and I thought I would share some of them here:

Andy Tharby:

  • Understanding is memory in disguise – Daniel Willingham
  • Learning is invisible.
  • Students learn very different things from the same lesson.

David Didau

  • Speech is a powerful lever for cognitive growth.

Ben Newmark:

  • The only curriculum that matters is the curriculum pupils remember – Clare Sealy

Cristina Milos:

  • Performance and learning are not synonymous.

Mark Enser:

  • Learning doesn’t come from activity but from retrieval.

Sarah Donarski:

  • If we want our students to breathe our subjects, we must first do the same.

Tom Boulter:

  • Reasoning, problem solving and creative skills are largely domain specific and enabled by deep knowledge of the field.

Sallie Stanton:

  • Learning is a change in long term memory.
  • Gaps in knowledge make gaining new knowledge really difficult.

Rufus William:

  • Novices and experts think in qualitatively different ways.
  • The curse of knowledge.

Frances Walsh:

  • Learning is not a performance at the end of the lesson.

Dan Hannard:

  • Practice makes permanent.

Julie Stewart:

  • We are prisoners of our working memory.

Amy Pento:

  • Extraneous load – much done to grab students’ attention distracts from what we want them to think about.

Knowledge Organisers: Making them worth more than the paper they’re written on

A great blog from Durrington Research School:

As we have previously blogged about here and here, we at Durrington are currently implementing knowledge organisers across the whole school. At the moment, we have knowledge organisers in place in all subjects for Year 9 and Year 10. The knowledge organisers themselves are disciplinary, by which we mean they are subject specific and so show variation according to the curriculum that they support. However, we have also tried to ensure consistency through adhering to the following principles:

  • The knowledge organisers include judiciously selected tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary. This vocabulary will be taught explicitly to students.
  • The knowledge organisers incorporate the building blocks for learning in that subject that all students are entitled to know and understand.
  • The knowledge organisers are designed to aid retrieval practice and metacognitive learning.

Here are some examples of the knowledge organisers that we are currently using in different subject areas:

 

We are very aware that knowledge organisers by themselves are fairly meaningless; it is how they are used for planning, teaching and testing that will have the intended positive impact on our students’ outcomes, experiences and future opportunities. Consequently, we are keen to share the simple yet effective ways in which different subjects are utilising their knowledge organisers in lessons, as described below.

In geography the team are collating the words that students most frequently misunderstand or confuse (these are words from the knowledge organisers). The students then take a two-part quiz: In part 1 they choose the correct explanation of the word from three options, and in part 2 they identify the word in the correct context from two options. This is a great example of how the vocabulary from the knowledge organiser is being taught explicitly to students and misconceptions are being tackled at the same time.

In history, the curriculum leader emails out weekly slides, comprising a section of the knowledge organiser, to be used across the department. These slides ensure that there is consistency to the use of knowledge organisers and retrieval practice in every history lesson. The students complete the slide-task, for example filling in blanks in sentences with appropriate tier 3 vocabulary, and then use the knowledge organiser to self or peer check their response. The tasks in themselves are simple but they effectively focus the students’ efforts on improving specific areas, for example accurate use of tier 3 historical words and phrases.

Maths are using their range of knowledge organisers to support homework tasks. Firstly, the students can access their maths knowledge organisers are any time using our online system Connect. This means that students have scaffolding in place for when they are working outside of the classroom. Furthermore, every fortnight the maths team set a homework that is based on retrieval quizzing. The students are required to use the knowledge organisers to find the answers to upcoming quizzes and then actually sit the quiz in class on the due date for the homework. Students who score less than 12 out of 15 are then supported in making flashcards on the questions, again gaining the information from the knowledge organiser, and use these to retest until they are successful. This strategy demonstrates how knowledge organisers can be used to support learning through the testing effect.

The science team have carefully selected the tier 3 vocabulary that they feel is imperative to scientific success and published these on their knowledge organisers. In class, the teachers explicitly teach this vocabulary using a morphological approach, i.e. by drawing students’ attention to prefixes such as mono, hetero, pent etc.. The beauty of this approach is that once the vocabulary has been decided there is no need for any further resources or planning. It is simply a case of the teacher taking a few moments of the lesson to highlight the prefix in order to activate students’ prior knowledge of this word part (or teach it for the first time) so that students can go on to decipher the likely meaning of the entire word.

Finally, in English the team are making frequent use of their knowledge organisers to retrieve the contextual knowledge, key themes and authorial methods linked to literary texts. In addition, the English team are also making students use identified tier 2 vocabulary by linking it to characters and plot situations from multiple texts, thereby giving the students ample and varied examples of the words in use. Knowledge organisers in English tend to be produced on PowerPoint and use a grid format. This makes it incredibly quick and easy to extract sections, put this on a slide and blank out boxes ready for students to fill as a 5 minute starter every lesson.

Our use of knowledge organisers is a journey and one in which we have only taken the first few steps. To move forward we will:

  1. Share examples of effective practice from the our colleagues in other curriculum areas, especially the practical subjects where the use of knowledge organisers may well yield some very different ideas for practice.
  2. Talk to students and make them a greater part of the knowledge organiser dialogue in our school. In particular, we want our students to have a secure understanding of how knowledge organisers work to support retrieval practice and vocabulary instruction, where they can find them and how they can use them for effective learning outside of the classroom, for example self-quizzing.
  3. Make knowledge organisers accessible for parents and carers via our VLE, online Connect system and through making them a key component of conversations at upcoming parents’ evenings.
  4. Reflect on how to improve and develop the work that we now have in place ready for our new batch of knowledge organisers that are required for later this year. In particular, we will consider the need for accumulation of knowledge across units of work and year groups in order to meet our end goals for every student who is part of our school.

If you are interested in learning more about our approach to teaching and learning please take a look at our upcoming training days here.

Fran Haynes.

Knowledge organisers – how to make and use them effectively!

08.27.18Sadie McCleary’s Guide to Making and Using Knowledge Organizers

 

Sadie McCleary, Chemistry Teacher extraordinaire and Science Department Lead at Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School, is a good friend of Team TLAC. She’s a TLAC Fellow and constantly keeps in touch to share ideas she’s adapting and developing. And she has a special interest in Knowledge Organizers. This year she’s been trying to support other teachers in designing and implementing them effectively.  She put together a quick guide that we (i.e. Team TLAC) think is pretty tremendous.

The first section shows an annotated model of a Knowledge Organizer for a Chemistry class with some great clarifying comments. We especially love this point:

The vocabulary / key concepts are the foundational terms students should know in order to increase the rigor of the questioning possible by the teacher and increase the quality of student responses. Note that these are not the only terms/concepts students will learn this unit! They will continue to build on these and complicate their ideas. These are simply a starting place.

The second section shows how to use diagrams. This guidance is probably more specific to the sciences (we might be inclined to keep KOs to one page otherwise) but we love her point about annotating.

The third section is our favorite–it focuses on how to use the Knowledge Organizer during class.  There’s a lot of gold here but Sadie’s observations about teaching students to use them–and therefore how to study–is especially powerful:

Teach students to use it: Studying is a skill! Just like with other skills in class, we need to teach students how to do it. This means studying (even simple vocabulary drills) needs to be modeled and students need at-bats.

• Self-quizzing: Take 2 minutes several times in Unit 1 to explicitly show students how to fold their KO to hide the definitions and ‘self-quiz.’ The best way to do this might be conducting a Think Aloud – read out the vocabulary word and begin narrating your own thinking. Example – ‘Analog measurement – I know there are two types of measurements, and the second is digital. This means analog is non-digital, and I know there are special rules for these because the accuracy of analog measurements is not communicated.’ Follow this up with several minutes of students doing their own silent self-quizzing and an oral drill or recall quiz.

• Partner quizzing: Provide opportunities for students to quiz one another for 1 – 3 minutes in class. Explicitly name for students that this should be replicated at home with a family member or friend. Model partner quizzing for students, and set clear times for when partners should switch who is quizzing whom. If time allows, follow up partner quizzing with an oral drill or recall quiz.

All in all it’s an amazing piece of work. Our thanks to Sadie for sharing it with us and therefore with you. Hope it’s useful!

Are you up to date?

These are the current top research papers and edu books – have you read them all?

RESEARCH PAPERS

Principles of Instruction – Barak Rosenshine

What makes great teaching? A review of the underpinning research – The Sutton Trust

What will improve a student’s memory? – Daniel Willingham

The science of learning – Deans for Impact

Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques – Dunlosky et al

EEF Metacognition and self-regulated learning guidance report

Putting students on the path to learning – Clark, Kirschner & Sweller

 

BOOKS

Making every lesson count – Shaun Allison & Andy Tharby

This award-winning title has now inspired a whole series of books. Each of the books in the series are held together by six pedagogical principles challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning and provide simple, realistic strategies that teachers can use to develop the teaching and learning in their classroom.

Packed with practical teaching strategies, Making Every Lesson Count bridges the gap between research findings and classroom practice. Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby examine the evidence behind what makes great teaching and explore how to implement this in the classroom to make a difference to learning.

Why don’t students like school – Daniel Willingham

Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham focuses his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning. His book will help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn. It reveals–the importance of story, emotion, memory, context, and routine in building knowledge and creating lasting learning experiences.

The hidden lives of learners – Graham Nuthall

The Hidden Lives of Learners takes the reader deep into the hitherto undiscovered world of the learner. It explores the three worlds which together shape a student’s learning – the public world of the teacher, the highly influential world of peers, and the student’s own private world and experiences. What becomes clear is that just because a teacher is teaching, does not mean students are learning. Using a unique method of data collection through meticulous recording – audio, video, observations, interviews, pre- and post-tests – and the collation and analysis of what occurred inside and outside the classroom, Graham Nuthall has definitively documented what is involved for most students to learn and retain a concept

What does this look like in the classroom? – Carl Hendrick & Robin Macpherson

In this thorough, enlightening and comprehensive book, Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson ask 18 of today’s leading educational thinkers to distill the most up-to-date research into effective classroom practice in 10 of the most important areas of teaching. The result is a fascinating manual that will benefit every single teacher in every single school, in all four corners of the globe.

What every teacher needs to know about psychology – David Didau & Nick Rose

Here, David Didau and Nick Rose attempt to lay out the evidence and theoretical perspectives on what we believe are the most important and useful psychological principles of which teacher ought to be aware. That is not to say this book contains everything you might ever need to know – there is no way it could – it is merely a primer. We hope that you are inspired to read and explore some of the sources for yourself and see what other principles can find a home in your classroom. Some of what we present may be surprising, some dubious, but some in danger of being dismissed as ‘blindingly obvious’.

Closing the vocabulary gap – Alex Quigley

As teachers grapple with the challenge of a new, bigger and more challenging school curriculum, at every key stage and phase, success can feel beyond our reach. But what if there were 50,000 small solutions to help us bridge that gap?

In Closing the Vocabulary Gap, Alex Quigley explores the increased demands of an academic curriculum and how closing the vocabulary gap between our ‘word poor’ and ‘word rich’ students could prove the vital difference between school failure and success

The learning rainforest – Tom Sherrington

The Learning Rainforest captures different elements of our understanding and experience of the art and science of teaching. It is a celebration of great teaching and the intellectual and personal rewards that it brings. It’s aimed at all teachers; busy people working in complex environments with little time to spare. The core of the book is a guide to making teaching both effective and manageable using a three-part structure: establishing conditions; building knowledge; exploring possibilities.

On what a research-informed classroom actually looks like #EducationFest

Edfest1.png

Today I had the pleasure of presenting with Claire Hill on what a research-informed classroom actually looks like. Both Claire and I share a vision of using research to guide effective classroom practice in our departments but also as a way to reduce unnecessary workload by focusing on the things that are more likely to really make a difference. Link to the PowerPoint slides here.

edfest2.png

I started by talking about the fact that in the first years of my teaching I did not have a good definition of learning – which now seems pretty remarkable given that I was in the job of getting students to learn stuff… However, if we take this notion from Kirschner, Sweller and Clark (2006) it’s a bit of a game changer. If we make long-term learning the goal of our teaching then it calls into question all sorts of practices which have long been established. For example, the model of massing practice in half-term long units (sometimes focusing on knowledge/skills which will never be revisited) is perhaps not the best model for learning.

Such massed practice is great for performance of learning – your students will probably appear to know a lot about a topic by the end of the unit. However, this gives us a false sense of security because it’s so easy for students to appear as if they’ve learnt something if we’ve only just finished teaching it.

The truth is that when teachers try to facilitate learning by making it as easy as possible they’re increasing the immediately observable short-term performance but that often comes at the expense of important long-term retention. In short, we often seek to eliminate difficulties to the detriment of long-term learning.

I think it’s important that I say here that I completely understand why, with certain in-school accountability measures, teachers do strive to make learning as easy as possible to increase perceived performance or perceived progress. School leaders need to understand that excessive data drops/captures/trawls are having a negative effect on learning. In seeking to measure performance, presumably to implement targeted intervention, they are actually making progress and learning LESS likely.

So how can we ensure that the time and effort put into lessons, by both students and teachers, is resulting in long-term learning and not just performance?

edfest3.png

Well Bjork suggests introducing what he terms ‘desirable difficulties’. Bjork argues that by introducing these ‘desirable difficulties’ we can improve the long-term retention of what students are learning. As teachers, our goals should be long term and not about what a student has leant by the end of the lesson, unit or key stage.

To appreciate why difficulties might actually be desirable, we must first make a distinction between performance and actual learning itself.

Performance: Observable during learning and testing
Learning: A long-term process that is difficult to measure

We need to separate performance and learning and prioritise the latter in our classroom.

Bjork begs the question that ‘if the research picture is so clear, why then are massed practice, excessive feedback, fixed conditions of training, and limited opportunities for retrieval practice such common features’ in the classroom?

edfest4.png

Claire then began to talk about the classroom application of this research about learning and desirable difficulties by talking about using multiple-choice tests to exploit the testing effect and to increase the durability, and students’ ability to recall, what they’ve learnt.

With the new linear specifications and the vast body of knowledge that needs to retained, it is no longer an option to teach a text or topic in September of year 10 and then only come back to this in the lead up to exams in year 11. It is little wonder that with this approach the period between January and May of year 11 is oftentimes filled with intervention and revision sessions because students have not revisited or revised half of the topics since year 10.

No revision happens every lesson through different forms of retrieval practice with students being pushed to retrieve knowledge from things they learnt in a previous topic, month, term or year. This retrieval practice is low stakes and can take many forms.

Multiple choice questions (MCQs), like those on the slide, not only allow for retrieval practice but also serve to give teachers an insight into which students still have misconceptions or misunderstandings. For example, if a student identifies that ‘lovely’ is an adverb because it ends in ‘ly’ then that’s a misconception that can be identified through MCQs and addressed. MCQs, once created, can be used, refined and used again. Your team can work together to generate these and, if you have a team with varying experience, your more experienced teachers can really inform the creation of these because they’ll know the misconceptions that students will likely make.

edfest5.png

I spoke briefly about how providing students with a knowledge organiser is a powerful way to be explicit about the knowledge all students are expected to know. This knowledge can then easily be tested in the form of 5-a-Day Starters which include a mix of questions from topics covered so retrieval is distributed. They’re also a great way to establish a routine at the start of lessons where students are expected to ‘get in and get on’ with their learning.

edfest6.png

Claire then shared the next step in creating retrieval practice questions which is to consider how these might be used to really extend students’ thinking and to include comparison and evaluation as well as recall. The example here is adapted from one used by Claire’s 2iC and this structure is now followed for a series of questions on different texts and for different year groups as a further development to her department’s work on retrieval practice. Creating a bank of these questions by dividing texts across members of the department has been a good way to save time and share workloads whilst also offering teachers the opportunity to really think about students’ possible misconceptions and ways to further interleave topics across the curriculum.

edfest7.png

Reducing workload is at the centre of nearly every policy and practice Claire introduces. Claire has not marked a single piece of homework for over four years and never intends to again. This doesn’t mean that students in Claire’s school don’t do homework – they absolutely do and it is checked in lesson along with seeing just how well the homework has been completed. However, most homework is checked through retrieval practice in of the many forms already mentioned which does not require teacher marking.

However, essay homework is dealt with slightly differently. When students write an essay for homework, Claire will take it in and have a look over it but won’t give any feedback. The reason being that Claire is unable to control the conditions in which the homework has been completed – any feedback given on homework is not going to be as accurate or helpful as feedback on a timed piece written in lesson. Claire will, instead, mark their essays written in lesson and give feedback before asking students to use the feedback from the lesson essay to improve their homework essay thereby transferring the feedback to a new piece of work. The idea behind this is based on Dylan Wiliam’s assertion that the ‘main purpose of feedback is to improve the student [to help] the student do a better job next time’. By using this model, Claire can see that they are transferring their feedback to another piece of work and therefore they are more likely to be able to apply this to their next piece of work.

edfest8.png

I then spoke about the best thing I’ve introduced for homework at both KS3 and KS4: self-quizzing. This idea was inspired by reading Joe Kirby’s chapter in ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: The Michaela Way’ entitled ‘Homework as Revision’. Not only does it complement my department’s approach to homework (activities which have high value but require no marking) but students’ knowledge has improved as well as their confidence.

Students are expected to spend 30 minutes every week self-quizzing on a section of their knowledge organiser. They do this by recalling, as accurately as they can, everything they can and, once finished, checking their work against the knowledge organiser and using a different coloured pen to fill in gaps and correct errors. This way, progress can easily be seen and it’s incredibly quick and easy as a class teacher to check that the homework has been completed by expecting students to have their books open on their desks and quickly walking around the room.

edfest9.png

It’s also a great revision activity in the classroom to give students a blank knowledge organiser or a mostly blank knowledge organiser to fill in. Students really enjoy the challenge and it highlights very clearly to them where their gaps in knowledge are.

Edfest10.png

Students at KS3 an KS4 in my school also self-quiz on their ambitious vocabulary using the Quizlet App (or look, cover, write, check if they haven’t got access). Students are encouraged to spend a few minutes every day self-quizzing on their vocabulary.

edfest11.png

In his New Theory of Disuse (1992), Bjork theorises that memories don’t decay. He suggests that it’s not that memories disappear but that we stop being able to retrieve them. You could liken this to having a shoe cupboard full of shoes and knowing there’s a certain pair in there but being unable to dig them out. The shoes still exist but you can’t find them under the mountain of other shoes!

What’s really exciting about Bjork’s ideas is that it suggests we have an infinite long term memory store – there’s potentially no limit to the amount of knowledge we could know but we need to get better at retrieving that information.

However, there’s a barrier to getting things into our long term memory: our working memory. Our working memory is limited and there’s research to suggest that our personal working memory limit is fixed and there’s not much we can do about that. We need to navigate the bottle neck of working memory to get more stuff into long term memory.

edfest12.png

We need to reduced the extraneous cognitive load in lessons in order that students can manage the intrinsic cognitive load of what we’re trying to teach them. We can’t change the intrinsic challenge of a text like Jane Eyre (and we certainly shouldn’t avoid teaching it because it’s challenging) but we can change our lessons to reduce the extraneous cognitive load which will be taking up students’ working memory.

For example, we need to ensure that students can see the board easily e.g. by seating them in rows. We need to have periods of silence in lessons so that students can concentrate on their deliberate practice. We need to give students enough time to complete tasks. We also need to avoid flooding our PowerPoint slides with lots of text and then talking over it.

Dan Willingham argues that ‘memory is the residue of though’ and that students will remember what they think about. I shared an example of a lesson that almost certainly ensured students did not remember what they were meant to though they probably do remember spending an English lesson sticking their hands in kidney beans and mash potato… We must be mindful of what students are spending lesson time thinking about and directing that very carefully to what we want them to be thinking about.

All teachers can probably think of an example from their teaching career where they’ve done something similar – it speaks of a zeitgeist of teaching (circa 2006 onwards but perhaps earlier) where the primary goal of lessons seemed to be engagement and ‘wow’ moments. Outstanding gradings were awarded in lessons where poor proxies of learning were evident (e.g. minimal teacher talk) and questionable practices abounded such as discovery learning and group work (de Bono’s thinking hats anyone?).

edfest13.png

We must work towards using the most effective methods in lessons such as modelling. There’s lots of evidence to suggest the power of metacognition and modelling. Spending time modelling though processes and showing students how to construct an answer is an extremely powerful lesson activity. Live modelling was a regular feature of lessons before PowerPoint (the temptation to show ‘one I made earlier’ is strong) and it’s something we need to do more of. We need to show students that it’s a complicated thing to construct an essay response but by modelling the process of working through that we are empowering students to do the same whilst also providing them with a model of excellence.

I’ve bought everybody in my team a visualiser and we use them all the time both to model and look at student work with the class.

 

Claire talked about the principles of designing a knowledge-led curriculum and distinguishing between disciplinary knowledge and substantive knowledge. A more detailed blog to follow on this…

edfest19.png

When designing a curriculum it’s important not to see learning as discrete bundles that can be tied up at the end of a lesson or unit. We must also strive not to be dictated to by the calendar (where’s the logic in a six week unit of work other than because this is how the year is divided up because of holidays?) or by the data monster. Too often we distort the learning process by trying to meet certain deadlines throughout the year.

edfest20.png

I talked briefly talked through my curriculum design. In KS3 students cover two main topics a year (a novel and a Shakespeare play) but this is interleaved with poetry lessons, weekly writing challenge lessons and analysis of unseen fiction and non-fiction. The rainbow strips across the top are threshold concepts which essentially represent the idea that that we are doing all of the things all of the time rather than massing practice into blocks.

edfest21.png

At KS4, students sit their English Language exam at the end of year 10 but they study two of the Lit texts. In year 11, from September until Christmas the other two texts will be studied so that after Christmas, though commonly after February half term due to PPE disruption, all four texts are interleaved in the course of study.

edfest22.png

Here’s a the beginning view weeks of a typical KS3 medium term plan. What you can see here is that students don’t have consecutive lessons on the same thing. Initially teachers found this a real challenge and we had to work towards not blocking lessons together but students have never found this difficult or even questioned why they’re studying Animal Farm one day and writing skills the next. This may be because they’re used to bouncing from subject to subject. In their day they might go from studying trigonometry lesson one and then the water cycle period two, running around playing hockey period three before coming to English. The other thing that’s been built into the curriculum is whole lessons for feedback.

edfest23.png

I shared an example of the whole-class feedback approach which my department have adopted. Students receive a specific numbered target and a whole class feedback sheet (either printed and/or displayed) that includes praise, common spelling errors and exemplars of great work. It’s so much quicker to mark in this way then laboriously write out individual comments and litter students work with comments/questions. I simply jot down comments on a sheet of paper as I’m marking and then it takes me 5 minutes or so to create a whole class feedback slide with a set of numbered targets specific to that class and what I’ve seen from reading their books.

Feedback lessons are an opportunity for teachers to re-teach and model where necessary and then students spend the rest of the lesson completing a ‘DIRT Task’ that will be specific and actionable – an opportunity to act on their targets either by redrafting a piece of work or completing a new task where they can demonstrate that they’ve acted on the feedback and made progress. Students will then draw a yellow box around this.

edfest24.png

Claire shared this extract from Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson’s book ‘What Does This Look Like In The Classroom’. The highlighted section clearly questions the common practice in school of writing lengthy summary comments at the end of a piece of work. Not only are these time-consuming but also largely ineffective.

 

Sharing WWWs for the whole class is far more effective, and efficient, than giving every student a WWW comment. Not only will one document save time in writing, but it also means every student can see the possible ideas they could have used and gives an opportunity to re-teach some of these ideas if not may students used them in their work.

In terms of teacher input, Claire will read through the work and add codes linked to EBI tasks, at first this will be next to where students need to include more detail or make changes, but later it will just be at the end of the work and students work out where their improvements would be best added. As suggested by Daisy Christodoulou, the tasks are ‘actionable’ and students have ‘something they can go away and do in response to it’. Therefore, instead of writing ‘EBI: Analyse in more detail’ for the 60-70% of the class you may need to use that comment for, you simply write one number and give students a specific task to complete i.e. ‘pick out key words such as ‘milk’ or ‘gall’ and analyse in more detail, considering the connotations of those words’. The next time a student completes a similar piece of work, ask them to prove that they will not need the same target as last time, by asking them to highlight evidence that they have met this target in their new piece of work.

new cover leading from the middle

We wanted to our presentation with the exciting news that we are working on a book together. Leading from the Middle: A Guide to Effective Middle Leadership will be published later this year by John Catt and is available to order now here.