One of the challenges facing teacher is to know when to apply specific tasks to support long-term learning.
I have been using Efrat Furst’s model of long-term memory (here) to help new teachers sequence learning activities, and to build sequences of my own. The model begins with the first exposure of concept and builds up to mastery. Much of this post is also covered by Furst here).
Furst’s Model of Building Long-Term Memory Representations
The first encounter with a word or concept. Once the learner has been exposed to the concept, she may be able to recognise it again in the near future, but not much more.
The concept is explained and becomes meaningful. Links are associations are made with other familiar concepts.
the learner develops links so that she can recall the concept. She becomes familiar with various contexts where the concept can be applied.
The learner is able to apply the concept in many contexts with ease.
Applying the Model
Stage 1 – From Not Knowing to Knowing
The first exposure should be clutter free. For example, you could use:
- Examples and (non-examples)
- Direct teaching (just tell them)
- Demonstration to expose the phenomenon to the learner
Stage 2 – From Know to Understand
The basic concept is recognisable, but not understood. It will soon be difficult to retrieve, so begin the work of getting to understanding quickly. You could use:
- Direct teaching – clear explanation of the meaning and relevance
- Demonstration with explanation (be explicit what the learner should be paying attention to)
- Frayer model
- Concrete examples
- Use narrative
- Elaboration including similar/different tasks
- Organisation charts (e.g. mind-maps, similar/different)
- Goal Free strategy (Cognitive Load Theory)
From Understand to Use
This step is where learners begin to apply the knowledge. They need to be shown how to apply it first and can begin to apply in very similar situations (minimally different). They may begin to use the concept in writing.
- Model answers and worked examples (e.g. I-do, we-do, you-do)
- Completion problems
- Minimally different problems (provide a large number of problems set in similar contexts)
- Use the concept in writing in familiar concepts.
From Use to Master
In the past, I have neglected this step in my teaching. When time is short and the curriculum is full, I have stopped at use. We don’t get to the interesting part: using the knowledge in creative problem solving. This is the stage where inquiry becomes possible, effective and rewarding.
To support the learner to move from competent to expert:
- Provide opportunities for the learner to practice and apply her learning to new, surprising and creative contexts.
- The learner is ready for an enquiry approach (my favourite John Hattie video).
Note – the expertise reversal effect (CLT) becomes relevant – adding support to the task can increase the difficulty, rather than decrease it.
Having a model helps plan a sequence of instruction, within a lesson and over several weeks. It gives me the language to discuss lessons and sequences with new teachers. I find it very useful.
Thanks for reading to the end!