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Research School Network: What Can Generative Learning Look Like? A Review of Practice Inspired by Generative Learning in Action by ELE, Hydeh Fayaz

What Can Generative Learning Look Like?

A Review of Practice Inspired by Generative Learning in Action by ELE, Hydeh Fayaz

by St. Matthew's Research School
on the

Understanding how children learn has never been more pertinent in society. In order to close the gap, foster a change in the long term memory and ensure children are engaging their schema, we need to understand learning as a cognitive process.

Mark and Zoe Enser state that if we want children to learn and remember, we need them to select information, organise it and attach it to a context the child can understand and integrate it into their schema (something which we teachers have had to model very heavily this post-Covid term).

The Select, Organise and Integrate model forms the basis of the research carried out by Fiorella and Mayer.

Logan Fioerlla defines generative learning as learners making sense’ of the learning. To create a schema, new learning has to be hooked onto previous knowledge or concepts that children have already grasped. This can be made explicit so simply, by us stating You looked at this last half term’ I already know the meaning of the root word…’ This reminds me of…’ and can be assessed in a low threat high challenge way by the use of retrieval quizzes. (See Powerful Teaching blog for Retrieval quizzes which employ children’s meta-cognition)

Generative Learning in Action’ supports us in our endeavour:

How do we ensure pupils are selecting, organising and integrating the learning at the point of teaching?

In their book, Mark and Zoe Enser clearly outline the activities that enable generative learning. They begin each chapter with a clear definition, analyse research study information and – refreshingly – note any limitations as well.

This blog looks at how Generative Learning can weave its way into your curriculum.

One process of generative learning is Summarising. 

Summarising 2 2020 10 28 141408
Summarising model

Learning by Summarising: 

Summarising involves the reader distinguishing between important and unimportant information.’ [1]This process is crucial as children will demonstrate what their key takeaways from your teaching were; a fantastic assessment tool at the point of … Co-constructing a summarizing toolkit can provide children with the scaffold they need to be able to do this independently. Once summarising has been modelled, follow it up with an independent task such as a narrative pyramid. The conscious effort and control children have to put in to limit their word choices shows understanding.

[1] Wayne Tennant et al, Guided Reading Layers of Meaning [London, UCL Institute of Education Press] p40

Summarising 4
How children use their tools to summarise in a Follow Up Guided Reading Session – children have summarized differently.

Learning by mapping:

Oliver Caviglioli in his Research Ed talk Dual Coding to organise ideas’[1]
informed us that in order to get the most out of the learning, the right graphic organiser must be used. How we want children to use the knowledge and understanding should therefore determine the way the knowledge is represented. At St Matthews, we model the process of creating a knowledge organiser and think aloud so the children can see that the pattern does in fact support the learning (of course, there are also children who benefit from the scaffold of one that is pre-planned, as we do not want the working memory overloaded with how to draw a venn diagram).

However, there is power in our children’s understanding: I can attach meaning to my knowledge depending on how it’s mapped. It involves an active engagement with the information they have, prompting them to think hard’[2]

We want our children attaching meaning to their information, so it can be processed and integrated; so it can make its way into the long term memory. 

[1] Oliver Caviglioli Research Ed talk available here

[2] Zoe and Mark Enser Generative Learning In Action’ [Woodbridge, John Catt] p36

Sequencing and cause effect K Os
On the left: A Sequencing Knowledge Organizer for the Spread of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England.On the right: A Cause and Effect Knowledge Organizer for the Anglo Saxon arrival (The I stands for input, O – Output.)

Learning by Self-Explaining:

I believe that self-explaining comes in many different forms. We want children to be regulating their own learning which involves clarifying information as they learn; from children using dialogue prompts to probe deeper into their partner’s explanation, to children applying a metalanguage to help improve their own writing.

Below is an example of guided reading planning which models how to clarify alongside discussion prompts needed to answer authentic open-ended questions and an example of the way that explicit modelling of how to generate clarifying questions enabled the children to do this independently with The Highwayman poem.

GR planning
The Highwayman - planning for guided reading

Generative Learning in Action’ is a read which will motivate practitioners to think about learning as a cognitive process. Filled with tangible case studies and clear definitions it allows us to make tweaks to our practice which will help our children learn better – what’s not to love?

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