Robert Bjork

When retrieval practice goes wrong (and how to get it right)

2023-02-27T23:44:45+00:00January 28th, 2023|English|

Whenever a practice becomes mandated there seems to be a tendency for it to lethally mutate. When I first started writing about retrieval practice (or the testing effect as we used to call it) many people were surprised by the finding that attempting to dredge something up from memory was a more effective way to learn it than simply restudying it. Today, this has become something new teachers are routinely told as part of their initial training and has been accepted as incontestable. The result is that teachers are told that lessons must contain retrieval practice and schools often specify [...]

What’s wrong with Ofsted’s definition of learning?

2019-12-17T19:05:37+00:00February 4th, 2019|Featured|

As everyone already knows, Ofsted have published a draft of the new Inspection Framework which is currently undergoing a process of consultation. Amazingly, one of the most contentious aspects of the document is the definition given to learning: Learning can be defined as an alteration in long-term memory. If nothing has altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learned. However, transfer to long-term memory depends on the rich processes described above.[1] In order to develop understanding, pupils connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. Pupils also need to develop fluency and unconsciously apply their knowledge as skills. This must not be reduced [...]

Struggle and success

2017-03-14T22:24:39+00:00December 9th, 2016|learning|

The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Albert Camus The gods of ancient Greece punished Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra, for his hubris by condemning him to an eternity of pushing a huge rock up a hill only to have it roll down again as soon as he got it to the top. One can only imagine that Sisyphus was not a happy chap. Pushing a boulder up a hill with no prospect of ever reaching the top has become the very image of futility. Most people only persist with something difficult [...]

The feedback continuum: why reducing feedback helps students learn

2016-11-21T23:27:50+00:00October 15th, 2016|learning|

The effects of feedback are more complex than we often realise. While expertise and mastery is unlikely to develop without feedback it's certainly not true to say that giving feedback results in expertise and mastery. There are few teachers who do not prioritise giving feedback and yet not all teachers' feedback is equally effective. My understanding of the effects of feedback has grown as I've come to accept and internalise the profound differences between 'performance' and 'learning'. If you're not clear on these, I've summarised them here. Hattie and Timperley point out that, "Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this [...]

Why do edtech folk react badly to scepticism? Part 2: Confirmation bias

2016-02-23T16:12:00+00:00February 23rd, 2016|Featured, technology|

In Part 1 I explored the concept of vested interest and how it could lead us to make decisions and react in ways which might, to others, appear irrational. This post address another predictable way we make mistakes: the confirmation bias. Confirmation bias, the tendency to over value data which supports an pre-existing belief, is something to which we all routinely fall victim. We see the world as we want it to be, not how it really is. Contrary to some of the accusations levelled at me, I don't hate technology. Far from it. I'm just sceptical about unbridled enthusiasm. Technology might help in [...]

What is 'transfer' and is it important?

2015-09-17T22:19:53+01:00September 17th, 2015|learning|

Very kindly, Greg Ashman posted his thoughts on #WrongBook on his site yesterday - if you haven't seen his 'review' you can find it here. I really like both the style and the substance of Greg's piece, but I do want to take him up on the way he's interpreted my use of the term 'transfer'. In the book, I define learning as, “The ability to retain skills and knowledge over the long term and to be able to transfer them to new contexts.” Greg is unhappy with the inclusion of transfer in this definition and argues the following: It sets the bar [...]

Endorsements – what are they worth?

2015-05-10T14:28:35+01:00May 5th, 2015|Featured|

What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise — although the philosophers generally call it “recognition”! William James You might not have noticed (I've been the very soul of subtlety!) but I've got a new book out in June. This is my third book, and I have to say I love the process of assembling ideas, crafting them into some semblance of meaning, rethinking, redrafting, editing, proofreading. Writing is so much more than I ever thought it was before establishing a foothold in the publishing industry and I pretty much enjoy it all. The bit that terrifies [...]

NEW BOOK: Foreword by Robert A Bjork

2015-04-03T11:04:15+01:00March 25th, 2015|Featured|

As some readers will no doubt be aware, I've written a new book. I've been fascinated by Robert Bjork's research into learning and memory ever since first encountering it back in February 2013, so of course, when I began the process back of writing this book I wrote to Professor Bjork to let him know I intended to cannibalise his work in order to make various points about what teachers ought to do. My reason for writing was both to ask for his blessing and to see whether he would be prepared to offer feedback (suitably summarised and delayed of course) on [...]

Learning is invisible – my slides from #LEF15

2015-03-01T11:45:18+00:00March 1st, 2015|Featured, learning|

For all those who asked for my slides after my presentation of the London Festival of Education at the IOE, here you go: #LFE15 Learning is invisible from David Didau For all those who weren't there, here's a commentary: The idea that learning may not be visible isn't widely accepted and in order to challenge beliefs without annoying people, I began by the perceptual and cognitive illusions to which we all fall victim. Then, with everyone suitably softened up I offered some definitions of learning: The long-term retention and transfer of knowledge and skills A change in how the world is understood. We [...]

Landmark: a million thank yous

2015-02-27T17:56:08+00:00February 26th, 2015|blogging|

I began blogging in July 2011. In January 2012 I signed up with Google Analytics and have clocked up over 2 million pageviews since. The story so far... Then in July 2013 I shifted the site over to Wordpress and on Tuesday broke the million views mark according to their figures too. About to clock over... Since I started writing there's been an awful lot of change. The education landscape has changed in ways I never imagined. - The death knell has sounded for graded lesson observations. Ofsted (at least as far as schools are concerned - [...]

Revisiting lost learning by Gerald Haigh

2014-11-30T10:06:16+00:00November 30th, 2014|learning|

In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important a function as recollecting. - William James As teachers, we tend to do all in our power to prevent students from forgetting what we have taught them. This seems entirely correct and not open to debate: forgetting is clearly the enemy of learning. Well, according to Robert and Elizabeth Bjork, the way our memories work is a good deal more complex than that. For all practical purposes our capacity to store new information appears limitless - our brains have sufficient space to comfortably store every experience we're likely to have over [...]

Are we fetishising marking?

2014-11-14T08:10:13+00:00November 14th, 2014|learning|

When you make something a fetish, ashes and dusts will laugh at you, because they know even the most valuable fetishes will turn into dusts and ashes! Mehmet Murat ildan Last night I innocently posted the following tweet:   This sparked something of a debate. A number of people got in touch to tell me this was 'bonkers' and a 'complete waste of money'. Other responses ranged from cautious interest to overwhelming support. But by far the biggest objection was the assertion that marking is an essential aspect of planning: if teachers don't know how pupils are performing then future teaching will [...]

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