In recent years retrieval practice (combined with spaced practice) has completely changed my teaching practice – for the better. I have seen many of the benefits of Retrieval Practice first hand, which go far beyond the ability to recall information from long term memory. I have fully embraced the research and this evidence-informed strategy, as have many others around the world. However, there are still some classroom teachers and students that are quite sceptical and wary about the hype surrounding retrieval practice.
What do all great teachers have in common? Likely, many attributes and qualities but all great teachers never stop learning. I am a very strong advocate for teachers taking ownership of their own professional development and learning because when I did this it improved my teaching practice and many aspects of my life. Taking responsibility of your own professional development can enhance, and eventually even transform, your teaching practice.
It can be argued that Dual Coding is a teaching and learning strategy that teachers have been using for years and years. Yet the term and the discussion around this approach has only become widespread in recent years (despite the work of Allan Paivio with his dual coding theory dating back to 1971 and he states that dual coding has its roots in the practical use of imagery as a memory aid 2500 years ago!). There are now lots of videos, blog posts, podcasts and presentations shared by educators about how dual coding can be used effectively in the classroom.
I discovered a quote by Jennifer Gonzalez where she interviewed Cognitive Scientist Pooja Agarwal “Retrieval practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using” (you can listen to the podcast interview here) and this resonated with me because it wasn’t a strategy I was using for many years during my teaching career. Teachers often have so much content to get through that little time can be spent revisiting prior learning and subject content previously covered – I was guilty of this. Each lesson or week I would work my way through delivering new content on the specification or scheme of work and return to recall knowledge and understanding at a much later date. On reflection, it seems obvious that revisiting a topic 12 months later (or longer!) in the classroom just before the exam won’t be as effective as regular recall and retrieval.
Teaching is a profession known for the challenges faced. Those challenges can be related to classroom behaviour, exam pressures, funding and budget issues amongst many other factors. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has brought new and additional challenges to all professions, businesses and occupations – not excluding teaching.
The post below is a guest blog by Alex Gordon. I met Alex in Hong Kong 2019 where I attended a workshop she delivered with her colleagues at the. Asia Pacific International Schools Conference (AISC). I was so impressed with her knowledge surrounding teaching and learning as well as her enthusiasm that I asked Alex to contribute a case study to my book Retrieval Practice: Research and Resources for every classroom. Alex is a Science Teacher and Head of Year 11 in an international school in Malaysia.
The TPACCK model first featured in my book Love To Teach: Research and Resources (2018) but it is based on the research and work of others. I felt there was something missing from the previous models that I wanted to develop further. The feedback to the TPACCK model, from people that have read my book or attended presentations I have delivered, where I discuss this model, has been very positive with different teachers and leaders telling me that they have applied this in their schools to support and shape teaching and professional learning.
There are many challenges currently facing the teaching profession, some specific to the UK others that are global. Problems include funding, recruitment and retention of teachers, workload and well-being plus more. Despite these undeniable issues I also think it is a very exciting time to be a teacher. I suggest this because of professional learning. There are now methods of professional learning and development that did not exist previously. Teachers are embracing professional learning and are able to take ownership of their own development and interests through a variety of strategies.
I recently attended a presentation, at the ResearchEd conference in Dubai, listening to teacher, leader and author Robin Macpherson discuss cognitive psychology. In his presentation, which you can read more about here, Robin posed some very interesting questions that I have been thinking about and reflecting on. Robin made the point that there has been an increased interest in cognitive psychology amongst educators in recent years and this is certainly true. However, some of the psychology linked to memory that we are now discussing, sharing, reading and writing about is not actually new at all.
Teaching is tough, whether you’re Foundation Stage, GCSE, A Level, Independent, State – all sectors of education come with their own pressures and challenges. One of the most difficult parts of being a teacher can be the questions around quality assurance. It is important to quality assure the work that teachers do, to leave teaching and learning to chance is the talk of foolish but even now despite the huge debate and debunking of graded lesson observations, they do still go on.
I often share the quote above because I remember reading it and feeling completely liberated. The quote is taken from The Confident Teacher: Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy (2016). It is my favourite book about education and you can read my review of it here. In the early years of my career I often felt exhausted. I was constantly chasing perfection and desperately trying to complete the endless to-do list. There’s always something we can add to our lists as teachers, whether that’s developing schemes of work, lesson planning, paperwork or even tidying up displays.