Browse Issue

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We live in exciting times for educational research. Research on learning and cognition is developing rapidly. The findings from this research are increasingly making their way into classroom practice. A range of organisations and people in education (the Chartered College of Teaching very much among them) are working to test how we can use the [...]
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In 2018, we introduced Impact readers to our initial work designing and implementing a knowledge-rich curriculum at Cottenham Primary School (CPS) (Dennis and Kilsby, 2018). At that time, we were focused on striking a balance between teachers’ subject knowledge and the pedagogies that best support retention across primary domains. We recognised that ‘the next phase [...]
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The reformed music A-level examination requires students to think far more synoptically than the previous A-level curriculum. Students now spend two years learning a vast amount of new content, which is then tested in one two-hour exam at the end of this period. A complete understanding of the musical canon, ranging from the Renaissance period [...]
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Retrieval practice is strongly supported by over 100 years of research and is one of only two learning techniques rated by Dunlosky et al. (2013) as having ‘high utility’ for classroom practice. It is also widely used in classrooms across England. So, is it even worth evaluating? Surely we already know that retrieval practice works? [...]
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Cognitive load theory (CLT) (Sweller, 1998) is a well-established framework that has attracted renewed attention due to its evidential role in the new Ofsted ‘Education inspection framework’ (Ofsted, 2019). CLT concerns the architecture of memory – how the brain processes and stores information. All conscious processing occurs in the working memory, which has limited capacity, [...]
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Cognitive load theory has led to the development of many instructional techniques for enhancing learning that are designed to prevent learners from overloading their working memory by eliminating wasteful cognitive load that is not essential for learning. However, the effectiveness of a particular teaching technique depends on the relationship between the characteristics of learners’ cognitive [...]
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A wide variation in children’s mathematics skills is observable from the earliest stages of mathematics instruction (Aubrey et al., 2006). Not only do children begin school with different levels of numeracy skills but mathematics skills also develop at different rates (Xenidou-Dervou et al., 2018). Researchers in cognitive and developmental psychology are interested in understanding how [...]
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Retrieval practice has become ubiquitous in schools because it is easy to implement, and the outcomes are easy to observe and measure. As a teacher educator I am lucky enough to visit classrooms in many different schools and retrieval practice strategies are far more evident than they used to be. Often used as a settler [...]
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The best way to teach values is to provide a culture embodying the values to be learned, in which students become habituated into ways of life that develop characters possessive of such values. Values education is, therefore, best approached by embedding values within a school’s culture. This is not a cognitive exercise; rather, character traits [...]
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The study of multimodality, as explained by Bezemer (2012), ‘focuses on analysing and describing the full repertoire of meaning-making resources that people use (visual, spoken, gestural, written, three-dimensional, and others, depending on the domain of representation) in different contexts, and on developing means that show how these are organized to make meaning’. When I first [...]
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Students want to learn, but sometimes they don’t know how to; if it gets too hard or too intense too quickly then they give up, fade out or disengage – the same can be said of staff. There has been a lot of interest recently in cognitive load theory (CLT) and its application; Dylan William [...]
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One of the most frequent comments that students make after I teach them about memory (and about why some strategies are much more powerful than others) is ‘Why didn’t we learn this sooner?’. Teaching students about memory seems like a no-brainer. Students are only human after all. As humans, we are programmed to look for [...]
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A student misconception, for a teacher, is similar to what a fever is for a medical practitioner: it is an unequivocal indicator that something is amiss. Ofsted (2019, p. 9) asks teachers to ‘check learners’ understanding systematically, identify misconceptions accurately and provide clear, direct feedback’ [emphasis added]. The ‘clear, direct feedback’ is, no doubt, intended [...]
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Developments in our understanding of how three- to seven-year-olds learn mathematics have practical relevance for the mathematics we plan for in nursery, Reception and Year 1 settings. They also bring into question the current weight being attached to number and recall over other areas of mathematics in the proposed changes to the Early Learning Goals [...]
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If used effectively, peer assessment – a formative assessment strategy that encourages students to comment on the work of their peers – can improve students’ understanding of success criteria, help them to become more engaged in learning and develop their interpersonal skills (Black et al., 2003; Topping, 2017), as well as potentially even reducing teacher [...]
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It has long been recognised that feedback has a very valuable role to play in overall pupil progress and achievement (Hattie and Clark, 2018; Hattie, 1999). However, questions around how best to deliver feedback to students remain. One of the biggest challenges facing teachers is continuous management of workload, and marking has been identified as [...]
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The cognitive revolution and the increased focus on evidence-based practice that has swept through the teaching profession in recent years has undoubtedly brought with it many positive outcomes. Yet in the rush to embrace the modern, it would be wise to remember that many of these new ideas have very old roots, and rather than [...]
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Autism has traditionally been viewed as a condition predominantly affecting boys, and therefore autistic girls are not being sufficiently identified. Gould and Ashton-Smith (2011) recognise that autistic girls are broadly misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed, and although the male-to-female ratio has narrowed significantly over the years (currently 3:1), a recent meta-analysis of prevalence studies by Loomes et [...]
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Hembree’s (1988) large and heavily cited meta-analysis of 562 studies about test anxiety found that test anxiety affects girls more than boys and can start at the ages of seven to eight years (Year 3 to Year 4). Test anxiety is a transactional construct that affects performance of working memory. One aspect of Bandura’s self-efficacy [...]
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Conflict of interest statement: This study was carried out by Sumdog, a company providing free and paid versions of their software to schools. The study design and planned analysis were reviewed by an independent academic and registered with the Open Science Framework prior to any data collection. The registration, along with associated documents, can be [...]
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Daisy Christodoulou (2013) suggests that if we wish students to be able to solve real-world problems, we cannot teach them as if they already able to solve such problems on their own; instead, they require knowledge and practice to be able to do this. They need to be guided, especially if they are to be [...]
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In recent years, cognitive scientists have provided teachers with insights into ways of helping students to remember learning. Driven by the work of Willingham (2009), Mccrea (2017) and Brown et al. (2014), we have developed our pedagogy and curriculum to teach memorably and make learning stick. At the heart of our approach is retrieval practice. [...]
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This case study focuses on the use of Google Forms and Zipgrade to assess and improve students’ retention and recall of key subject-specific knowledge in Year 7 religious studies at Chesterton Community College, Cambridge. The case study involved 200 students and four members of staff, of which just one was a religious studies specialist. Data [...]
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Teachers are acutely aware of the literacy, communication and language challenges that some of their children face when they first enter the classroom. The link between disadvantage and low levels of language and communication in particular is well-researched; there are significant gaps in vocabulary between children from the least disadvantaged and most disadvantaged backgrounds (Save [...]
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As a newly qualified teacher (NQT), I have spent a significant amount of time since my initial teacher training reflecting on my practice and how to maximise my impact within the classroom. This task poses challenges to any teacher, and even more so to an early-career teacher, with the differences between expert and novice teachers [...]
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As more and more schools participate in research projects and conduct their own research, it is important for all stakeholders (headteachers, teachers, trainee teachers and researchers) to familiarise themselves with research protocols and understand the nuances and requirements of different research designs and methods. Conducting research with primary school children offers researchers the opportunity to [...]
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This study reports on a national, government-funded teacher professional development project in England under the title ‘Teaching for Neurodiversity’. The aim was to provide a better understanding of diversity in learning and a basic ‘toolkit’ of strategies to develop in-service teachers’ confidence and skills in meeting the diverse range of student learning needs found in [...]
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"Is there a profession filled with more disagreement among its members than teaching?" This was a question posed on Twitter by lecturer in education at La Trobe University Emina McLean in October ( Why, she mused, is there furious disagreement about such fundamental aspects of our profession as teaching reading, managing behaviour, assessment, inclusion, pedagogy [...]
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As a classroom teacher and school leader, I have experienced the positive impact of a school-wide application of a cognitive science-driven pedagogy. I have witnessed real change in student and teacher thinking, and have celebrated the positive impact on student outcomes. This perspective focuses on a key contributor for driving such change: the benefits of deliberate and [...]
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Dan Willingham’s (2009) Why Don’t Students Like School? is the first thing that all staff who work at Willingham (name is a coincidence) Primary School are asked to read. It gives a great introduction to cognitive psychology and raises the question: ‘Why have we always done X this way?’ The answer, on far too many [...]
Inheriting a school with poor academic outcomes for students (Progress 8 of -0.78 ) leaves you with one fundamental question: where do we start? Leadership of a school that needs improving across the board requires laser-sharp prioritisation, and amongst the myriad of research on curriculum, pedagogy, staff wellbeing and student progress, we knew two things: [...]
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In 2018, the Education Endowment Foundation published some guidance for schools on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning, which we are told provides ‘high impact for very low cost, based on extensive evidence’ (p. 4). Naturally, schools are keen to put these impactful ideas into practice. However, teachers are not always clear about what ‘metacognition and self-regulated [...]
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A relatively incontrovertible aim of education is to enable students to become independent in their learning, equipping them with the skills to make strategic and reflective choices in their learning so that they become lifelong learners. What is more controversial is exactly how a school goes about achieving these aims. Since the publication of Carol [...]
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Last year, I read an article outlining the work that Helen Lewis had done around metacognition with young children. Lewis’s study followed a group of four- to six-year-olds in Welsh primary schools over the course of a year (2018, 2017). She employed a range of strategies in order to determine whether or not the children [...]
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Many students find the transition to A-level study challenging. In our most recent cohort of chemistry students, those with low prior attainment made less progress than their peers. Observing the underperforming students offers two reasons for this: 1) poor study habits in terms of the type of activities undertaken as independent work, and 2) overestimating [...]
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Reflection on one’s own lessons is typically viewed as a key aspect of professional development. Teachers are exhorted to be reflective practitioners, and this – it is assumed – will make them better at their job, a principle often seen as an instrument of system-wide improvement (e.g. Donaldson, 2011). But how accurate are such reflections? Can [...]
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There is now a good deal of evidence that developing self-regulated learning (SRL) and metacognition has a positive impact on student attainment, motivation and behaviour (Quigley et al., nd). Yet it is not always clear how different tasks and activities, including how teachers approach these, might enhance or hinder the opportunities to develop these skills. [...]
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Evidence suggests that the use of ‘metacognitive strategies’ can be worth the equivalent of an additional seven months’ progress when used well (Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), 2018). The implementation of effective metacognitive strategies develops learners who are able to think about their own learning explicitly, meaning that they exhibit the qualities of a self-regulated learner. [...]