Your Journey With Working Memory

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How confident is your understanding of working memory?

Despite receiving a detailed and comprehensive introduction to child development and learning theories during my teacher training, one aspect of pedagogy that was missing was understanding how we learn and how to translate this information in the classroom.

Did your teacher training help you understand how we learn?

With the abundance of research, access to professional development and many new teachers being exposed to cognitive science at an earlier stage of their career, I am optimistic about the future quality of our teachers entering the classroom.

However, as with all things teaching, educators do not necessarily need to know more information to help change their behaviours. Teachers need time to practise and determine what works well in their classroom.

For example, when posing a question, how long should they wait before providing the answer? What type of feedback should a teacher provide to a demotivated student?

There are many roads to Mecca

There are a million and one different scenarios and approaches. The above sub-heading is one of my favourite phrases I like to use when I work with teachers in schools all across the UK. There are so many ways of achieving success, and a one size fits all method fits one person (or school). It’s important for us all to draw upon each others’ resources but equally, go our own way …

When a teacher qualifies, they are on a continued trajectory to master the classroom. This is a career-long process. As a teacher develops secure subject knowledge and a wide repertoire of behaviour management strategies, what needs to follow soon after is a deep understanding of how to learn.

As I’ve highlighted in my book, Guide To Memory, how we can shape our brain is the crux of everything schools must share with teachers.

It rests with an understanding of theory and being given the time to translate the necessary concepts into pedagogical techniques for the classroom. We are all on a journey in our understanding of memory, whether we do this consciously or unconsciously, Guide To Memory showcases my journey.

If you are reading this now, all my blogs on cognitive science – and there are 100s of them – can become part of your journey too!

Why is it important that teachers have a deeper understanding about the brain?

There are nine children in every classroom living in poverty across the UK. That’s 4.3 million students (CPAG, 2021)!

Using what you and I both now know about memory, sharing this widely, and in particular sharing strategies to help our young people learn more effectively, is a social justice issue. For these children, supporting them to learn how to study effectively in school – and showing them how they might use study skill strategies at home, whatever that may look like for the most vulnerable – is more than just teaching kids stuff.

Teaching children how to learn, not just what to learn, is something we should all take seriously, and this starts by equipping all of our teachers.

If you are a school leader, you will be interested in the working lives of teachers.

2 thoughts on “Your Journey With Working Memory

  1. Thank you for talking about the importance of teaching students HOW they learn. Educational neuroscience is lacking in teacher prep programs. For students to buy in, they must first understand the why. This is one of the first steps in teaching them about their brains and working memory. When I teach students about their brains during the getting-to-know-you part of a trimester, I see better student outcomes throughout the year. I look forward to the rest of your blogs on this subject.

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