One of the podcasts on education that I enjoy listening to is the Cult of Pedagogy. In a recent episode, the host provided four tips for making teaching more powerful. They center on the concept that, as educators, our role is to help students be able to recall information; essentially move learning from short term memory to long term memory. The four practices are things that many of us use already, the point of the podcast was to suggest being more deliberate and planned so that they are more effective in their purpose.
The concept to use them more deliberately all come from a book called Powerful Teaching, where the authors present ideas to improve student performance based on: retrieval practice; spaced practice; interleaving; and feedback-driven meta cognition.
Retrieval practice is the point of building time into each lesson to have students recall what was taught. Plan mini-quizzes, ask questions, do anything that is beyond just repetition. Instead of just repeating materials for students to pick up, this tip is aimed to plan time for students to recall information that was shared. As the information is recalled, it pushes students to move the learning from short term to long term memory.
Spaced practice is similar, but done over a longer term. Retrieval practice is about what was covered recently, in spaced practice, the instructor is planning when to have students recall information that was taught further back. This calls for planning when to link information back to earlier classes, deliberately leading students to make connections between current materials and earlier concepts. Ideally, students recap the information and recall it, again reinforcing the long term memory of the earlier materials. It’s important to realize that there may be gaps or errors in this information, instructors need to be prepared to help and correct students.
The third power tool is interleaving. This is also related to recall, but now instructors are asking students to recall information that is not related. When having students recall information, it’s easy to fall into patterns or habits. Students pick up on this and can anticipate where the questions and recall is going, they are no longer thinking but just reciting ideas. Instructors can mix up the recall of information so that there are only limited patterns, pushing students away from recital and into thinking.
Feedback-driven meta cognition is about planning recall on information that students are struggling with. Most students find it easy to study materials they know, they review what they are good at and shy away from stuff they are struggling with. As instructors, we can review the mini quizzes we use in class, the formal quizzes and tests from a course, to see where errors are occurring. They bring that material up in class for review and recall, pushing students to look at areas where they are struggling, taking them out of their comfort zone.
These four tips are likely things that are already in your lesson plan without realizing it. Putting some thought into them can make them a more powerful part of your teaching day. If you want to know more, check out the podcast here: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/powerful-teaching/