News from Central 2 Region
Laura Godfrey, Central 2 Regional Director
As another school year starts we are again taking on the challenges of finding better, more effective ways to improve 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. And we need to remember that as we know more, we can do more. The research continues, and so will our learning.
David A. Sousa, in his book, How the Brain Learns Mathematics, explains what he calls "the primacy-recency effect" (page 61). In a lesson, we remember what comes first and what comes last better than anything else 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, when the items in working memory have been sorted or chunked, there is new room for the final information summary and synthesizing. This means we should not wait at the beginning of class; we should not fill this prime time for learning with unimportant tasks like housekeeping, collecting homework, or doing a random problem of the day. We need to get to important information right at the beginning of each lesson and then we can have students fade 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 class ends with rushed instructions, unanswered questions, or is filled with routines, homework, visiting, and getting ready to leave the classroom. Instruction will be more effective if we can cash in on an organized focused summarize and synthesize time at the end of the period.
Can 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. I will let you know, and please, you let me know.
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 Philadelphia in the spring.
"All young Americans must learn to think mathematically, and they must think mathematically to learn."
- American Research Council