8 Catch-Up Pedagogies Every Teacher Should Know, by @Powley_R

Catch-Up Pedagogy


5. Learning should be difficult

Learning happens when people have to think hard…It helps teachers to ask questions like, ‘Where in this lesson will students have to think hard?” [Coe]

Willingham points out here that memory is the residue of thought, “Your memory is not a product of what you want to remember…  it’s a product of what you think about,” therefore the goal of lessons is thinking about meaning: “Sometimes learning is not fun. Instead, it is just hard work; it is deliberate practice; it is simply doing some things many times over” [Hattie].

Bjork’s counter-intuitive finding here is that ‘desirable difficulties’ which make short-term performance harder, cause better long-term learning.  These include:

  • Varying the conditions of practice rather than keeping them constant and predictable
  • Spacing practice sessions with gaps to allow forgetting.  Bjork argues that “forgetting… creates the opportunity to reach additional levels of learning.”
  • Interleaving rather than blocking topics
  • Using retrieval quizzes to test recall
  • Reducing feedback

Myth: Learners choose the most effective learning methods.  Kirschner, Sweller and Clark found that: “Less able learners who choose less guided approaches tend to like the experience even though they learn less from it.”  In comparison, task-specific learning strategies embedded in instructional presentations“require explicit, attention-driven effort on the part of the learners and so tend not to be liked, even though they are helpful to learning.”  Conversely, “Higher aptitude students who chose highly structured approaches tended to like them but achieve at a lower level…[because they] have acquired implicit, task-specific learning strategies that are more effective for them than those embedded in the structured versions of the course…[but] believe that they will achieve the required learning with a minimum of effort.

Strategies: Planning Schedule Audit to plan for ‘desirable difficulties’ @Love Learning Ideas here

6. Deliberate practice makes mastery

The Sutton Trust Report recommends, “Giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely” as an element of high quality instruction.  Nuthall suggests that practice of new learning should be spaced over at least three occasions, and Engelmann argues that practice should be five times longer than teachers expect.  This ‘overlearning’ creates fluent, automatic understanding and transfers learning to the long-term memory.

Rosenshine found that “the most effective teachers… understood the importance of [guided and independent] practiceIt is not enough simply to present students with new material, because the material will be forgotten unless there is sufficient rehearsal.”  His research also suggested that the optimal success rate in practice was 80%: students were learning but still challenged.

Myth: the most effective learning is based on ‘doing’ here

Strategies: Independent Learning Skills Log here

7. Testing as Learning

As learning occurs so does forgetting” [Nuthall], therefore “the aim of all instruction is to alter long-term memory.  If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned” [Kirschner, Sweller and Clark.]  Willingham suggests that information should be ‘overlearned’ by 20%.

Dunlosky’s research here suggests that the following methods retrieve memory most effectively:

  • Practice Testing improves memory retrieval and has “sizeable benefits” when frequent, spaced and with feedback.  Testing is “not merely a tool for assessing learning but also a tool for enhancing learning” – more effective than re-study or concept mapping [Karpicke] here
  • Distributed practice forces students to think harder and works best “when the lag between sessions [is] approximately 10-20% of the desired retention interval
  • Interleaved practice strengthens memory retrieval
  • Elaborative interrogation enhances learning by integrating new information with prior knowledge
  • Self-explanation helps students understand processes

Myth: Summarising, highlighting and re-reading are highly effective learning strategies

Strategies: How to pass exams assembly @Love Learning Ideas here

8. Question don’t ‘progress check’

The Sutton Trust Report recommends “effective questioning” as an element of high quality instruction.  Effective questions require all students to process and rehearse material, and allow teachers to check for understanding and provide feedback and corrections. Rosenshine criticised, “the least effective teachers [who] asked only nine questions in a 40-minute period.”  Multi-choice hinge questions can encourage students to process: why are responses correct or incorrect?

Myth: closed questions are less effective.  Andy Tharby explains here how closed questions can be used for retrieval, assessment, fine analysis, focused research, thinking and modelling.

Strategies: how to use hinge questions @Improving Teaching here

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