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Message from the Principal: Learning and Remembering

12 November 2019

When students are in class they often find it easy to learn something. Their whole focus is on that topic and they manage to grasp new concepts and skills quickly. But what happens to that learning a week later and their heads are now full of lots of other lessons and concepts?

  • Patrick Horne

One of the main challenges for students is in remembering what they have learnt a long time after they first studied it. They also need to coordinate and link their learning across many different subjects.

The good news is that one of the best ways of learning something is actually by remembering it. That may sound a little odd but it is explained by strategies such as “retrieval practice” and “spaced practice”. It is worth parents and students being aware of this so they can be very deliberate with how they commit things to their long-term memory.

In simple terms, retrieval practice is trying to remember something you have learnt. By writing down what you can recall, this in itself is an act of learning. By recalling facts they can be more strongly embedded in the brain, and each time you do this then more is remembered.

Spaced practice is the opposite of cramming for a test. By spreading out retrieval practice and leaving gaps between each time you look at something then this improves learning too. Also, by leaving longer gaps each time, this really tests that things are learnt and truly understood. Students who undertake spaced practice and retrieval practice will find that they have developed their understanding and long-term memory so that cramming for a test does not need to take place.

The brain is a very special thing. We need to look after it and cultivate it. Plan learning and let the brain assimilate knowledge over time – this is a proven technique which can help all of us learn better.

Patrick Horne, Principal