Review if you want to succeed

LEARNING without immediately reviewing work is like filling the bath without putting the plug in, Chris Dickinson, a prominent education consultant, told an effective learning conference in Perth last week.

Pupils forget very easily unless teachers build in a period of review at the end of a lesson.

"There is clear evidence that review is more important than any other aspect of learning for the learning to become long-term," Mr Dickinson told the Promoting Effective Learning conference.

"One of the difficulties is that we have a very, very crowded curriculum, therefore there are not many opportunities for children to revisit and when we come to exams we've got to teach them again. In classrooms, we've got to build in time for children to review," he said.

Some teachers of 11-year-olds were using latest research to tackle homework in a whole-brain approach. Regular activity at home was to create a mind map of what they did in class, using the more visual right side of the brain. The analytical left side of the brain was deployed more in class. "Our memory for pictures is by and large better than for words," Mr Dickinson said.

At the start of lessons, pupils needed to be told "the big picture" about what would happen. One teacher wrote his aims for every lesson on a whiteboard on the left side of the room as a visual reminder.

Mr Dickinson also emphasised: "We remember things best in rooms where we are taught them. But when it comes to exams, we take them out of their rooms and put them somewhere else. There are some schools building in revision clubs where children are allowed to go into the room where they will have the exam and put mind maps around the walls. They're given the opportunity to revise in the room where the exam s."

Memory was contextual, and pupils could remember things when the maps were removed during the exam.

Mr Dickinson, founder of Network Educational Press south of the border, said if pupils felt comfortable and relaxed and knew the teachers' expectations and routines, they were more likely to perform. Reiterating the current learning adage, high challenge and low stress were key factors in producing good work.

Research on brain development and intelligence revealed pupils' emotions to be crucial. "If they're in the classroom stressed, we have to deal with that, otherwise we're wasting our time. For example, the way parents get their children together in the morning may affect their learning until breaktime," he suggested.

Teachers' negativity had an equal impact. Research indicated there should be four positive comments to one negative to get the best out of people. One project examined a class during a typical day when they received 76 positive responses and therefore should have received 19 negatives. In fact, there were 460 negative remarks. "It's like children coming to school with rucksacks and during the day teachers put rocks in the rucksacks, so that by the end of the day these poor children are crawling on all fours under the weight of their battle-scarred self-esteem," Mr Dickinson added.

Pupils' self-esteem was vital. Learning was difficult if they had no sense of belonging to the school, which might be so big teachers did not know their names.

All teachers in Perth and Kinross are to receive a specially written summary of the research evidence on brain development and how to apply it to classrooms. The Promoting Effective Learning pack has been produced by a teachers' working group.

Leader, page 16

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