Central 2 Regional News
Connie Schrock, NCSM Central 2 Regional Director
It seems that everyone is trying to figure out how to improve education. Every person in politics and power seems to have a different idea of what will work. Children come to school with serious problems that take precedence over learning. We hear about millionaires that donate large amounts of money to try and 'fix' the system. I think we are looking in the wrong direction. Just because someone has an education does not mean they know how to reform education. As leaders, we know what works with one student on a particular day might not work with another the next day. We need to look to research and best practice in our field to help guide us to help our students learn.
In the book, How the Brain Learns Mathematics, David A. Sousa talks of the primacy-recency effect (page 61). This refers to the fact that we remember what comes first in a lesson best and what comes last in a session. Studies reported this fact as early as the late 1800's. It has only been recently that researchers have begun to explain why. The first information starts out within the limits of the working memory but when the capacity is exceeded new information is lost. At the end of a learning session, the items in working memory have been sorted or chunked-there is room for the final information. This means we should not wait; we should not fill this prime time for learning with unimportant tasks. We need to get to important information right at the beginning of each lesson and then we can have students grade as the memory capacity declines. The "downtime" does not mean there is no retention, but it is more difficult for the learners. At the end of each lesson, we need to provide students the opportunity to learn important information. Too many times the learning time at the end of class is filled with routine homework, visiting, and getting ready to leave the classroom.
Would changing the way we arrange our classes and provide learning opportunities increase learning? I am going to experiment with these ideas and see for myself if I can help students learn more.
Another option for enhancing learning comes when we participate in professional meetings/conferences and learn from one another about what works. I hope you are beginning to make plans to join us at a fall meeting or in Indianapolis in the spring.