The first 15 Minute Forum of 2017 was led by Ben Crockett (Subject Leader Geography). The focus of the session was ‘the importance of pausing’ when delivering content to our students. Ben wanted to discuss the strategy implemented within the Geography department at Durrington, which focuses on embedding and consolidating knowledge, so that students are able to successfully apply this knowledge in different contexts – creating a dedicated ‘Pause’ lesson.
What is a ‘Pause’ lesson?
The aim of a ‘Pause’ lesson is to ensure that students are confident with the core knowledge of a unit of work, before moving onto new concepts which require the application of that knowledge.
Essentially there are three aims of a ‘Pause’ lesson; to embed, to consolidate and to practice. Importantly, no new content or skills are delivered in this lesson, with the whole focus on previously taught content and skills.
Ben discussed a range of strategies which he has used to create an effective ‘Pause’ lesson:
- Identify the key concept or block of knowledge, that will form the focus of the ‘Pause’ lesson.
- Dedicate a ‘slot’ for the ‘Pause’ lesson in the scheme of work:
- In Geography, this has been dictated by the content of the unit of work i.e. a ‘Pause’ lesson after teaching processes of erosion, transportation and deposition, before moving on to study the landforms of erosion and deposition (which would apply the core knowledge).
- In History, a similar approach has been used but focussed around the assessment points in the unit of work.
- In English, one hour long lesson per fortnight has been dedicated to ‘pausing’ to consolidate knowledge and understanding of core texts and characters.
- Decide on the structure of your ‘Pause’ lesson. This could include:
- exam questions
- application of knowledge in different contexts
- Plan targeted questions to specific groups of students (based upon prior attainment data/progress).
It is important to remember the three aims of a ‘Pause’ lesson when planning the session; embedding, consolidating, practice.
Students are expected to remember a large amount of content and skills across a range of subjects and this is only increasing with the demands of new curricula and specifications. There is also evidence from the work of Daniel Willingham which shows that “memory is the residue of thought”, or that we only remember what we really think about. In order for students to be able to use the core knowledge of a topic successfully, they need to be able to be confident in their knowledge and to have practised using that knowledge in a range of contexts. As a result, our students need to ‘Think Hard’ about the core knowledge and revisit this knowledge on many occasions.
This also aligns well with Ebinghaus’ notion of the ‘Forgetting Curve’ and the value of repetition on the retention of information. A well placed series of ‘Pause’ lessons would allow students several opportunities to revisit learnt material and to retain more of that knowledge.
Finally, a ‘Pause’ lesson allows students to ‘overlearn’ concepts and the core knowledge of each unit of work. This links to Willingham’s belief that students should overlearn everything by 20% even when they feel that they have ‘mastered’ that topic.
What are the practical benefits to teachers?
A ‘Pause’ lesson can provide the following benefits to teachers and students:
- Opportunities to target particular areas of a topic – potentially areas of weakness or key areas which lead onto further knowledge.
- Opportunities to focus on exam skills and appropriate terminology, without increasing the cognitive load of students by adding new content.
- Opportunities to consolidate key knowledge and apply it in different contexts.
- Opportunities to address previously identified misconceptions.
- Opportunities to target groups of students;
- High starting point students can be provided with opportunities to challenge their thinking/application of knowledge potentially by using KS5 material at GCSE or KS4 material at KS3.
- Opportunities for absent students to be taught key concepts/content before moving on further in a topic.
Ben finished his session by concluding that, although time is tight when teaching a specification, by implementing ‘Pause’ lessons there are long-term benefits to how much knowledge students retain and how successful they are when applying that knowledge.
Posted by Martyn Simmonds