It’s that time of the year again: we can all give ourselves a little pat on the shoulder for having made it through another school year. It’s also time for poolside siestas, summer adventures, sipping ice-cold lemonade and just soaking up some sun.
However, the summer break can also translate to a break from learning. Studies have already documented how the summer learning gap can have long-term effects – in worst-case scenarios, it can even affect a student’s ability to graduate from school.
Don’t worry though – we’ve got you covered. There’s plenty of fun learning to be had through our topical science site, Reach Out Reporter!
The importance of formalised assessment tests in recent years has led to a competitive race between nations to get top marks. How does this affect students who are already struggling with examinations and the pressure to do well? There’s now evidence pointing to the rise in exam stress and mental problems among primary school students sitting exams.
A lot of examination stress stems from the sheer pressure to do well – and, as a result, many students experience temporary memory block during exams, where they struggle to remember what they have learnt. People also often have trouble remembering things because memory is related to concentration, which means that multitasking can actually lead to forgetfulness. With this in mind, it would hardly be surprising to learn that many teachers suffer a certain degree of forgetfulness: they deal with tremendous pressure, mounting workloads, student concerns and parental expectations, a host of administrative duties, lesson planning and preparation, and marking. Teachers are constantly juggling several things at once. While we can’t really reduce the amount we need to memorise on a day-to-day basis, we do have some control on how we choose to manage it. Here are five ways to ease the memory load and help your students to remember things too!
1. Visual learning
One study conducted by neuroscientists at MIT shows that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds – the first evidence of such rapid processing speed. There’s also evidence that visuals are directly stored in the long-term memory, as opposed to words, which get stored in the short-term memory. This information, coupled with the fact that nearly 65% of the population are visual learners, means that integrating visuals can not only help us learn better but faster. There are several ways we can integrate visual learning, such as by using images or drawing pictures, but the easiest is through educational films. It makes a great revision tool too, as long as the visual content is in line with what you’re reading.
2. Memory tree
Here’s what we know: it’s easier to remember a lot of information when it is broken down into a number of much smaller pieces of information. It’s also easier for the brain to take in this information if it’s represented in the form of a diagram (just look at how successful Mindmaps are). Finally, building connections between existing knowledge and new knowledge helps us to learn more effectively. How can we compound this information into one great strategy to improve our memory recall? We use a memory tree! Start with the trunk: draw a basic line or two to mark out a concept, then move on to connect the branches – ideas that are linked to the main concept. Each new idea forms a new branch attached to the trunk. Eventually, as you learn more or read further, you can build on your ideas by attaching leaves to the corresponding branch.
3. Repeat, repeat, repeat
We are not fans of rote learning, nor do we recommend it. What we do believe in, however, is revision. If students learn information efficiently, a couple of revision sessions should be more than enough to retain that information for a long time. But it is important to choose the right method of revision – too often, educators are kept busy focusing on innovative teaching methods to pay much attention to revision. And if revision is a chore, students won’t do it – or worse, do it in an ineffective manner, wasting their own time. Fortunately, there are easy and fun ways to incorporate revision into the lesson that allows you to gauge how much students have learnt, and serve to reinforce concepts in students’ minds. Educational quizzes, games, classroom discussions and activities are all great examples of revision tools. You can even use educational films again to help the class revise!
4. Practical tasks
As the old Chinese proverb goes: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Converting classroom lessons into hands-on, physical activities is a great way to learn. Educational experts call it kinesthetic learning: learning through physical activities. If your school doesn’t have a large lab to accommodate a myriad of experiments, don’t worry. There are lots of activities that can be done by a simple run around the school backyard or even local trips into the city.
5. Love what you learn
It might sound like a cliché, but we really do remember what we are truly interested in. Ever wonder why you forget phone numbers but can quote your favourite song word for word? It’s entirely down to how much it interests you. So the trick to getting your students to remember scientific facts? Get them to love science. It might not initially seem the easiest thing to do, but the rewards are well worth the effort!
The fundamental aim of the introduction of 3-D science standards was to change science teaching as we knew it. The way that we used to, and many people still do, teach science is not a reflection of how science is being used in the real world—the scientists and engineers of today approach science in a practical, proactive way on a day-to-day basis. With the help of the new standards, teachers will be able to make science more approachable, more engaging, and more reflective of our current society.
Instead of focusing on rote memorization, 3-D science standards highlights important skills such as research, communication, and analytical thinking. While content knowledge is still a part of the standards, the focus is on teaching students how to engage with new knowledge, answer questions and solve problems, and make connections between the different scientific disciplines, as well as relating science to the real world. This is where three-dimensional learning comes into play.
At the base of 3-D science standards are three “dimensions” of science learning:
Science and Engineering Practices (SEP)
Crosscutting Concepts (CCC)
Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI)
Every standard, or performance expectation, is supported by these dimensions. SEPs and CCCs are designed to be taught in context, while a focus on a small number of DCIs help students gain a thorough understanding of the science disciplines. Together, the three dimensions reflect far more accurately how science and engineering is practiced in the real world.
Science and Engineering Practices highlight methods that scientists and engineers actually use as part of their work, such as modeling, developing explanations, and engaging in critique and evaluation. The SEPs require students to learn by doing, thus acquiring skills that can be applied to problems across all STEM disciplines. The eight SEPs are:
Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Using mathematics and computational thinking
Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Crosscutting Concepts are ideas that appear across several areas of STEM. They give students “an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines” and include concepts such as cause and effect, energy and matter, and stability and change.
Disciplinary Core Ideas can be simply defined as “content knowledge.” They are those ideas that are crucial to understanding the science disciplines, and can either be a key concept to a specific discipline or relevant to more than one discipline. They are divided into four content domains:
Earth and Space Sciences
Engineering, Technology, and the Application of Science
Together, the three dimensions create opportunities for learning how to think and act like scientists and engineers, while covering necessary content knowledge. Three-dimensional learning helps maximize student engagement and improve learning outcomes.