How to make learning stick for your students

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Last time, we talked about some recent NCTQ research that shows college textbooks don't include many of the research-proven strategies teacher candidates need to know to help their future students learn and retain information. But just because these strategies aren't in textbooks doesn't mean that you, the aspiring teacher, can't learn about them and use them someday to help your students grow.

What are the six teaching strategies that every teacher should know?

The first two help students take in new information:  

  1. Pair graphics with words. Young or old, all of us receive information through two primary pathways - our ears and our eyes. Student learning increases when teachers convey new material through both.

  2. Link abstract concepts with concrete representations. Just as when a teacher shows that a pizza slice and a mark at "1/8th" on a number line can represent the same fraction, teachers should present tangible examples that illuminate overarching ideas and also explain how the examples and big ideas connect.

The second two help students connect information to deepen their understanding:

  1. Pose probing questions: Asking students "why," "how," "what if" and "how do you know" requires them to clarify and link their knowledge of key ideas.

  2. Repeatedly alternate problems with their solutions provided and problems that students must solve. Explanations that accompany solved problems can help students comprehend underlying principles, taking them beyond the mechanics of simple problem-solving.  

The final two help students remember what they learned:

  1. Distribute practice. Students should practice material several times after learning it, with each practice or review separated by weeks and even months.

  2. Assess to boost retention. Tests are actually learning tools because requiring students to recall material helps information stick.

You can use these strategies while doing your internship or student teaching. Some of them, like asking probing questions, are super easy to use! Research has shown time and time again that these strategies work when it comes to helping students learn new material and remember it.

Our next post will look at some teacher preparation programs that are using avatars to help new teachers get hands-on practice.