Tag Archives: learning

What would Wittgenstein think of remix?⤴

from

We were playing a game at the weekend, which Kevin started.

We answered by making an acrostic of the word we guessed until we got it right

Then Wendy put her twist on it. Different game, different rules. Obviously related – that’s how remix rolls, and the challenge is to work out what the new rules are, or how the old ones apply.

And that got me thinking: what would Wittgenstein think of remix? I think he’d have understood that it’s all a matter of what game you are playing.

“However many rules you give me—I give a rule which justifies my employment of your rules” (Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics [RFM] I-113).

Tying it all together⤴

from

Nearly there. This week I spoke to my supervisor and my Graduate School and I have sent off my “intention to submit” by March 31st 2021. It’s almost done- I just need to finish the final chapters and give it a thorough edit.

Thesis Structure

It’s been a long journey – as I scrawled down on a scrap of paper this week, my thesis has gone through changes from looking at collaborative learning, through to thinking about peer interactions and ending with a rich picture of participatory learning.

Nearly there

I’ll leave the thanks for the acknowledgements, but for now I will give a shout out for my loyal little research assistant, who keeps me going through it all.

Research Assistant
Research Assistant

Hamish the Tour Guide⤴

from

Yesterday, as part of the SocMedHE20 conference, we ran a competition to guess where Hamish the Cow was. Hamish was originally knitted by me back in the old world of social contact, before we realised we’d have to run this year’s event online. I remembered him this week, so we devised a plan to photoedit him into a series of images of Glasgow and tweet them out during the day using the hashtags #WheresHamishNoo and #WinHamishTheCoo We had a lot of fun. Maybe you will too.

Learning as Performance⤴

from

Today I gave a presentation for the #SocMedHE20 conference. It was a conference with a difference as it was all online – presenters were asked to submit up to 5 tweets which we then scheduled to be tweeted from the conference account. Here’s mine – partly done to nudge myself to write a paper about it (the conference will have a special issue of the Journal of Social Media for Learning). Here’s what I said as a warm up:

My basic idea is that, at least for those of us who practice and share out in the open, learning can be seen as a performance – in a similar way to the thought that teaching is a performance (the sage on the stage). I’ll be using #CLMOOC and #DS106 to illustrate my answer.

Context planners for our ‘new normal’⤴

from @ Digital Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

Hi All 

We hope you have managed to enjoy a break in some form over the summer.  As we are all returning to a new normal and finding our feet, we are taking a break from providing CLPL for a short while.  We are working in the background to develop more CLPL sessions and other exciting STEM opportunities which we hope to bring to you later in the term.  For now, we would like to reassure you we are still here for any advice/support you may need, please feel free to contact us. 

We would like to share with you some resources you may find useful in this new normal.  Prior to the summer we worked as a team with all the RAiSE officers across Scotland to produce a resource for use by teachers on return to school.  The reasoning behind the creation of these resources was that pre-summer, there was the possibility teachers could return to a blended learning model.   We set to work trying to provide support for this model.  As it turns out we are not in a blended learning model, however, the resources created are still valuable in the teaching context we now find ourselves with some limitations on group work, resource sharing and potentially lengthy pupil absences.  As a result, we are publishing these resources now for use as you wish. 

These context planners are for Early, First and Second level to include Es and Os from across the curriculum (not just STEM).  The planners provide opportunities and complete resources for: home based learning, classroom working and IDL (Inter Disciplinary Learning) experiences.  Consideration has been given to pupils having to work relatively self-supported, potentially without access to technology and individually rather than in groups for practical work.  These resources could prove useful in completing practical work outside of group work.  They could be used to support pupils in periods of extended absence or fully in a classroom context and simply provide resources for learning. 

Each planner has an overview which outlines the whole context for learning and all the experiences which could be taught.  It shows the Es and Os which would be covered, highlights where tasks could be complete at home and which tasks are IDL.  The links to the resources for these tasks, worksheets, powerpoints, videos are all in the overview. 

Please use an up to date browser to access this resource ie Firefox, Chrome or Edge (not Microsoft Explorer) 

If you are in an up to date browser then you can access the resources by clicking on the images below.  If you are internet explorer then please copy the link to this post into one of the other browsers and then you can click on the images for the resources. 

Early Level

First Level

Second Level

The full resource can be found here. Context planners

Any feedback or questions you have on these please feel free to contact us: Barbara Hanning gw14hanningbarbara@glow.sch.uk or Laura McCafferty gw11mccaffertylaura@glow.sch.uk

What every teacher should do: direct-interactive instruction⤴

from @ Becoming Educated

My schooling was during a time when the idea of being a ‘guide on the side’ was quite fashionable. When I think back to some of my lessons I can remember doing an awful lot of stuff and I struggle to recall listening to my teacher talk. However, two teachers stand out for me in my schooling and both of them epitomise what I mean when I talk about direct instruction. They both were great explainers, and storytellers, who demanded excellence from us. They both questioned students deeply and I remember one lesson when my chemistry teacher spent what felt like ten minutes probing my thinking, believing I could go deeper. It certainly worked as I started my university life studying for a degree in chemistry. A lot has changed since then I can assure you.

This brings me to discuss the need for all teachers to pursue ‘direct instruction’ or a better way to think about it is ‘direct-interactive instruction’ as put forward by Bruce Robertson in The Teaching Delusion.

Before we dive into exploring ‘direct-interactive instruction’. I feel that it is important to discuss the difference between a novice and an expert, how they learn, think and how the use knowledge. It is clear (at least I hope so) that a novice has significantly less prior knowledge, or background knowledge of a particular topic, than that of the prior knowledge of an expert. This plays a key role in how they tackle problem, think about solutions and carry out tasks.

A novice will approach a task from the start and tackle each area of a problem individually, they will require a lot of scaffolding, support and feedback to overcome each step until they get to a solution. An expert on the other hand uses all of their prior knowledge to tackle the solution easily, coming to a conclusion with minimal effort. As John Sweller neatly sums up in a 1988 paper on Cognitive Load During Problem Solving:

Novices, not possessing appropriate schemas, are not able to recognise and memorize problem configurations and are forced to use general problem-solving strategies such as means-end analysis when faced with a problem

John Sweller, Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning (1988)

If you consider it from a football perspective, a novice has to learn which part of the foot to dribble the ball with, how hard to hit the ball and will often lose track of where they are because they are continually looking down. An expert has the tacit knowledge to know where the ball is without looking at it and can instead focus on bigger concepts such as ‘game strategy’.

To put it simply, a novice needs to build their ‘schema’ and an expert already has a deep ‘schema’ to access. So, a novice then needs to be given facts and other relevant knowledge in order to build their schema, and the best way to do this is to explicitly teach them the facts of our subject matter slowly and steadily until it has moved to their long term memory. Which allows us to define learning as ‘a change in long term memory’ as outlined by Kirschner, Sweller & Clark.

What is direct-interactive instruction?

In What Makes Great Teaching (Coe et al., 2014) the authors summarised robust research evidence that would best support teacher quality. In the report they discuss ‘ineffective practices’ such as discovery learning, teaching to learning styles, use of lavish praise and grouping students by ability but one quote sticks out for me:

Enthusiasm for ‘discovery learning’ is not supported by research evidence, which broadly favours direct instruction (Kirschner et al., 2006). Although learners do need to build new understanding on what they already know, if teachers want them to learn new ideas, knowledge or methods they need to teach them directly.

What Makes Great Teaching, Sutton Trust Report.

Greg Ashman has been a prolific blogger on this area and has shown through robust use of evidence that the teacher should ‘ be in complete control of the learning process’. Ashman references Siegfried Engelmann’s Project Follow Through (which is one of the largest educational experiment ever conducted) and this study recognised that Direct Instruction ‘ was not only more effective at at developing students basic skills than alternative models, it was also more successful at developing the ability to comprehend written passages or solve mathematical problems’. (I would recommend looking up Project Follow Through for a more detailed account of explicit instruction).

Direct Instruction is often refereed to as ‘old fashioned’ but the evidence is clear that it is the best approach to take when teaching novices, they need the necessary background knowledge, which is moved to long term memory, in order to make future learning easier to undertake. In The Teaching Delusion Bruce Robertson adds that the instruction should be on the basis of ‘ clear teacher explanations and demonstration which hold students attention’ and should also include checking for understanding’. For teachers to hold a students attention they will be required to involve them in the discussion by asking questions and getting contributions ‘from the floor’. Bruce is clear that ‘great teaching needs to include presenting content directly and interactively to students and checking for understanding’. Teaching in this way will ensure that the students get the relevant knowledge from the expert in the room, the teacher, and by involving them in the process by asking questions and checking for understanding it will allow the teacher to hold their attention on the learning.

Suffice to say a poorly presented lesson which fails to hold a students attention will result in them ‘switching off’ and no learning entering their working memory, on the basis of the idea that ‘we learn what we attend to’. Making it crucial that teachers consider what pupils will be thinking about in each phase of their lesson (Willingham, 2009) through direct-interactive instruction and checking for understanding.

I would recommend reading Andy Tharby’s How to Explain Absolutely Anything to Absolutely Anyone if you want to develop your explanations and get getter at direct-interactive instruction.

What about the ‘interactive’ part?

During a great teacher explanation it is vital that a teacher knows what the students are taking in (even though we know this is them ‘performing’ in our lesson). A teacher can do this in a number of ways and I will write about providing worked examples, questioning and practice in future posts. For now, when you are designing your explanations of key content make sure that you are clear and explicit on what you want the students to learn and think about during the lesson, this will help you shape the questions that you ask as a good question ‘makes the students think hard’.

During this stage in the lesson your aim is to make thinking visible and there is no better way than getting the pupils to write down what they are thinking through your use of questioning. Whether it is in a jotter or on a show me board a great teacher will take responses from a number of students so that they are confident that what they are explicitly teaching is being held in their students working memory. The use of examples, retrieval practice and purposeful practice will help in getting the information to the long term memory. As we said earlier, the more knowledge a pupils has the easier future learning will be and the further they will move along the novice-expert continuum.

Clear explanations are king

Your explanations are king in the classroom and it is so important that we get this aspect of teacher talk right, it is key to effective direct-interactive instruction’. What you directly teach the students is inevitably what they will learn in your classroom so it is important to make sure they are of high quality. So before you start a new topic be sure to consider the following:

  • be clear on what you are going to say, clarity is so important
  • Script what you are going to say, especially in your early years of teaching
  • observe other teachers explaining new content, you can pinpoint what the great teachers do and add it to your armoury
  • make eye contact with every student and make sure the students eyes are on you. You are the focal point.
  • Stand still, the teacher moving too often is distracting for the students and requires extra attention which is unnecessary
  • Repeat your key ideas and include them in your questions when you are making thinking visible.

What every teacher should do: direct-interactive instruction⤴

from @ Becoming Educated

My schooling was during a time when the idea of being a ‘guide on the side’ was quite fashionable. When I think back to some of my lessons I can remember doing an awful lot of stuff and I struggle to recall listening to my teacher talk. However, two teachers stand out for me in my schooling and both of them epitomise what I mean when I talk about direct instruction. They both were great explainers, and storytellers, who demanded excellence from us. They both questioned students deeply and I remember one lesson when my chemistry teacher spent what felt like ten minutes probing my thinking, believing I could go deeper. It certainly worked as I started my university life studying for a degree in chemistry. A lot has changed since then I can assure you.

This brings me to discuss the need for all teachers to pursue ‘direct instruction’ or a better way to think about it is ‘direct-interactive instruction’ as put forward by Bruce Robertson in The Teaching Delusion.

Before we dive into exploring ‘direct-interactive instruction’. I feel that it is important to discuss the difference between a novice and an expert, how they learn, think and how the use knowledge. It is clear (at least I hope so) that a novice has significantly less prior knowledge, or background knowledge of a particular topic, than that of the prior knowledge of an expert. This plays a key role in how they tackle problem, think about solutions and carry out tasks.

A novice will approach a task from the start and tackle each area of a problem individually, they will require a lot of scaffolding, support and feedback to overcome each step until they get to a solution. An expert on the other hand uses all of their prior knowledge to tackle the solution easily, coming to a conclusion with minimal effort. As John Sweller neatly sums up in a 1988 paper on Cognitive Load During Problem Solving:

Novices, not possessing appropriate schemas, are not able to recognise and memorize problem configurations and are forced to use general problem-solving strategies such as means-end analysis when faced with a problem

John Sweller, Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning (1988)

If you consider it from a football perspective, a novice has to learn which part of the foot to dribble the ball with, how hard to hit the ball and will often lose track of where they are because they are continually looking down. An expert has the tacit knowledge to know where the ball is without looking at it and can instead focus on bigger concepts such as ‘game strategy’.

To put it simply, a novice needs to build their ‘schema’ and an expert already has a deep ‘schema’ to access. So, a novice then needs to be given facts and other relevant knowledge in order to build their schema, and the best way to do this is to explicitly teach them the facts of our subject matter slowly and steadily until it has moved to their long term memory. Which allows us to define learning as ‘a change in long term memory’ as outlined by Kirschner, Sweller & Clark.

What is direct-interactive instruction?

In What Makes Great Teaching (Coe et al., 2014) the authors summarised robust research evidence that would best support teacher quality. In the report they discuss ‘ineffective practices’ such as discovery learning, teaching to learning styles, use of lavish praise and grouping students by ability but one quote sticks out for me:

Enthusiasm for ‘discovery learning’ is not supported by research evidence, which broadly favours direct instruction (Kirschner et al., 2006). Although learners do need to build new understanding on what they already know, if teachers want them to learn new ideas, knowledge or methods they need to teach them directly.

What Makes Great Teaching, Sutton Trust Report.

Greg Ashman has been a prolific blogger on this area and has shown through robust use of evidence that the teacher should ‘ be in complete control of the learning process’. Ashman references Siegfried Engelmann’s Project Follow Through (which is one of the largest educational experiment ever conducted) and this study recognised that Direct Instruction ‘ was not only more effective at at developing students basic skills than alternative models, it was also more successful at developing the ability to comprehend written passages or solve mathematical problems’. (I would recommend looking up Project Follow Through for a more detailed account of explicit instruction).

Direct Instruction is often refereed to as ‘old fashioned’ but the evidence is clear that it is the best approach to take when teaching novices, they need the necessary background knowledge, which is moved to long term memory, in order to make future learning easier to undertake. In The Teaching Delusion Bruce Robertson adds that the instruction should be on the basis of ‘ clear teacher explanations and demonstration which hold students attention’ and should also include checking for understanding’. For teachers to hold a students attention they will be required to involve them in the discussion by asking questions and getting contributions ‘from the floor’. Bruce is clear that ‘great teaching needs to include presenting content directly and interactively to students and checking for understanding’. Teaching in this way will ensure that the students get the relevant knowledge from the expert in the room, the teacher, and by involving them in the process by asking questions and checking for understanding it will allow the teacher to hold their attention on the learning.

Suffice to say a poorly presented lesson which fails to hold a students attention will result in them ‘switching off’ and no learning entering their working memory, on the basis of the idea that ‘we learn what we attend to’. Making it crucial that teachers consider what pupils will be thinking about in each phase of their lesson (Willingham, 2009) through direct-interactive instruction and checking for understanding.

I would recommend reading Andy Tharby’s How to Explain Absolutely Anything to Absolutely Anyone if you want to develop your explanations and get getter at direct-interactive instruction.

What about the ‘interactive’ part?

During a great teacher explanation it is vital that a teacher knows what the students are taking in (even though we know this is them ‘performing’ in our lesson). A teacher can do this in a number of ways and I will write about providing worked examples, questioning and practice in future posts. For now, when you are designing your explanations of key content make sure that you are clear and explicit on what you want the students to learn and think about during the lesson, this will help you shape the questions that you ask as a good question ‘makes the students think hard’.

During this stage in the lesson your aim is to make thinking visible and there is no better way than getting the pupils to write down what they are thinking through your use of questioning. Whether it is in a jotter or on a show me board a great teacher will take responses from a number of students so that they are confident that what they are explicitly teaching is being held in their students working memory. The use of examples, retrieval practice and purposeful practice will help in getting the information to the long term memory. As we said earlier, the more knowledge a pupils has the easier future learning will be and the further they will move along the novice-expert continuum.

Clear explanations are king

Your explanations are king in the classroom and it is so important that we get this aspect of teacher talk right, it is key to effective direct-interactive instruction’. What you directly teach the students is inevitably what they will learn in your classroom so it is important to make sure they are of high quality. So before you start a new topic be sure to consider the following:

  • be clear on what you are going to say, clarity is so important
  • Script what you are going to say, especially in your early years of teaching
  • observe other teachers explaining new content, you can pinpoint what the great teachers do and add it to your armoury
  • make eye contact with every student and make sure the students eyes are on you. You are the focal point.
  • Stand still, the teacher moving too often is distracting for the students and requires extra attention which is unnecessary
  • Repeat your key ideas and include them in your questions when you are making thinking visible.

The post What every teacher should do: direct-interactive instruction appeared first on Becoming Educated.

What every teacher should do: understand how memory works⤴

from @ Becoming Educated


I was never explicitly taught about memory in my eight years of teaching. This is no one’s fault as we are all doing the best we can. However, having starting reading books and blogs there is a whole world of education research still untouched by many. One important area that I feel all teachers should know about is that of memory and how memory works.

We all want our students to remember stuff and I am sure we can all empathise with each others frustration at the students knowing stuff during lessons but completely forgetting it when it matters, during tests. Understanding how our memory works is key to tackling this all too common classroom occurrence.

In my last post we briefly explored Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve and we discussed our ability to retain information through spaced retrieval. To understand this in greater depth we must explore our working memory and long term memory.

Working Memory

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Willingham-memory-model-diagram.png
Credit – Oliver Caviglioli

The first area to consider is that of our Working Memory (WM). Research into our WM has shown that it is a finite resource, with some researchers claiming we can only hold up to 7 (plus 2) ‘chunk’ of information at any one time, some recent research has suggested that the number could be as low as 4 ‘chunks’. Our WM is where we process information from our current environment and also draw upon knowledge from our long-term memory. As mentioned our WM is a finite resource but it is always active and processing information. To reiterate, our working memory is always full, it is taking in everything in our surrounding. As David Didau writes:

Working memory is synonymous with awareness. It is the sit of conscious thought. The act of paying attention, of reading these words, of listening to your children complain about how much homework they’ve got to finish for Monday morning, fill sup our working memory. In practical terms our, our working memories are always active, even when we are focussing on something in particular. We’re constantly absorbing and processing sensory data from the world around us.David Didau, Making Kids Cleverer.

This is where Sweller’s ‘Cognitive Load Theory’ comes into play for us teachers. Often we ‘overload’ our students with too much information which produces too much cognitive load. To lighten this cognitive load our students have to have acquired knowledge in the long-term memory, referred to in literature as schemas (schemas are basically folders of knowledge on one topic, the more the folder is filled with knowledge the lighter the load on working memory for that particular area of knowledge).

As you can see in the graphic our working memory fills up and we can either learn the material by storing it in our long-term memory or forget it. If our WM is filled with too much cognitive load then whatever else is added will most certainly be forgotten so it is worth learning more on Cognitive Load Theory.

Despite the apparent bottleneck of our working memory there are strategies that we can use to overcome cognitive load. Firstly, having a vast store of knowledge in our long-term memory in the form of schemas will certainly help, in simple terms – the stronger the schema the lighter the load on our working memory (this is basically why experts make some things look so effortless and novices struggle so much).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Baddeley.jpg
Baddeley and Hitch’s Working Memory Model

Baddeley and Hitch’s Working Memory Model (WMM) is one of the most robust theories in cognitive science and gives us further insight into working memory. The Central Executive (CE) acts a bit like a supervisor or night club bouncer. As information tries to enter the ‘club’ the CE focuses attention on the information and decides which one to attend to, or to continue the analogy which one gets into the club and which information gets the good old ‘not tonight pal!’. It’s important to note that the CE is entirely under our control and is more of a subconscious function. Every teacher can speak to losing a classes focus when a wasp enters the room!

The Phonological Loop (PL) deals mainly with speech and other types of audio. This is where we store verbal information, up to about 2 seconds before it is overwritten and new information comes in. We either move it to our long-term memory or forget it.

The Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad (VSS) briefly holds visual information and the spatial relationship between things. Imagine the light goes out in your room, this is where you store the memory of where all of your clutter is so that you don’t trip up.

The Episodic Buffer (EB) was added to the WMM in 2000. It was added because there was evidence to suggest we needed a component to combine the information in the WMM stores to what we already know – our prior knowledge stored in our long-term memory. This shows the importance of a vast array of knowledge in our long-term memory. The more you know and the larger your schema is for a topic, the lighter the load on your working memory.

The role of LTM in helping working memory is well established and very easy to demonstrate (e.g. – compare the retention of a random sequence of letters – DPL OAM IGGB – to a sequence containing meaningful ‘chunks’: DOG PIG LAMB)Taken from ‘What every teacher needs to know about psychology’, Didau & Rose

One of the key things to note about working memory is just how limited it is.If you are distracted while trying to process something you will lose the information you are trying to process (think about what this means when the damn wasp flies in.) We also can only deal with a small amount of information at any one time as suggested by Miller’s ‘7 plus 2’ chunks from his research in 1950.

This is why it is so important that teachers know about Cognitive Load Theory and Dual Coding Theory to help them combat the limited working memory of their students. Dylan Wiliam said that cognitive load theory is the “single most important thing for teachers to know” However, to really help our students we should be working hard to get the information we teach into their long-term memory.

Long-Term Memory

First, we must note that our memories are invisible to us and there isn’t any consensus as to where exactly our memories are stored but we know enough that our long-term memory is vast and perhaps even limitless and the more stuff we have in there the easier it is to learn as the working memory load will be reduced. Learning has been defined as “a change in long term memory” by Kirschner, Sweller & Clark. If we run with this then, it is our acquisition of schema that fills our long term memory.

Storing memories is about making links and connections between our experiences in a vast network of related concepts and contexts. These links and connections are referred to as ‘schema’. As mentioned earlier a schema can be though of like a folder in your laptop that gets filled with the relevant knowledge in one given topic. An example of a schema in action is as follows:

A frequently used example is going to a restaurant. The schema for getting a table, ordering food and drink, and paying for the meal makes visiting a new restaurant for the first time, even in another country, a pretty straightforwards process, as we deal with new situations by linking them to things we’ve encountered in the past.David Didau, Making Kids Cleverer

Our long-term memory isn’t a single storage unit and psychologists tend to divide it into to separate but interlinked systems: declarative memory and non-declarative memory.

Non- declarative memory is a catch-all term for everything that may exist in our long-term memory that we are unable to put into words. An example of this is your ability to read this sentence and understand the phoneme-grapheme correspondences required to read this, you just know how to do it (even though it was once a challenging and hard learning experience). Other procedural skills like tying your shoelaces, walking, swimming or cycling are features of non-declarative memory.

Declarative memories are the memories we can declare: “Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid”, “they are 30 years old”, “pythagoras theorem is a2 + b2 = c2” and so on. Declarative memory can be either episodic or semantic.

Episodic memories are those of experiences and specific events, how you felt at during those events. We can often replay events in great detail using our episodic memories. Whereas, Semantic memories are a more structured record of facts, concepts and meanings. Episodic memories are mainly context dependant but semantic memories are more flexible and can be applied across a range of contexts.

The two systems, episodic and semantic are linked in several ways. Semantic memories can become ‘stand alone’ memories but they are often derived from a specific episodic memory. In terms of teaching an episodic memory could be that of a particular lesson and the semantic memories are the facts, key terms and concepts of that lesson. Quite often our students can recall episodic information from a lesson but struggle with recalling the semantic information.

Understanding episodic and semantic memory can help us, as teachers, understand why our children oftentimes can’t recall what we teach them. They remember the episodic memories of lessons – messing about with friends, Mr Murphy’s horrible breath and being given detention for incomplete homework. In order to make our semantic memories stronger we must retrieve factual information often which will allow us to retain our learning over the long term. Which is why retrieval practice really is an important pedagogy to undertake.

If we don’t retrieve the semantic memories, when asked “do you remember when we learned about plate tectonics?”. The students might reply with “oh yes i do remember” but they may be recalling the episodic memory and not the semantic memory and unless the teacher digs deeper with further probing questions the student will have the illusion of knowledge and perhaps be relying on the familiarity effect, with no change in their long term memory.

There have been great studies that have revealed the links between semantic and episodic memories. The most famous of these is by Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer. They showed participants of their study a series of films involving car collisions and found that estimations of the speed the car was travelling could be manipulated by changing the verb used in their question. Where participants were asked “about how fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” they gave lower speed estimates when compared to participants who were asked “about how fast were the cars going when they smashed each other?”. The change in language appeared to create a ‘fact’ about the collision which influenced the memory of the collisions they witnessed.

As mentioned earlier a ‘schema’ is like a big folder with interrelated concepts and contexts and is assembled of non-declarative and declarative memories. Some of what we remember is semantic, some is episodic, but they are all stored somewhere within our brain.

Notes

Didau, David and Nick Rose (2016) What every teacher need to know about psychology

Didau, David (2015) What is everything you knew about education was wrong?

Didau, David (2019) Making Kids Cleverer

What every teacher should do: understand how memory works⤴

from @ Becoming Educated


I was never explicitly taught about memory in my eight years of teaching. This is no one’s fault as we are all doing the best we can. However, having starting reading books and blogs there is a whole world of education research still untouched by many. One important area that I feel all teachers should know about is that of memory and how memory works.

We all want our students to remember stuff and I am sure we can all empathise with each others frustration at the students knowing stuff during lessons but completely forgetting it when it matters, during tests. Understanding how our memory works is key to tackling this all too common classroom occurrence.

In my last post we briefly explored Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve and we discussed our ability to retain information through spaced retrieval. To understand this in greater depth we must explore our working memory and long term memory.

Working Memory

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Willingham-memory-model-diagram.png
Credit – Oliver Caviglioli

The first area to consider is that of our Working Memory (WM). Research into our WM has shown that it is a finite resource, with some researchers claiming we can only hold up to 7 (plus 2) ‘chunk’ of information at any one time, some recent research has suggested that the number could be as low as 4 ‘chunks’. Our WM is where we process information from our current environment and also draw upon knowledge from our long-term memory. As mentioned our WM is a finite resource but it is always active and processing information. To reiterate, our working memory is always full, it is taking in everything in our surrounding. As David Didau writes:

Working memory is synonymous with awareness. It is the site of conscious thought. The act of paying attention, of reading these words, of listening to your children complain about how much homework they’ve got to finish for Monday morning, fills up our working memory. In practical terms our, our working memories are always active, even when we are focussing on something in particular. We’re constantly absorbing and processing sensory data from the world around us.

David Didau, Making Kids Cleverer.

This is where Sweller’s ‘Cognitive Load Theory’ comes into play for us teachers. Often we ‘overload’ our students with too much information which produces too much cognitive load. To lighten this cognitive load our students have to have acquired knowledge in the long-term memory, referred to in literature as schemas (schemas are basically folders of knowledge on one topic, the more the folder is filled with knowledge the lighter the load on working memory for that particular area of knowledge).

As you can see in the graphic our working memory fills up and we can either learn the material by storing it in our long-term memory or forget it. If our WM is filled with too much cognitive load then whatever else is added will most certainly be forgotten so it is worth learning more on Cognitive Load Theory.

Despite the apparent bottleneck of our working memory there are strategies that we can use to overcome cognitive load. Firstly, having a vast store of knowledge in our long-term memory in the form of schemas will certainly help, in simple terms – the stronger the schema the lighter the load on our working memory (this is basically why experts make some things look so effortless and novices struggle so much).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Baddeley.jpg
Baddeley and Hitch’s Working Memory Model

Baddeley and Hitch’s Working Memory Model (WMM) is one of the most robust theories in cognitive science and gives us further insight into working memory. The Central Executive (CE) acts a bit like a supervisor or night club bouncer. As information tries to enter the ‘club’ the CE focuses attention on the information and decides which one to attend to, or to continue the analogy which one gets into the club and which information gets the good old ‘not tonight pal!’. It’s important to note that the CE is entirely under our control and is more of a subconscious function. Every teacher can speak to losing a classes focus when a wasp enters the room!

The Phonological Loop (PL) deals mainly with speech and other types of audio. This is where we store verbal information, up to about 2 seconds before it is overwritten and new information comes in. We either move it to our long-term memory or forget it.

The Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad (VSS) briefly holds visual information and the spatial relationship between things. Imagine the light goes out in your room, this is where you store the memory of where all of your clutter is so that you don’t trip up.

The Episodic Buffer (EB) was added to the WMM in 2000. It was added because there was evidence to suggest we needed a component to combine the information in the WMM stores to what we already know – our prior knowledge stored in our long-term memory. This shows the importance of a vast array of knowledge in our long-term memory. The more you know and the larger your schema is for a topic, the lighter the load on your working memory.

The role of LTM in helping working memory is well established and very easy to demonstrate (e.g. – compare the retention of a random sequence of letters – DPL OAM IGGB – to a sequence containing meaningful ‘chunks’: DOG PIG LAMB)Taken from ‘What every teacher needs to know about psychology’, Didau & Rose

One of the key things to note about working memory is just how limited it is.If you are distracted while trying to process something you will lose the information you are trying to process (think about what this means when the damn wasp flies in.) We also can only deal with a small amount of information at any one time as suggested by Miller’s ‘7 plus 2’ chunks from his research in 1950.

This is why it is so important that teachers know about Cognitive Load Theory and Dual Coding Theory to help them combat the limited working memory of their students. Dylan Wiliam said that cognitive load theory is the “single most important thing for teachers to know” However, to really help our students we should be working hard to get the information we teach into their long-term memory.

Long-Term Memory

First, we must note that our memories are invisible to us and there isn’t any consensus as to where exactly our memories are stored but we know enough that our long-term memory is vast and perhaps even limitless and the more stuff we have in there the easier it is to learn as the working memory load will be reduced. Learning has been defined as “a change in long term memory” by Kirschner, Sweller & Clark. If we run with this then, it is our acquisition of schema that fills our long term memory.

Storing memories is about making links and connections between our experiences in a vast network of related concepts and contexts. These links and connections are referred to as ‘schema’. As mentioned earlier a schema can be though of like a folder in your laptop that gets filled with the relevant knowledge in one given topic. An example of a schema in action is as follows:

A frequently used example is going to a restaurant. The schema for getting a table, ordering food and drink, and paying for the meal makes visiting a new restaurant for the first time, even in another country, a pretty straightforwards process, as we deal with new situations by linking them to things we’ve encountered in the past.

David Didau, Making Kids Cleverer

Our long-term memory isn’t a single storage unit and psychologists tend to divide it into to separate but interlinked systems: declarative memory and non-declarative memory.

Non- declarative memory is a catch-all term for everything that may exist in our long-term memory that we are unable to put into words. An example of this is your ability to read this sentence and understand the phoneme-grapheme correspondences required to read this, you just know how to do it (even though it was once a challenging and hard learning experience). Other procedural skills like tying your shoelaces, walking, swimming or cycling are features of non-declarative memory.

Declarative memories are the memories we can declare: “Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid”, “they are 30 years old”, “pythagoras theorem is a2 + b2 = c2” and so on. Declarative memory can be either episodic or semantic.

Episodic memories are those of experiences and specific events, how you felt at during those events. We can often replay events in great detail using our episodic memories. Whereas, Semantic memories are a more structured record of facts, concepts and meanings. Episodic memories are mainly context dependant but semantic memories are more flexible and can be applied across a range of contexts.

The two systems, episodic and semantic are linked in several ways. Semantic memories can become ‘stand alone’ memories but they are often derived from a specific episodic memory. In terms of teaching an episodic memory could be that of a particular lesson and the semantic memories are the facts, key terms and concepts of that lesson. Quite often our students can recall episodic information from a lesson but struggle with recalling the semantic information.

Understanding episodic and semantic memory can help us, as teachers, understand why our children oftentimes can’t recall what we teach them. They remember the episodic memories of lessons – messing about with friends, Mr Murphy’s horrible breath and being given detention for incomplete homework. In order to make our semantic memories stronger we must retrieve factual information often which will allow us to retain our learning over the long term. Which is why retrieval practice really is an important pedagogy to undertake.

If we don’t retrieve the semantic memories, when asked “do you remember when we learned about plate tectonics?”. The students might reply with “oh yes i do remember” but they may be recalling the episodic memory and not the semantic memory and unless the teacher digs deeper with further probing questions the student will have the illusion of knowledge and perhaps be relying on the familiarity effect, with no change in their long term memory.

There have been great studies that have revealed the links between semantic and episodic memories. The most famous of these is by Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer. They showed participants of their study a series of films involving car collisions and found that estimations of the speed the car was travelling could be manipulated by changing the verb used in their question. Where participants were asked “about how fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” they gave lower speed estimates when compared to participants who were asked “about how fast were the cars going when they smashed each other?”. The change in language appeared to create a ‘fact’ about the collision which influenced the memory of the collisions they witnessed.

As mentioned earlier a ‘schema’ is like a big folder with interrelated concepts and contexts and is assembled of non-declarative and declarative memories. Some of what we remember is semantic, some is episodic, but they are all stored somewhere within our brain.

Notes

Didau, David and Nick Rose (2016) What every teacher need to know about psychology

Didau, David (2015) What is everything you knew about education was wrong?

Didau, David (2019) Making Kids Cleverer

The post What every teacher should do: understand how memory works appeared first on Becoming Educated.

It’s time to talk about the new normal for schools⤴

from @ Graeme’s Blog

The class of 2020 will never forget their summer without exams. But what seemed unusual last term will pale in comparison with the seismic changes Scottish education is about to witness.

The First Minister has announced that physical distancing must remain in place until a vaccine is available. We must re-think – radically, deeply and creatively – how we “do” school in line with our new way of living.

For much of the coming session, schools cannot have all of their pupils in the building on the same day. Who should be prioritised? Senior pupils working towards qualifications and transitions, or younger year groups with perhaps greater wellbeing needs? Should secondaries alternate between dedicated days for BGE pupils and days for Senior Phase (S4-6)? Would alternate weeks be better? Safer? Just what is the maximum number of pupils you can fit into a Covid-safe classroom (a question considered brilliantly by Blair Minchin). Perhaps English and Maths teachers will finally discover the benefits of practical-sized classes, de-bunking the myth that children need greater supervision with the Bunsen burner than with the gerund (despite all our disagreeing). (Sorry).

Spring time is when many of us cover topics that simply must be taught outside. Where else can you teach Housman properly but under the shade of a cherry tree? Danish schools returned this week, taking as much learning as possible outdoors and Scottish teachers will exploit this opportunity to the full. As we head into autumn though, I’d guess this will become a less attractive option for all 5 periods of Higher Physics. Perhaps schools will follow the example of supermarkets and have clear lines at 2 metre intervals throughout social spaces. But what should we do if (when?) young people, deprived of peer contact for so long, decide to cross them? What happens for the young child who is stuck with their shoe laces, can’t wipe their nose, or just needs a hug from a friend?

In larger schools, having even two year groups in a building means 400-500 youngsters. Will it actually be possible for them to move through corridors every 50 minutes and observe distancing rules, or do we need something different? How will our transport (and teaching!) contracts cope with flexible school days? It is the time in the academic year when timetablers, having elegantly re-arranged the last few periods of S3 French, step-back with a hubristic grin and gaze at their gleaming matrices, desperate to explain their marvellous creations – slowly – to colleagues unfamiliar with the dark arts. Should they rip them up? Will these timetables ever be fully realised if the new normal needs new structures? We need to adapt the school day and week to minimise risk and maximise learning.

Across the country schools set up, seemingly overnight, new ways of teaching remotely and providing childcare for key workers; these will still be needed. Every pupil will need access to an engaging, user-friendly digital platform for the days it’s not their turn to be in school. Every single classroom in Scotland just got flipped. Royally. We must think deeply about how this changes our pedagogy for the coming session.

How employers and unions advise on PPE will be a crucial factor in the big question of “when?” we return. And, as advice on shielding becomes more detailed, we will learn which of our colleagues and pupils will stay at home indefinitely and consider how to support them.

But all of this is merely the starter task. Highly complex challenges lie ahead. How do schools continue to deliver their role in identifying and responding to wellbeing needs, GIRFEC and child protection concerns? How can we best support pupils with complex needs over the next year? The world of work changed unrecognisably overnight and, if economic predictions are even half true, the labour market for future school leavers will be even more complex and challenging than it was 5 weeks ago. Preparing young people to navigate this has never been more important but business and industry will have less capacity to support our DYW activity.

With the current focus on estimates for this year’s SQA candidates, it seems a tad gauche to pose a question about the 2021 exam diet. But it needs to be asked. By August, an entire cohort of Scottish children will have had their learning certified, and been awarded qualifications, without ever knowing the chill of an exam hall, the sound of 200 pens scribbling in synergy or the smell of a fusty invigilator. They have learned deep knowledge, skills and concepts. They will go on to wonderful things and they will cope with them. The next destination in their learner journey will welcome them with open arms (and will probably never make them sit an exam either). It turns out that we can trust teachers after all. We will have evidence that we do not need exams.

If we know now that the 2021 qualification cohort will have significantly less direct teaching than their predecessors, is it fair to assess them using the papers that are already written and locked in a Dalkeith vault? No. They too will need something different.

The rationale for Scotland’s Curriculum and the indispensability of the 4 capacities have been reinforced by the Covid-19 crisis. That same crisis has exposed the irrelevance of exams to real-life challenges. We have made commendable progress over the past decade in our approaches to teaching, learning and curriculum. I am not arguing we abolish our national exam system overnight (thought about it!) but it is time for certification to catch up. It is time for Scotland to stop being the country that assesses practical woodwork and hospitality with unseen written tests.

The Scottish education community has risen admirably to the challenges of the last few weeks. It will embrace the coming session with the same courage and creativity. Let’s take our inspirationally resilient First Minister at her word and engage in a grown-up conversation about how we do school for the new normal. Let’s be optimistic: from crisis comes progress.

Caveat 1: In the unlikely event anyone (I know) reads this, I am not saying any of this will happen in the school I am privileged to call my workplace. It is merely an attempt to un-burst my head! (“I write to know what I think”, Joan Didion)

Caveat 2: Timetablers are good people, especially our timetabler.

Caveat 3: Invigilators are really good people. You all smell lovely and I’m sorry.