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What's the trick to making it stick?

Supporting low-attaining students with the retention of knowledge across linear GCSE courses

Since the pilot scheme trialling Knowledge Organisers as a pedagogical tool to support KS5 with the demand of knowledge across linear courses, my project was refined in the following ways:

These refinements were made in light of complications experienced in using KOs with KS5, including, but not limited to:

  • The complex relationship concerning different aspects of knowledge (building, retention, recall, synthesis, application, transformation)

  • The vast amount of knowledge required for the KS5 curriculum

  • The nuance nature of knowledge acquisition and communication demanded by KS5 specifications

  • The difficulty of measuring impact across varying pupil learning profiles

  • The difficulty of measuring impact across the various ways in which staff had implemented the KO tool in their lessons

With these amendments in place, I have been able to complete my project and have been in a position to begin to analyse and evaluate my data. Although I can only assert tentative findings and conclusions, the project outcome has certainly been positive and I will seek to develop and roll out the project more widely over the next academic year.

As the feedback comment by Student D (shown above) clearly illustrates, using the Knowledge Organiser as an intervention tool offered my lower attainers a structured approach to work on developing their knowledge retention. It was quite a humbling experience when I spoke to these pupils after the study to discover how much they valued not only being provided with a working tool they could use but also being taught how to use it. Just by returning to the simple concept of read, cover, write in 5 minute rounds seemed to empower them with an environment that they could not only progress, but recognise their progress in real time. The diagram below illustrates this approach, showing the complete knowledge organiser the pupils were presented with and how the format was then manipulated by elimination to encourage them to test their retention:

The blue pen shows what Student D was able to retain. The green pen then shows what Student D had not retained and so needed to focus on for the following round. This was repeated several times until retention improved. Without a full explanation of the project and data, which I do not have time to do here, I would like to offer that this project is worth further pursuit. All 5 students showed improvement across the 3 rounds facilitated during the lesson. Student D was able to progress from 5/20 to 8/20 to 17/20. Whilst the robustness of this data in the long term will indeed need further investigation, Student D also was able to attain Level 5 in their mock the following lesson against their target of Level 7. Whilst all manners of variables will need due consideration, I do believe this intervention supported this pupil in making a “sure start” in their linear GCSE course, as proportionately her retention of knowledge was 100% stronger in the mock performance, scoring 21/40 in comparison to her initial knowledge test based on similar content for which she scored only 5/20.

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