This is a small adventure for me. My knowledge of cognitive psychology is weak, and I make no claims to having any expertise in the field: when it comes to disciplines, I am a historian who dabbles in a bit of philosophy. It was for this reason that I was pleased to read Brown, Roediger & McDaniel’s book Make It Stick. The book is an easy read and uses some interesting examples to illustrate the principles being put forward.
Although you could sense the authors’ reticence about including a final chapter offering ‘tips for teachers’, they did nevertheless conclude the book with a set of principles that might inform teaching and learning which are derived from the ideas in the book. Some of the main strategies with which the book concludes are:
- Use regular, low-stakes quizzing so that pupils can practise retrieving what they have learnt.
- Space retrieval over time and return to prior learning periodically.
- Interleave knowledge areas rather than attempt to master one thing at a time.
- Get pupils to elaborate on what they have learned by linking it to existing knowledge, by finding metaphors and analogies or explaining it to someone else.
- Get pupils to try and generate answers to (presumably appropriate) problems before showing them the answer.
There are other tips and bits of advice they offer, but these five are the ones that I want to focus on in this new series of blog posts. A number of these points felt quite intuitive to me in the sense that – although I may not had thought about them explicitly before – they felt like they fitted with what I understood the process of teaching to involve, and what other history teachers have written about. I am also here a little inspired by Joe Kirby’s blog posts in which he has considered some of the implications of these ideas for the teaching of English.
I intend to try and do the same for history. I have thus far on this blog tended to avoid writing about pedagogy (most of my posts are about curriculum and assessment) but reading this book has given me some ideas that I would like to share. As ever, comments and thoughts are most welcome.