The most important building learning power muscle

It is important for teachers to develop an understanding of what is actually happening when students learn so as to tailor provision appropriately, in the same way that medicines cannot be formulated without an understanding of how  the body works.

For me our body of knowledge and understanding is a collection of points all linked to each other in a complex 3D model with bonds of various strength and quantity. Some points of learning are right at the heart of this structure and are linked to numerous others with many strong bonds. These bonds can never be broken and as such this learning is fully understood and will never fade. Other points of learning are at the edges with only a limited number of links that are not very strong.  These links can be broken easily and as such it is easy for them to fall off the edges, the learning will be forgotten or understanding will fade.

When we learn something new it is more likely to be accepted by the human brain when it can be linked to understanding that already exists. When our brains can attach what is being taught to what we already know, in this 3D structure, then we are more likely to understand. When it is connected to the heart of this structure then it is likely to remain but when it is attached to the periphery then new knowledge and understanding is likely to fade quickly. This is because around the edges the new learning points will only have limited links to others and at first these links are not likely to be very strong. This is especially problematic when it is required for yet more learning points to be added to what has just been added around the edges.

This is why an important learning muscle for us to help students strengthen is their ability to make links. The more they can link to other learning points that they already have, the more that it will become part of the heart of their body of knowledge and understanding and the less likely it is to fall off the edges.

This can also include links to learning in other subjects. A few years ago Barry Hymer told our school that we should ask our students to link their learning in this lesson to what they learnt in the lesson immediately before, not the last time they had that subject but whatever subject they had in the immediate period before arriving in your class. In doing so students are quickly allowing new learning to become part of the heart of their entire body of knowledge and understanding.

How will you help your students make new links this week?

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