Saturday, 27 February 2016

Six steps to outstanding learning.

‘6-steps’ summarise the evidence



With evidence available from so many sources, it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees.  By grouping the effective methods into the six steps many teachers apply anyway, we can see they make more sense.
It’s not just PAR: ‘Present>Apply>Review’, it’s OPPARR

Orient>Prior knowledge>Present>
Apply>Review>Repeat

You can find the comparison Hattie, Marzano and EEF on the website and we are working on including a range of contributions from cognitive science.
Learning involves making new links between neurons in the brain.  If the brain hasn’t changed, learning hasn’t happened.
Do you use steps similar to these six?

Step 0: Setting the scene – ready to make links

Improving behaviour has a high effect-size.  Do you have clear rules, applied without too much discussion and backed up by senior staff?
Students who have a Growth Mindset achieve, on average, one grade higher than those with a Fixed Mindset. How does your school/college promote this?  Are you good at 'Not labelling students' ?

Step 1: Prior knowledge – existing links

1.1 Assessing prior knowledge
Since new learning and memories are built on what is already known, do you assess the prior knowledge of your students before the start of a new unit?  What methods do you use to do this?
1.2  Filling gaps in prior knowledge
Can you assess students before the start of the course to give time to fill in the gaps?  What do you do when a gap is identified? 
Effective ways to deal with missing prior knowledge include: early intervention, phonics, small group, one-to-one or peer tuition.  
There are several interventions designed to help slow readers catch up: reciprocal teaching, repeated reading, vocabulary and phonics all apply here.  The meanings of words need to be secure in long-term memory.

Step 2: Presenting new material – showing links

2.1: Linking to prior knowledge
Do you use Similes and analogies to create links between the new material and what the student already knows?
2.2: Not just words
Students can receive their first contact with new material either from your teaching, or by reading a book, watching a video or demonstration etc.    Of the four, reading (visual words) is the most problematic for some students.   Do you use Graphical or Tactile Methods?
2.3: Big-picture and fine-detail
Do you give students both levels?  Do you use Advance organisers give the big-picture at the start of a topic or  Summarising  to pull a big-picture from the detailed learning they have done.
2.4 Limits of working memory
Do you present new material in short chunks so working memory is not overloaded?  Do you keep instructions short for less able students?

Step 3: Setting a challenging task – creating links

3.1  Challenge
If the task is too easy, it will simply exercise prior knowledge.  If it is too hard, the student will fail.  In both cases, no learning can take place.  Do you set a challenging task: which the student can achieve with a bit of struggle and feedback.  
Do you think your tasks are hard enough?
3.2 Worked examples and modelling
Do you give your students model answers or worked examples so they know what a good answer looks like?
3.3 Goals
Are Goals and learning objectives clear so that students can focus on what matters?
3.4 Promoting thinking
While a few students can 'think things through' for themselves, most need help or training. Do you give students more complex tasks which link the material such as Hypothesis testing, problem solving, note-making or summarising or do you focus on simple factual recall)?
Do you use collaborative or cooperative methods so students have to articulate their thoughts and decide whether another opinion is better than their own? 

Step 4: Providing feedback – checking the links

4.1  Giving feedback
Feedback is essential to check that the learning is not mistaken (that the brain is making the right links).  It needs to happen during the process, not after it.  It occurs near the top of all three lists and should be considered essential.  Sometimes the term 'Assessment for learning' is used.
What kinds of feedback do you give? Verbal or written? By the teacher, by peers or the student themselves using assessment criteria or mark-schemes.  Does it include what is correct (the medal) and what needs improving (the mission)?
4.2  Making an improvement
If the student does not act on the feedback, little new learning takes place.  Do you require students to act on the feedback?

Step 5: Repetition – securing the links

Repetition is vital to secure long-term memories.  Do you use spaced practice? 
Mastery learning, repetition and homework (not at primary level) all give opportunities for repetition.  
Once new knowledge is understood, do you require sufficient practice to secure long term memories?

Back to Step 1

Assessment of the new learning then shows whether a secure foundation (Prior Knowledge) exists for the next part of the learning. 
Because long-term memories form over several weeks, learning needs to be in the form of overlapping cycles where the practice with recent material overlaps with new learning. 

Mastery learning:  a technique where students keep repeating a piece of vital learning until they achieve 80% in an assessment.  This is repetition combined with a recognition of the need for secure prior knowledge..

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