At Greenacres, we have specifically researched cognition (thinking) and metacognition (the language of thinking). We believe that one of the roles of our school is to ensure children become self-regulated learners, able to make conscious decisions about the learning strategies they prefer and to articulate their choice to others.
Our evidence base is grounded in, 'Understanding How We Learn,' (Weinstein, Y., 2018) and, 'Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning,' (E.E.F. 2018).
Our staff empower learners through the explicit teaching of strategies, metacognitive prompts, and questioning skills to drive independence and self-efficacy. Research shows that these support self-regulated learning in people of all ages.
Recognised Strategies Deployed at Greenacres for Deep Learning
We have a spiralised curriculum. This supports time for reflection, repetition, and consolidation leading to deep learning. Concepts are returned to again and again with the cross- application and transference of skills - to include a commitment to problem solving and reasoning – giving explanations for our thinking. Space allows time for assimilation and synthesis. A curriculum which spreads concept learning over time, with built in opportunities to apply and transfer understanding through subjects, gives scope for longer term deep learning. Having a good understanding of the breadth of the curriculum will support teachers in planning for spaced practice. Short quizzes or recall happen in class across the school teachers must keep returning to core concepts and knowledge.
Retrieval Practice (write, sketch)
This involves bringing information into mind from memory. It can be either cued or free recall – either with or without the text or source of information or without. Learners are taught specific strategies such as Point, Evidence, Explain (PEE), summarising, paraphrasing, conjecturing, critical questioning, inference, and challenge rather than re-reading word-for-word. They are taught to apply to critical and creative thinking and real-life situations – such as local or political events or Big Outcomes. This is a combined life and functional skill with knowledge underpinning everything - at its base. This is true synthesis - pulling the threads together based on evidence. Logically, most teaching sequences will start with cued retrieval (on-going), then free retrieval, and finally spaced.
Free recall is when all scaffolds are removed and children, verbally or through writing, recall everything they know about a topic from memory without using any cues. This can include other strategies – including collaboration- supporting ones such as Think, Pair, Share – to support recall.
The learning culture must be to critically question and expect explanation of why and how things work. New information can be chunked to pre-existing knowledge, supporting understanding and increasing the brain’s capacity to retain information. Teachers must interrogate ‘critical’ thinking and encourage children to think deeply about meaning. Going from the concrete, to the pictorial, to the abstract will support elaboration. As learners, we pose questions ourselves and strive to give meaningful answers to deepen understanding.
This is the process of switching between ideas / problems as we study and making connections between them or looking at things in a different order. As learners, we make links between ideas and need to support children in this skill. This complements spaced learning and free recall strategies but children need prompting to make the connections to support chunking.
All learners sometimes need to have the abstract brought back to the concrete. At Greenacres, we consider the concrete, practical, and abstract approaches across learning. The use of visualisation and specific examples in context is key and modelling is always present in lessons.
This is the combination of visuals (words and / or pictures) and verbal (spoken). We must be aware of cognitive overload and ensure that the words are not doing the work of the visuals or vice versa.
All children are taught to use information creatively, ethically, and critically. Learning is not to be the regurgitation of facts but should be used to support decision making and creative problem solving. Children should be encouraged to synthesise information from different sources as this will contribute to deeper learning. A sequenced and interconnected approach to teaching will support the transference of understanding between different subjects. Learning should not be insular - viewed in isolation - relevant to just one subject. The use of technology should be used to develop the skills of analysis, discernment, synthesis, creativity, investigation, collaboration, communication, organisation, critical evaluation of sources and reflection. We must ensure our children are familiar with recent and new technologies and they should be shown how to use them intelligently. A key part of this process is about educating children in the rigorous, creative, and critical use of research.
Outcomes should be clearly modelled with success criteria explicitly talked to using the language of metacognition.