Research School Network: Reflections from a training programme

Reflections from a training programme

by Durrington Research School
on the

As a Research School we put on a number of training programmes that colleagues from all over the country attend. We also offer fully funded places on these programmes to our own staff, as we feel it is important that they also get the benefit of the knowledge and experience of the Research School team.

Last week, Durrington geography teacher Rob Suckling attended day one of our Improving Memory’ training programme, led by Chris Runeckles. This course aims to address the following questions:

  • Which teaching methods have been shown to improve memory recall?
  • How can better course and curriculum planning improve the depth and scope of student knowledge?
  • What are the most effective revision strategies to teach our students?
  • How can we best prepare students for content-rich exams?

Here are Rob’s reflections about the first day of this programme:

Why were you interested in attending the Improving Memory’ training programme? What problem are you hoping it will solve?

I was interested as a result of the significant demand placed on our KS4 students from curriculum content. We need to better understand, as a department, the burden placed on students of having to remember a huge amount of content and alleviate this, where possible, with strategies that will support memory retention and recall.

What was your key learning from day 1?

My key learning from day 1 was how to effectively utilise the knowledge organisers we produce in Geography. This required links to the six learning principles (from the Learning Scientists’) including retrieval and elaboration. I also learned more about the theory of memory with links to how we can utilise the working memories’ of students to better embed long term memory requirements.

What are you going to do differently in your lessons as a result?

I will be planning low stakes quizzes for the start of our lessons in KS3 and 4 next term during the Xmas break, in order to ensure we have a standardised approach to retrieval and elaboration. This links in to my learning from day 1.

Why have you picked these strategies to implement?

I have chosen this as a way to help provide the students with a way of embedding the content geography requires students to remember – which is then tested in their assessments. It is a quick addition to the start of the lesson and allows for a return to prior learning from previous lessons. This is proven to be an effective strategy as consistent retrieval of knowledge over the course of days, weeks and months, after a lesson supports the long term retention of knowledge.

If this is successful, what difference do you think it will make to your students? How will you know?

If successful we will see students better able to remember core content and key terminology in the weeks and months after a lesson. This will directly impact assessment performance. Particular areas to focus on will be 1 and 2 mark questions requiring key terminology and theory recall.

What do you think are the key messages from day 1 that are worth sharing with other teachers?

  • We must work with the students working memory to allow for easier access to their long term memory.
  • Knowledge organisers must be used effectively by explicitly teaching the students how to utilise them for revision purposes, or we risk them losing their purpose.
  • Retrieval and elaboration are the best starting points for teachers and departments to start making an impact on students’ ability to recall.
  • We must appreciate the content required by students to remember and the challenges faced. A few basic memory tasks completed during day 1 were humbling to say the least!

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