Mixing it up…

#15MinForum – 23/02/17

Each time our Learning Communities meet (which is once per half-term, when we have a late start for students in order to buy some time for CPDL), I have the privilege of being able to wander from group to group under the pretence of ‘offering support’ (when in reality most of what I do is marvel at the richness and depth of discussion our staff are engaging in!)

A few weeks ago I walked in on a conversation taking place in one of the groups who have had the brilliant ‘Make it Stick‘ as their core reading, to hear our Director of Music, Jonny Bridges, explaining the analogy he uses to illustrate for his students the interleaving approach he is using with them… Fittingly for a music tech teacher, it involves a mixing desk…

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Photo Credit: K. McMahon Flickr via Compfight cc

As I sat listening, gripped by his analogy, I scribbled a myself a reminder: ‘Jonny. 15 Minute Forum. Interleaving.”

 

Mixing it up

As you can see in Jonny’s prezi (here),  he started by setting out how interleaving contrasts with the way most of our subjects work through their schemes of learning. Specifically, we tend to teach in successive units of work that are often then not returned to until the end of the year. When following an interleaved approach, the curriculum is weaved in on itself, so that rather than drilling down into one unit at a time before moving onto the next (i.e. AAAA, BBBB, CCCC), the teacher instead moves between topics introducing things one layer at a time (i.e. ABC, BAC, ACB, CBA). This sits nicely alongside – and is indeed inextricably linked to – the idea of spacing vs massing practice (there have been some nice ideas shared in relation to this at previous 15 Minute Forums/ eLearning eXpress meetings, like this one from Gabby Veglio and this one from Annis Araim).

Jonny highlighted that students (and teachers!) may feel frustrated by the fact that they don’t work on a single topic for extended periods of time (as they would in a ‘massed practice’ approach) and therefore they don’t develop the short-term fluency (which is, in truth, illusory!), and instead their sense of mastery is something that develops over a longer period of time as the topic is returned to repeatedly.

And this is where the mixing desk analogy comes in…

mixing it up

This distinction between short-term artefacts from the classroom (‘performance’) and the longer term, deeper conceptual growth (which we might more justifiably call ‘learning’) is an important one, especially as the latter is the one we want and yet a lot of what we are geared-up for is the former…

 

Learning vs Performance

This article, from Bjork and colleague, is a must-read if you’re interested in exploring more about the learning vs performance distinction, as is this blog from David Didau (@learningspy), which seats interleaving within the wider point about desirable difficulties…

Elsewhere, this guest post on the fantastic ‘Learning Scientists‘ website is worth a few minutes of your time…

 

Read more about Jonny’s own experiences and successes in his prezi, here

interleaving

 

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Testing is your friend…

#15MinForum – 12/01/17

imagesThe latest 15 Minute Forum was the first one to be based directly on the work being done in our Learning Communities. Based on some of the research presented in the excellent ‘Make it Stick‘ (the core reading for three of separate Learning Communities), Gabby Veglio (@MissVeglio, one of our Year Leaders and numeracy coordinator) led a session about the benefits of frequent, low-stakes testing…

Quiz Quiz Quiz

So what’s the gist? Gabby started with a bit of the background theory to the idea of frequently testing the students through low-stakes quizzing (or getting them in the habit of doing it themselves).

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All good so far. But for many of us, perhaps the most striking suggestions come when thinking about how to get the most out of an approach which acknowledges the value of testing (though the first thing you might want to do is call it ‘quizzing’ or ‘retrieval practice’, or at least educate staff and students about the fact that ‘testing’ doesn’t have to mean high-stakes tests in the form exams or summative assessments!)

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This starts to touch on the ideas relating to the importance of leaving time to forget things and recognising that forgetting (and having to think hard to retrieve) is a good thing when it comes to learning! With that in mind, we are then into the realms of thinking about spacing and interleaving…

Gabby then shared some of the examples that she uses in her own practice to try and implement the principles set out before…


Hungry for more?

Go here to read more about applying cognitive psychology to enhance education practice – it really is a one-stop shop in terms of thinking about retrieval practice and all the associated considerations.

This article from Sodersorm and Bjork is an interesting (though relatively heavy) read for anyone interested in looking at how findings in cognitive science can be applied to the classroom, particularly on the point of the difference between learning and performance.

As always, there has already been a great 15 Minute Forum by the guys over at ClassTeaching on the topics of spacing and interleaving.

The slideshow of Gabby’s full presentation can be seen below.

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