In this regular series, we hear from teachers and heads about their views of educational neuroscience. Has ed neuro helped them with their teaching? How? Are there problem areas? Are there gaps where research should be focused? Today, we are delighted to introduce Jo Pearson, Head of Oldham Research School and Teamworks SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) and TSA (Teaching School Alliance). Welcome Jo!
What does educational neuroscience mean to you?
How do you keep up to date with the latest research?
Being a research school is a huge advantage because we get to spend lots of time with the EEF, the IEE and other research school leads. The opportunity to talk about and share research and its implementation in the classroom is so valuable and has been brilliant professional development. I also subscribe to the cognition-in-science google group; I’m not a science teacher and some (lots!) sometimes goes over my head but there’s also some really brilliant examples of research in practice. Lastly, I subscribe to lots of email lists; NFER, Evidence in brief from the IEE, Shanahan on literacy….
Is there a specific research-informed idea that you feel has had a positive impact in your school, one which others could potentially try?
We’ve really used it to unpick effective planning and assessment. Cognitive load theory has helped in thinking through planning across the long and medium term and on a lesson level. We’ve identified aspects of curriculum content that have a high intrinsic load, analogue time for example or fractions. As staff, we unpicked why; in these cases it was because the prior learned knowledge seems to contradict the new knowledge (3 not being just 3 but 15 or even quarter; the idea that 1/4 is smaller than 1/2 when everything you knew before said 2 was smaller than 4). This has helped us to think about the time we give to these topics, the frequency with which we need to return to these topics and the prior knowledge we need to unpick when we teach them in our long term planning and has also helped us to identify the points at which scaffolding and modelling can really make our teaching more effective at lesson level. Extraneous load theory has helped us to review our classrooms and teaching materials, especially for hard to teach content and finally our work on germane load and metacognition has helped us to plan explicit points at which we can support the six aspects to self-regulation in our pupils. Just having a shared definition of what we all mean by the term ‘learned’ has been very powerful.
How do you get teachers and students involved?
Are there areas where you think research should focus next (ie what are the important gaps in our understanding)?
Marking is an obvious one; we know that we don’t know that much yet but it absorbs such a lot of staff time. It would be great to know more.