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Training and CPD

Retrieval Practice

As a research-driven school we know that learning happens when we successfully transfer new information from our working memory into our long-term memory. In 2021, staff received training from the best-selling author Kate Jones who has written a series of books on Retrieval Practice. 

Retrieval practice boosts learning by pulling information out of pupils’ heads, rather than cramming information into pupils’ heads - this is supported by robust findings from 100+ years of cognitive science research. Retrieval Practice is now a part of each lesson at Princess May.

By using Retrieval Practice methods, pupils are encouraged to evaluate and reflect ‘metacognitively’ on learning activities. For example, what was the name of the ship on which Charles Darwin made his famous scientific voyage? At what age did King Tut become a pharaoh? By thinking for a moment and trying to recall the answer to these trivia facts, you just engaged in retrieval practice and boosted your learning!

Here are quick research-based teaching tips that don’t require additional lesson prep:

  • Rather than starting class by reviewing content (“here’s what we did in class last week”), simply ask pupils to retrieve (“what did we do in class last week?”). This tiny switch from encoding to retrieval practice will boost your pupils’ long-term learning and reduce their forgetting.

  • Brain dumps: ask students to write down everything they can remember from a previous lesson

  • Two things: ask students to retrieve two things they learned at the end of class

Why does retrieval practice improve learning and reduce forgetting?

  • Retrieval practice helps students “use it or lose it,” just like practicing a language or an instrument

  • With retrieval practice, struggling is a good thing for learning (what scientists call a “desirable difficulty”)

  • Retrieval practice improves pupils’ understanding of their own learning process (what scientists call “metacognition”)

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Cognitive Load Theory

A priority area for Teaching and Learning at Princess May is to develop teacher understanding of this process, so that our lessons show incremental learning and build on previously taught concepts and ideas.

Teachers are currently being supported in understanding ‘Cognitive Load Theory’ and how to implement strategies in the classroom that optimise the load on children’s working memories. 

Progress is knowing more and remembering more, and a key facet of Teaching and Learning at Princess May from training in September 2021 will be trialling research-based strategies that can increase knowledge retention in our pupils and deepen their understanding of key concepts and ideas. 

How Learning Happens:

Dialogic Teaching Methods

Lessons at Princess May use dialogic teaching methods in order to raise pupil engagement and attainment. This practice is based on research by Robin Alexander and Neil Mercer, as well as a 2015 study by the Education Endowment Foundation, which found that children in Dialogic Teaching schools made additional progress across the curriculum.

Teachers at Princess May are supported in embedding a Dialogic Teaching approach through regular CPD training, which includes using IRIS Connect software to film classroom interactions. Through using this software, teachers are supported to reflect on their teaching and provide feedback to each other. By using Dialogic Teaching methods, pupils are encouraged to actively listen to the ideas of others, as well as to agree, disagree, build on the ideas of others and change their minds based on discussion and evidence. Pupils are taught to argue and challenge ideas, as research shows that the act of doing this strengthens understanding. Pupils evaluate and reflect ‘metacognitively’ on learning activities. At Princess May we want our learners to be confident orators, who listen to the ideas and knowledge of those around them.