Step 2: Presentation

A quick recap

We’ve sifted through the research to bring you our evidence-based Six Steps for Outstanding Learning. We’ve already had a look at Step 1, which is all about activating our students’ prior knowledge about a topic before we start presenting new material. It’s essential to do this before teaching anything new, because otherwise our students just can’t make the links necessary for the learning to be properly understood and remembered.

A table showing our Six Steps for Outstanding Learning, which are: Step 0 Orientate, Step 1 Prior Knowledge, Step 2 Presenting, Step 3 Challenge, Step 4 Feedback, Step 5 Repetition

So now we’re onto Step 2: Presentation.

Step 2 is the presentation of the new learning. This might be you teaching, or the students reading a textbook or watching a video, or the students watching a demonstration.

The retention at this stage is about 5%, and it varies: some students learn a lot, whereas others learn nothing.

In this section you can find out about effective ways to improve Presentation. This includes:

  • Linking to prior knowledge.
  • Using an advance organiser to create the big picture.
  • Using graphical methods and multi-sensory methods.
  • Linking abstract ideas to concrete examples.
  • Recognising the limits of working memory.
An image of students walking down a school corridor

Linking to prior knowledge

It’s essential to help our students to link what they already know with the new learning so that they understand what is being taught. This isn’t just useful – this is vital. Without these links, new knowledge is either filtered out or learnt by rote.

Our version of Geoff Petty's Learning Cycle diagram

There are two main categories of making links with prior knowledge:


  • Links to what has already been learned (if the topic is a follow-on from previous learning, like a different history topic or harder chemical reactions).
  • Links to everyday experience (if the topic is new and the student has no academic prior knowledge, like the start of sociology).

 Linking to the last lesson

One of the ways we can link new learning with what was learnt in the previous lesson is to use an advance organiser. This helps students to link the new material to the material covered in the previous lessons and to the big picture of the whole topic. We’ll go into this in much more detail later in this section.

 Linking to everyday experience

This is particularly good when we’re teaching something that our students’ haven’t studied before.


One teacher reported that her usual approach to teaching Health and Safety was met with bored indifference. The words didn’t immediately connect with the experience of her students. Instead she asked: “How did you keep healthy and safe on the way to college this morning?”. This created a buzz of discussion which got the students’ brains connected to what they already knew on the subject.

 Activating prior knowledge

This means that you help students to activate their pathways of existing knowledge at the beginning of a topic or lesson. This gets the brain connected to the appropriate pathways as the lesson begins. There’s lots of examples of how to do this in the Step 1: Prior Knowledge section.

 Linking using analogies and similes

Analogies, similes, and models are great for helping our brains to make links. These techniques provide physical links between existing and new knowledge, and so they’re particularly effective. There’s more information about this in Step 1: Prior Knowledge, and the video below is a good introduction.

 Linking back

It’s effective to make links after the new learning has been taught, as well as before you teach the new learning. One way you might do this is a technique called “bridging” which is used in Cognitive Acceleration. At the end of each lesson, you ask the students where else they can apply this new knowledge. While this specific question might not apply in all lessons, the idea of linking back is sound.

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