Endorsement for new learning resource by Bedales teacher

Posted on 11th September 2018

Over the past few years, writes Daisy Christodoulou in the TES, some of education’s most notorious fads and gimmicks have justified themselves by claiming they will help pupils learn how to learn, though with little evidence of any impact. Learning How to Learn: how to succeed in school without spending all your time studying; a guide for kids and teens by Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski with Bedales' Director of Learning & Innovation Alistair McConville, she says, is a glorious exception to this rule. She also observes that it points to an important deficiency in the learning resources currently available to teachers and pupils.

Learning How to Learn is a rare attempt to explain some of the latest research in cognitive psychology to children and not just teachers, and explains in a pupil-friendly way why things such as practice and drill really do matter. Those teaching a study skills unit might use it as a class reader, reading a chapter with students and then doing the activities at the end. Daisy says: “There are chapters within it that would be worthwhile using in any lesson. Many teachers will begin GCSE or A Level courses with an overview of what pupils will learn over the course. At the same time, they could introduce some of the messages from this book about how to build long-term memory, and how spacing out practice across the two years of the course will be so much more effective than cramming the night before the exam.”

However, says Daisy, the challenge for both teachers and pupils is to integrate the research outlined in this book into their own teaching and learning. One chapter explains the value of interleaved practice, whereby different topics are brought together, switched between and then revisited at intervals. Progress using this method can seem slower than with traditional block learning, although long-term retention of information should be improved through regular recall. However, the authors of Learning How to Learn observe that most textbooks will not provide interleaved practice, leaving it up to pupils to adapt textbook questions.

Over all, Daisy considers this new book as a vital first step in ensuring that these important principles are more widely understood, and but stresses that more learning resources should embody them rather than leaving pupils to fix the problem themselves.

The full article can be read on the TES website (subscription may be required).

Al McConville discusses his book in a recent interview with ni4kids, outlining how we can make the most of studying and offers solace to those whose minds are prone to wandering.

Al McConville | TES | Learning How to learn book | ni4kids