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Evaluation of “trying to apply research” in the classroom – Part 1 (the background)

May 16, 2018

master photo

This blog looks at how I have tried to implement the “best bets” of research in my classroom this year. It also covers much of what I discussed in my session for the @ImpactWales conference on theory into practice. It was a pleasure to work with @pimpmymemory and to present as the practitioner linked with the theory that she shared in her (brilliant) session. Some of the wonderful work of Carolina (and the rest of the Learning Scientists) can be found here and this has been a very big influence on the “best bets” of research that I have been implementing (thanks to @C_Hendrick and @robin_mcp for the best bets quote- from their brilliant book).

Spacing and retrieval have been my “best bets” for the last 3 years and to read what I did in 2015-16 click here, and for 2016-17 click here.

For 2017-18 I wanted to continue to push retrieval and spacing. I also wanted to make better use of the optimal spacing graph that I produced:


For more on this, the blog is here.

For me, the optimal spacing gap seemed a “best bet” within the “best bet” of spacing.  This is how I have used it this year.

At the start of the year I produced these sheets to be filled in once each topic had been completed:

blank sheet

I used the spacing graph to decide on when would be the best time to revisit a topic once it has been completed (not easy to decide as I wasn’t sure whether to focus on the optimal spacing gap for the mock or the optimal spacing gap for the final exam). In the end I decided to use a spacing interval that would be closer to the spacing gap for the terminal exam.

So, for the first topic (Scientific Detection), I did this:

word 1

The days to the final test (mock on the 14th Dec or final exam on the 15th May) were then used to calculate the optimal spacing gap:

771 trim

77 part 2

The above gives the optimal spacing gap for the mock exam.

229 part 1

229 part 2.png

The above also shows the optimal gap for the final exam. I needed to decide which to use and decided that the terminal exam was the most important so I would use the spacing gap (20 days) for this. The sheet looked like this:
word 2.png

Last year I set “lag homeworks” but this year I wanted a bit ore control over the spacing task so I designed “spacing grids” that pupils would complete in the spacing lesson. Like the lag homeworks from last year, pupils would retrieve from memory in one colour and then add what is missing in another colour as I go through what should be in each box. This means that if pupils fill in the grid in the future they can see whether they remember more (or less) than the first time they  used them.  The spacing grids looked like:

controlling processes 1 - Copy


materials 1

By using these grids for retrieval after a delay (the optimal delay), we were taking advantage of some best bets- spacing and retrieval. Here is a link to all the spacing grids.

Here is another example of how the sheets worked:

word 3.png


So the completed sheet looked like:

word 4.png

The other way that I tried to use retrieval practice (and tried to make revision something we did during the year) was to absolutely hammer low stakes quizzes. Every lesson started (or ended) with 5 or more questions chosen from across the year.  Pupils completed them at the back of their books. The only caveat to this was that I didn’t include questions on a topic which had been completed but not yet had the spacing lesson (I wanted to give pupils time for their retrieval strength to drop so that a successful retrieval during the spacing lesson would give a boost to storage and retrieval strength of that information). In April, pupils were still being quizzed on topics we covered in September.

By the end of the year there is probably as much work in the back of their books.


Part 2 will follow soon and will focus on an evaluation of the spacing lessons and the constant quizzing. I will give my own reflections, discuss the barriers and challenges and share the views of the pupils too.

(Thanks to Finola and Jane at @ImpactWales for inviting me to be part of a wonderful conference. Presenting alongside Anna Bolt, @lucy_crehan, @informed_edu, @GilchristGeorge and @pimpmymemory- Mic well and truly dropped).


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