Why don’t students remember what they’ve learned?
We encourage our students to spend sufficient time on complex ideas, focusing on specific concepts. They need to revisit them often, apply them regularly and look at past A level exam questions until they eventually master the ideas. It is true the more students understand the less they have to learn by rote so they have more working memory for the facts and figures they do need to learn.
Distributing practice (rather than cramming): ‘it is virtually impossible to become proficient at any mental task without extended, dedicated practice distributed over time.’
- Overlearning: keep pupils learning after they know the material to prevent forgetting: ‘a good rule of thumb is to put in another 20 percent of the time it took to master the material’.
- Testing frequently: testing students frequently helps them remember material.
- Spacing (rather than massing) practice: information that is presented repeatedly over spaced intervals is learned much better than information that is repeated without intervals.
- Interleaving: although people think that they learn better when content is blocked, rather than interleaved, people actually learn content better when it is interleaved with other content.
- Testing: using our memory improves our memory: the act of retrieval helps us remember the things we recall. When information is successfully retrieved from memory, its representation in memory is changed such that it becomes more recallable in the future (Bjork, 1975); and this improvement is often greater than the benefit resulting from additional study (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).