Research Spotlight – December

CPD Books

Blog Posts – Focus on Cognitive Load Theory

Image result for thinking hard

Cognitive load theory (CLT) continues to get a lot of interest in the research-informed community. Many writers are focusing on how, as teachers, we can ensure that

  • we focus on supporting working memory, especially for children who may struggle with their memory or processing speed,
  • reduce extrinsic load; those elements additional to the things we want them to learn (such as the novelty of the task),
  • introduce desirable difficulties; things that might make the task seem harder in the short term but lead to more durable memory (such as spaced practice).

An excellent post on this was written by Jules Daulby. It looks at how the mini-whiteboard can be used in class to support pupils by offloading some of the load on working memory onto a whiteboard or by providing cognitive supports to ensure they focus less on the structure of the task and more on its contents. You can read it here – All Hail! In the inclusive classroom, the mini-whiteboard is queen. For more on supporting working memory in the classroom see this helpful guide by Gathercole & Alloway (2007).

Oliver Cavigliol has produced this incredible illustrated guide to Sweller, Ayres, Kalyuga’s  2011 paper on CLT. This is a very useful read alongside a new publication by the New South Wales Centre for Educational Statistics and Evaluation on this topic with detailed advice on how it can be implemented in the classroom. You can find that here.

One of the most useful bloggers on CLT is Blake Harvard, writing in the USA, who shows how elements on the theory can be applied in a high school setting. One thing that makes his work especially interesting is how he encourages his students to also understand the theory and so develop more effective study habits. You can find his blog at The Effortful Educator.

For more on the practicalities of applying CLT in the classroom see Four ways cognitive load theory has changed my teaching by Greg Ashman. I particularly like his conclusion that

No doubt some of you will be thinking that this is all just obvious; that you don’t need cognitive load theory to work this out; that good teachers have always known about these strategies. Maybe they have. I did not.

This is one thing that I continue to take from the implementation of research in the classroom. It is just really simple, good, teaching. But getting the simple things right is complex. That is where an understanding of CLT can help.

Education Conferences

The next big ResearchEd conference in our area is in Durrington, West Sussex, in April. Tickets sell out fast and the line-up of speakers is impressive so get booked soon if you’d like to go.

For those willing to travel a little further afield, this conference in the Midlands on curriculum looks like it will be a fascinating event.

Research at Heathfield Community College

We continue to be a hub for exciting research projects.

In the last month our research on the barriers to boys’ achievement was discussed at an event hosted here in Heathfield alongside contributions from Priory School. This was incredibly well attended by representatives from other East Sussex secondary schools who were keen to see what we had discovered and put in place here. This was also shared by Caroline Barlow at the SSAT National Conference. Members can download the presentation here.

We will also be starting to carry out  funded research into our Wave One Intervention Policy to look at how certain groups of pupils are targeted and the efficacy of the intervention put in place.

There is also work being done looking at the innovations in effective assessment strategies. As always, we will look to publish what we discover and share what we learn.

If you would like to find out more about anything we are doing, and possibly get involved, please do have a chat.

Journal Club

Finally, a reminder that Journal Club runs every Thursday Week B lunchtime in K5. Next term we will turn our attention to the implications of the highly influential paper by Kirschner, Sweller and Clark (2006) Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not
Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching

By Mark Enser – Head of Geography and Research Lead


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