One definition of learning is ‘if nothing has changed in long-term memory then nothing has been learned’. How can we make sure that our children truly learn, rather than merely experience the curriculum? One way to measure this is to revisit previously-learnt knowledge after a certain amount of time, known as ‘spacing’.
Spacing works because, after a gap, children must work harder to retrieve knowledge from their memory. This effort means they are more likely to remember the information long-term. At SVPS, teachers distribute practice of procedures and application throughout the academic year. Once these have been taught, teachers leave a gap before revisiting them at regular times, whether in the classroom or through the medium of homework tasks later. We often hear children saying, ‘I did that last year’ and they are correct; many concepts and skills are revisited in a cyclical pattern throughout a child’s education. For example, punctuation is taught throughout a child’s Prep School experience, with the use of capital letters and full stops being reinforced and consolidated repeatedly. Imagine a child’s fishing net, swishing from side to side in a rock pool; it takes numerous sweeps of the pool for the net to be filled. In the same way, it takes multiple sweeps of the curriculum for a child to ‘catch’ any one skill or concept.
At SVPS, our Head’s of Department are constantly reviewing and adjusting their Schemes of Work for teachers to follow and in turn, teachers adjust these on a weekly, or sometimes daily, basis to ensure that the children’s learning is relevant to their individual needs. Teachers plan within their subject departments and within year groups to share ideas, as well as to evaluate and track progress. Flexibility plays a vital role in the planning and delivery of the curriculum; now, more than ever.
Remote learning itself poses many new and exciting challenges for our children and teachers. Over the past few weeks, I could not have been prouder of our School, that not only are we coping with remote learning – we are thriving! We have ‘upped the ante’ this term, introducing an enhanced timetable for the children and their animated engagement in lessons is an affirmation of their positive impact. Children are our greatest asset, always enthusiastic and open to new ideas. Our role as educators is to harness their curiosity and thirst for knowledge and understanding, by ensuring that learning opportunities, whether conceptual or skills-based, are carefully and rigorously planned throughout the curriculum.
Mrs Harrison, Academic Deputy Head