Spaced Learning

Spaced learning,

So whenever something new comes out in the teaching ‘circle’, I’m always very keen to try something new. I happened to be around a friend’s house recently and he was talking about something new he had been trying in his lessons. In the passed, I had been using ‘Flipped’ learning in many of my lessons and I had been having multiple successes with my students. I would argue that this is one of the methods which helps my students understand a lot of their content.

Up until recently one of my classes had been doing really well but I was a little anxious about the amount of time I had to fit in ‘content’ and I could see that some of the content just wasn’t going in. This concerned me and I’ll be honest, their test scores were not as good as I would have hoped. Personally, I feel that you can never be a good teacher unless you reflect on your own practice and make changes.

I have a friend who is as passionate about teaching as me, his name is Dan Hawksley and although I’ve never seen him teach we share similar ideas in our approach to learning. He teaches science and had talked about how he had been trying something new with his students. It’s called ‘Spaced Learning’. He referred me to this website to find out more: – http://iconlogic.blogs.com/weblog/2013/01/training-spaced-learning.html

The Idea:

If you have a learn amount of data or content that you have to teach in a small period of time, this method supports it. According to the findings, although many people teach you that lots of information at once can be too much. This method suggests the opposite.

The is evidence to support that patterns help stimulate and create long term memories. Sounds pretty cool right? The basic idea, is to split your lesson up into chunks and give them 10 minute patterns and repetition. I would agree that repetition works, I’ve always used this method with some of my year 11 classes and I would say that this contributed to the 100% pass rate last year.

How does it work: 

  1. From reading the article, spaced learning seemed to be split into 10 minutes of information to start your lesson. I started my lesson by doing a simple break down of facts, I delivered a simple PowerPoint presentation with everything that I would need my students to know for the lesson. Although you can combine flipped learning within this, I chose to have more control in the first part of the lesson. In my lesson I did a break down of spreadsheets. I showed them all of the formula that they would need to know for their exam and even got them to address the misconceptions and formulas to avoid.
  2. After delivering the content they were given 10 minutes to do something creative. They took a 10 minute break. They did something completely unrelated to the topic. I had my students drawing a number of pictures including their teacher (me), unicorns and landscapes.
  3. Following on form this break, I did the same lesson although this time I changed my approach. My friends will know that I’m a strange teacher… in this case I decided to teach all of the content using different accents. This time I left out blanks within the context and asked the students to write down the I guess you could say we were playing blankety blank.
  4. Again, the students did something completely unrelated, this time I got my students to play board games. I had a number of games in my class such as giant Jenga, pop up pirate and buckaroo. Students would play these games.
  5. Last 10 minutes: – I decided to get my students to take on a task based on everything that I had taught them in these 10 minute chunks. The task was a spreadsheet task in one case. They would have to complete the task independently and they would need to work through each of the tasks step by step.

Results

I wouldn’t say that I was sceptical when I first read about this, but I was definitely intrigued by how it works. I was wondering if the students would take away anything from this. I tried this on Monday with a year 8 class and I have also tried this again with a year 8 and year 9 class this morning. I’m currently in the middle of marking my year 8 tests and looking that their knowledge, there is a steady improvement.

How did my year 9 students react?

When we teach, it’s important that we have good questioning. The questioning helps address the misconceptions and then your students are able to make the steady progress that they need. I deliberately avoided doing a round of questioning with this…

100% of my class managed to complete a 20-minute task in 10 minutes. They were confident and they remembered everything that they were taught! I am going to continue trying this with some of my classes and I will post the findings with some of my classes in the future. I have seen a steady improvement in my year 9’s application of their knowledge. I will let you know whether my year 8 students have improved.

I have attached some pictures of the activities that they completed, you may have a chuckle at some of the creative pictures you will see.

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About Raymond David James Chambers

I am the Lead teacher of computing at Brooke Weston Academy in Corby Northamptonshire. Previously I was the head of IT/Computing at Uppingham Community College. In 2015 I won the Gold National Teaching award for Innovative use of technology. I also won the 2015 Young Game Bafta - Mentor award. I'm keen to help students achieve their best and like to give them opportunities to do this. I have a passion for teaching and I enjoy meeting other people and sharing their ideas. I have a keen interest in games development as well as developing the use of ICT in classrooms across the curriculum. In my spare time I teach Irish dancing. I have been Irish dancing since I was 11. My highest position was 14th at the world championships 3 years running and 2nd at the Great Britain Championships in 2006.
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