The Principles of Effective Learning

This week we welcomed Education writer and speaker David Didau to our whole school INSET day. He talked about the Principles of Effective Learning. A subject just as relevant for Support staff as it is for Teaching staff.

The principles of effective learning - Professor Brian Cox

Part of David’s presentation talked about the impact of Professor Brian Cox. Now I’m a big fan of Brian Cox…but I have noticed that there are two problems.

Problem number one is that when he is telling me something it makes perfect sense and I understand entirely. However, when the programme has finished I am unable to recall the information with enough clarity to explain it to anyone else.

Problem number two is that, as I said, I’m a big fan of Brian Cox. I tend to get distracted when he is telling me something interesting about physics.

It’s not Brian’s fault though…

David taught me that Brian’s inability to teach me anything is a result of two things.

Firstly, Robert Bjork’s Theory of Disuse explains that although I understand what Brian is telling me at the time, my ability to retrieve it is limited because I haven’t got much in the way of basic physics knowledge. (I’m ashamed to admit I gave up physics at the end of year 9). Because this is television, Brian only tells me once. As soon as the television picture memory triggers of him are gone, I struggle to recall the information with any kind of clarity or sequence.

Secondly, although as we mature we become more able to focus our attention on learning, there are still things that will distract us and effect our ability to take the information in!

How does this relate to school support staff?

David’s talk was expertly delivered and very thought-provoking. I’m sure that our Teaching staff will be discussing the ideas and theories for many months of training, development and lesson delivery. I was more interested about how the ideas were relevant to the roles of Support staff.

Following David’s talk we met as a Support staff team to discuss the topic further.

Technicans could clearly identify their role was to lay out the external resources students need to assist in their learning. Items such as equipment and consumables. It was then up to them to gradually remove that support. Allowing students to build their own experiments or ingredients, increasing the power of their learning.

Pastoral Support explained that they often see students when things had gone wrong. Their role was to work on behalf of the student to resolve the issues. To build their confidence and get them back into the classroom. Back on the road to success.

Learning is hard!

Our Sixth Form Support team told us how they often see students who have been successful throughout their academic career and have got used to being told that they are “clever”. The step into A level can come as a shock meaning students hide their difficulty and don’t seek support

Teaching Assistants told us how they start with new additional needs students supporting everything they do. They then gradually remove the scaffolding to enable them to work independently and confidently.

Administration, Data and Finance all recognised how the role of Support staff was often to support Teachers with a similar scaffold to the students. We talked about how we might gradually remove that too!

I think all Support staff need to consider how their role relates to the success of the student’s learning. It is undeniable that Support staff have a key role to play, but the strength of these teams is rooted in their own confidence in their contribution.

I shall be watching Brian with renewed attention now. I’ll be working out how I can use the tools David shared to convert the information into my long term memory. I do know that he’ll only have to smile into the camera though and I will enjoy that all-important feeling of successful learning.

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