Saturday, July 12, 2014

#70Days Learning to Make It Stick!

I was on a plane yesterday afternoon - just a couple of hours. I opened my Kindle to see what books I had added recently. I noticed the title, Make It Stick, and decided to find out what makes learning stick! 

I read the first chapter and got very excited. I like the writing style because it is filled with stories. Stories are compelling! I was also intrigued because early on the author says that many of the current trends in study tips and practice routines are counterproductive. 

From the authors' study, re-reading the text and notes is not an effective study habit. Instead, "Retrieval practice—recalling facts or concepts or events from memory—is a more effective learning strategy than review by rereading." So as students review a text or notes, they need to stop and ask themselves what does this mean? Or how can put this in my own words? Or better yet, use flash cards or vocabulary to prompt explanations of concepts. This reminded me of our Cornell notes. If students fold the notes so that they can only see the questions (or cues) then they can use those to prompt thinking about the lesson, and reviewing more successfully. 

A second tip is to practice periodically, not all at one time. Most teachers recognize that already and try to get students to practice a little each day. Added to that is the idea that practice should be interwoven with different kinds of problems - layered practice. I was reminded of brain research that says students need to review 10, 24, 7 ... in 10 minutes, again in 24 hours, and then again in 7 days. 

The third tip was about embracing difficulties. It was here that much of what we have been discussing came together. "When learning is harder, it’s stronger and lasts longer." I couldn't help but highlight several points but hesitate to put them all here - the authors might object!  Students need challenge. When the work is challenging their brains make new connections - increasing ability! But this means students must strive and in striving they will make mistakes! Ta-Da!  Mistakes are essential to learning!

It was at this point that I jumped to the last chapter to read the "so what" ... how do I apply the information?

First I need to teach students how learning works and how to study.  We will need to model that in class. (note to self - reread the details and write them down)

Second, I need to rethink how we do quizzing.  "But if we stop thinking of testing as a dipstick to measure learning—if we think of it as practicing retrieval of learning from memory rather than “testing,” we open ourselves to another possibility: the use of testing as a tool for learning."  I need to help students see the value of quizzing themselves and how it helps them judge their own progress.  They need quizzing every day - just a few problems, and low stakes - not heavy on grades. Frequent quizzing helps to consolidate learning and interrupts the forgetting process. At first glance I'm thinking that quizzing could be a part of our homework routine and on Edmodo for immediate feedback.  

I also want to stop class more often for shorter formative assessment questions.  I envision groups of students discussing just one question, writing a group response, selecting one response to share with the class, and the class providing feedback.  For example - in our direct instruction routine I use the format, I Do, We Do, You Do quite a bit - especially to teach skills.  But after the "You Do" it would be helpful for students to put the process in words.  So for example, now write an explanation of how to factor a quadratic when a is greater than 1.  A key for me here is that students would write that explanation as a group and then share it with the class.  That extra step could make a big difference in the depth of learning.

Homework needs to have a written piece to it ... a place where students describe the process they learned that day for example. Or it could be some type of summary. 

I know this blog does not do the book justice!  Chapter 8 is great reading - summarizes the earlier chapters well.  I need to re-read it and clarify for myself the details of how this research impacts my classroom.

I'm traveling for the next several days - blogging will be a challenge.  Already my brain is on overload.  So be patient with my scrambled thoughts!

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