Six Steps to Outstanding Learning
Six Steps to Outstanding Learning
We’ve sifted through lots of robust evidence to bring you the most effective teaching methods.
Drum roll please: here are our six steps to outstanding learning.
There are thousands of studies out there in the field of educational attainment. We’ve picked out some of the biggies: three sources in classroom practice, two in the cognitive sciences, and general findings from neuroscience.
We’ve put these together using a simplified model of the learning process, which gives us a structure to put all of these findings into. This approach fits in well with the “Present Apply Review” model for teaching, with a few extra stages.
The result of all this is our Six Steps to Outstanding Learning. Read on to find out more!
Step 0: Setting the scene
Before we start implementing teaching methods, it’s important that we sort out the context we’re teaching in. We know from neuroscience that all students have potential and can improve with practice – our intelligence isn’t fixed or limited. We can help our students to understand this and to develop a growth mindset, which will help them to know the value of learning. We can also make way for learning by improving behaviour with clear rules.
Step 1: Prior knowledge
New learning builds on what we already know, so as teachers we need to help our students to remember and connect with what they already know about a topic before we start teaching anything new. When we assess our students with questions, checking and correcting prior knowledge, we help them to make significant progress.
Step 2: Presenting new material
Firstly, we can present new material effectively by using a multi-sensory approach: explain, watch a video, give a demonstration. Secondly, we learn best when there is a balance between a big picture approach and fine detail approach, so we can use both in our teaching. Thirdly, working memory is limited and so it’s best when we present new material in short chunks, making sure we reinforce material before moving on.
Step 3: Setting a challenging task
A challenging task can be achieved by the student with a bit of struggle and feedback. It’s a tricky one to balance: too easy and it only exercises prior knowledge, but too hard and the student fails. Make sure too that the goals and learning objectives are clear so that students focus the right thing. We can also support our students to think things through by using hypothesis testing and problem solving. Other useful strategies include note-making, summarising, and collaborative group tasks.
Step 4: Providing feedback
Feedback is an essential part of the process. It means that we can check that the students’ learning is correct and that their brains are making the right links. It needs to happen during the learning process, not afterwards. Feedback can be verbal or written, and can be given by the teacher, peers, or by the student themselves. It should include what is correct and what needs improvement.
Step 5: Repetition
It’s important for students to act on feedback, firstly to make sure they’ve got it right and understood it, and secondly because the repetition helps to secure long term memories. We can use techniques like spaced practice, mastery learning, and homework (at secondary level) to give our students opportunities for repetition.
And there you have it!
Our Six Steps to Outstanding Learning.
Keep reading this section to find out about the research evidence that has informed our Six Steps, or pop over to the Join the Network section to read more about how to implement the Six Steps in your classroom practice.